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A Dry Comedy About Drying Out

April 22, 2024

It’s a trope long established that artists often struggle with addiction. From Ernest Hemingway to Judy Garland, F. Scott Fitzgerald to Janis Joplin, many of the greats across the creative spectrum have been linked to substance abuse and alcoholism.

While it would be easy to dismiss this as a cliché, addiction is something many people, whether a member of the arts community or not, deal with daily. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida ranks second in the nation for drug overdose deaths, reporting more than 8,000 in 2021. In the United States alone, substance abuse impacts more than 46 million people annually.

These are some of the themes explored in The White Chip, a play written and directed by Sean Daniels, Florida Studio Theatre’s Associate Artist. Daniels, a recovering alcoholic, developed a story that approaches these problems in a way that is very personal. It tells the story of Steven, Daniels’ avatar, an alcoholic who’s lost everything because of his inability to face his addiction.

“What we know now is that one in three households in the country are affected by someone impacted by addiction. It would make sense that everybody who comes to the play knows somebody,” said Daniels. “And because we don’t talk about it, you don’t realize it. We want to be able to have those conversations with the audience through performance and humor.”

The White Chip has been successful in multiple locations throughout the country. New York City, Atlanta and Phoenix are among the large metro areas where the play has struck a chord with audiences. Those who are in recovery, searching for options, or trying to learn more about how to help their loved ones, have all been drawn to the story.

Daniels is also tackling addiction through The Recovery Project at FST, in which pieces like The White Chip are crucial to that mission. The goal is to shine a light on the public health crisis of addiction through new play commissions and support for artists. The White Chip is a critical component of that effort, and a place to start the conversation addicts need to move forward.

“Sean is working hard to help those who are struggling with the same challenges he’s faced throughout his professional and personal lives. It’s crucial that we support his efforts, because FST belongs to the artistic community and the Sarasota community, and we have a platform to help so many who need it,” said FST Artistic Director Richard Hopkins.

“Theater has always been my life, and it felt like it was the right way to talk about it,” said Daniels “We all know that there is real power in gathering with other people. I think it makes sense that both recovery and theater are kind of selling the same thing. If you connect with other people, not only will you be healthier, but you’ll just have a better sense of what is going on in the world and how to keep moving forward.”

Pictured: Michael Flood, Saxon Palmer, and Julia Brothers. Photo by John Jones.