Staring down the "Elephant in the Room"

The New Hampshire Theatre Project is making us feel a little uneasy. The Portsmouth theatre group is tackling thorny topics using theatre and community conversation to help bridge divides in understanding and create connections."The Elephant-in-the-Room" series, supported by New Hampshire Humanities, includes four events, each featuring a play reading of original work followed by a facilitated community discussion. In November, the first program addressed the reality of human trafficking (yes, right here in New Hampshire) and in February, we explored an issue that touches nearly everyone’s lives: mental illness. This month the focus turns to the spiraling opioid epidemic and its impact on families and communities.

NHTP’s founding artistic director Genevieve Aichele says the inspiriation for the project came from conversations with colleagues about the things in our lives that we feel uncomfortable talking about in public, things that cause us pain and shame.

"I got this idea that this is what theatre can do... Talk about the topic no one is talking about," said Aichele. "The most important thing for me is that this isn’t a one-night conversation, but that it continues long after the event."

Each evening is moderated by Timothy Barretto, known for his UNH courses on managing conflict in the community, who facilitates discussion among audience members, artists, and a panel of experts on each topic. On Thursday, March 22 the program features Mary Ellen Hedrick’s play, "A Wider Circle," that uses a device similar to the movie ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ – showing someone what life would have been like if he or she had never existed. Serving as the humanist for this event, Professor Denise Askin of Saint Anselm College brings a unique perspective to the panel through her experience as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for abused and neglected children, many of whom have parents afflicted by opioid addiction. Safe Harbor Recovery Center is the collaborating nonprofit for this event. The program is free, and donations to Safe Harbor are welcome.

The Effect of the Opioid Crisis On Families
Thursday, March 22, 7:00 pm

Death and Dying
Thursday, May 3, 7:00 pm

All events are held at NH Theatre Project West, 959 Islington St., Portsmouth. Free and open to the public. Details at www.nhtheatreproject.org