The Improbable Players, a group of reformed addicts and alcoholics, visited Old Rochester Regional High School on Tuesday, September 18, for a presentation addressing the perils of addiction, alcoholism, and the opioid epidemic. Many of the members were once students who abused drugs and other substances, but have since then become sober and have made it their mission to prevent others from going down the same path.
ORR Principal Michael Devoll said that he had watched the group perform at another school and thought they would be appropriate for ORRHS. And he was correct, as the performance made a powerful impact on the student body, leaving them thinking about the consequences of abusing dangerous substances.
The performance began as a comedy, and students found themselves laughing and joking to each other, believing that it was just another attempt to relate to kids through humor. But as the show progressed and the humor dissipated, the issues presented to the students turned serious.
The performance was called“Running on E.”The story revolves around four teens in their senior year of high school – the supportive and strong-willed friend, the party kid, the joiner, and the bystander. All of the roles have different backgrounds, and the performance, according to the Improbable Players website, “uses satire, clowning, and humor to drive home important information about substance use disorder and skewer commonly held misconceptions.”
Multiple topics related to drug abuse were described throughout the show, including beer versus marijuana, peer pressure, excuses, appearance, and various others. Students were shown the escalation of drug abuse, starting with smoking marijuana/drinking beer and ending with the more dangerous substances like crack cocaine, meth, and heroin.
“It was a great way to convey the drug epidemic,” said student Aidan Michaud. “They showed us what happens, like losing friends, getting into fights. … They made it feel more real. Unlike other assemblies, this really stuck without leaving an emotional scar.”
What had started out as a light-hearted comedy about four teens excited to begin their senior year, soon became a story of failed dreams and high school dropouts. Many students found themselves astonished to find out that just a little taste of something could lead them down such a treacherous road.
“The reaction from the junior and senior class was powerful,” said Devoll. “I believe many in the crowd considered choices they will be making in the future.”
As all the actors were former addicts, part of their recovery process is to try and help others make better choices than they did. At the end of the performance the students were allowed a Q&A session with the cast, who were more than happy to answer any questions – What got them addicted first? How did they quit? How were they able to function in school with their addiction? These, and many more were asked by the student body.
“It was very informative and different in a good way,” said Emma Vivino. “Usually the lectures are boring, but this was entertaining. Normally people get bored and they fall asleep or don’t pay attention.”
“I would definitely bring them back in the future.” said Devoll. “The kids were engaged, and even after the performance there were students discussing it in the hallways or during lunch. The students of ORR really connected with the performance, and other schools should consider providing their students with the opportunity to experience the presentation.”
By Grace Mastroianni