"How to be a Respectable Junkie" makes Maryland premiere with Maryland Entertainment Group
Greg Vovos’s 2017 play “How to Be a Respectable Junkie” opens Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Black Box Theatre at Hagerstown Community College, and with it will be several unique aspects.
Not only is the show making its Maryland premiere with Maryland Entertainment Group, but it’s also actually being staged for the first time outside its home theater.
“We’re super excited to present it. It’s a brand-new play. It’s only been performed at its original house, the Dobama Theatre in Ohio,” said director Sam Little, who also co-owns MEG.
“Junkie” is the story of Brian, a heroin addict who decides to take his life so he no longer has to destroy the lives of those around him. But before doing so, he decides to make a video for heroin users to show them how to be respectable junkies.
Jacob Waeyaert of Hagerstown plays Brian.
“He’s obviously a heroin addict, that’s for starters. He’s basically someone who’s hit kind of like rock bottom as far as drug use goes. Apart from the drug use, I think he’s kind of a humorous guy who means well. But obviously, this is affecting him, like what he could be, his potential in life,” Waeyaert explained.
The play is loosely based on a true story, and Waeyaert said that makes the show more relatable to its audience.
“I think it really gets inside the life of an addict that people really don’t seem to understand. Usually, addicts are viewed not so positively. Not saying that the drug is a positive thing, but it puts the person in more of a (positive) light as opposed to just, ‘Oh, that’s an addict,’” he said.
“I believe that art, or in this case theater, has a way of conveying certain themes and messages easier than you may get even from the news or something like that. So I think this could really touch some people or move them and hopefully inspire a little bit of change in our community,” he said.
Besides dealing with the subject matter, Waeyaert said getting ready to star in the one-man show — his first — has been intense, particularly when it comes to learning the lines.
“Every time I feel like, ‘Man, I got so much done,’ and then, ‘Oh, but I (have) all this left to learn.’ But yeah, it’s definitely a learning curve. I don’t get any breaks. It doesn’t have an intermission.”
Little said Waeyaert has risen to the challenge of playing the complex character.
“Well, I’ve been working with Jacob now for several years, since the beginning of MEG and I have watched him grow as a performer. I’ve challenged him here and there with different pieces as I’ve watched him develop, and I think it’s a really great time for him to be tackling something of this nature, the size and the scope of a role like this. And also when he read for the role it was such a natural fit for him that the biggest workload of it for him, I think, is just putting it all into his brain.”
In the end, though, the message of the play is conveyed.
“It’s a message that really resonates in our communities right now for not only as a preventative kind of discussion, that we should talk about this in our communities, people who have been involved been touched by some sort of addiction, whether they know someone, a loved one or they themselves have been in a situation,” Little said. “It’s a very relatable story of getting involved into drugs and then becoming an addict and then hopefully going through this journey and ultimately has a message of hope and recovery.”
Top photo: Jacob Waeyaert of Hagerstown stars as suicidal opioid addict Brian in “How to be a Respectable Junkie.” (Photo by Perk Hall Designs)