‘(In)Dependent’ brings inner demons to Youngstown

“(In)Dependent” has changed since it used Youngstown Playhouse as a rehearsal space last summer.

The drama inspired by the heroin epidemic was written by Emelia Sherin of Howland and Zachary Manthey of Munroe Falls, both students at Kent State University, and debuted last August at Akron Civic Theatre.

The play follows two addicts as they they go through recovery, from attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings to trying to maintain their relationships. Along with their friends and family, heroin itself is a character, an ever-present temptress.

“We needed to add more substance,” Sherin said. “We should have heroin talking to everyone else, getting in their heads … It really shows that confrontational conversation you have with your inner demons.”

The new version opens tonight for a three-performance run at the Playhouse’s Moyer Room.

Sherin approached Playhouse Operations Manager James McClellan over the winter about staging the show locally.

“Jimmy will do anything to make your dreams come true,” Sherin said. “He’s the fairy godfather of theater in Youngstown.”

Sarah Jane Demetruk, who was assistant director for the Akron Civic production, is directing the show at the Playhouse, with Sherin as stage manager.

“She really breaks down every word, every action of the script along with the cast,” Sherin said. “She’s wonderful with it. The reason I asked her to direct is she’s a young woman who knows what she wants, knows what she needs, and if you give her a project, she gets it done.”

Demetruk said the play now “dives into the emotions a little bit more with a deeper level of education and understanding.”

The cast features Lennon Sackela and D’Ella Heschmeyer as the recovering addicts and Maria Serra as heroin. The rest of the cast includes Liz Conrad, Brian Suchora, Rachel Jones, Joseph Anastasia, Lori George, Kaj Beeler, Roz Blystone, Josh Crank and Lindie Schwarten.

The original production of “(In)Dependent” was included in a feature in the New York Times, which led to Champion native and filmmaker Chris Columbus reaching out to Sherin. The play will be staged by other theaters, and Sherin got to present scenes from the play during a Rock and Recovery event last month at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland (and the public relations major said her dream job would be to work at the Rock Hall).

Still, when asked what is the most memorable experience with “(In)Dependent” in the last year, Sherin cited the feedback she’s gotten from those who’ve seen the play and been changed by it.

“What stands out the most is we’ve educated people and brought awareness to the subject,” she said. “We’ve changed a life, changed a mind, informed someone on such a misunderstood issue, turning vices into virtues and helping the community come together and understand this epidemic.”

If all three performances are sellouts, Sherin said they can raise $2,700. Some outside donations could bring the take to around $3,000.

“Fifty percent goes to the Playhouse so they can do more theater like this, and the other 50 percent is going to the Help Network (of NE Ohio) to thank them for all they’ve done,” Sherin said.