The original play is a glimpse into the lives of the men in the recovery program through dramatization of their stories. The mission of Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, with campuses in Brainerd, Minneapolis, Duluth, Rochester and Buffalo, is to assist teens and adults in gaining freedom from chemical additions. The center offers a long-term, faith-based recovery program and a short-term licensed treatment program. The Brainerd campus has the capacity to treat up to 89 male residential clients, as well as offering outpatient services to women and men.
“These are their stories of hope, redemption, transformation and restoration as Jesus calls them out of the darkness and into his marvelous light,” the center describes the play.
Barbara Wiles, administrative assistant at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge in Brainerd, is the writer and director of the play. Wiles interviewed the men about their stories and then compiled them together to come up with a plot for the play.
“This is a full-length play, with a full-length plot and it incorporates the pain of addiction,” Wiles said. “The restoration that can come once you’ve been touched by the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s truly a redemption story for these men.”
This is the second year the center has hosted a play to be presented to the public. In November 2018, Wiles had a revelation that she needed to write a play to tell the stories of these men in recovery.
“Their testimonies and their stories are too critical for them to not be told,” Wiles said. “I was a person who knew nothing about addiction when I came to work here. Meeting these gentlemen has been absolutely the most life changing, the most inspiring, the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.”
Wiles put together a concept team to help with the play, as she didn’t know much about addiction and what an addicts’ life is like. Wiles would write something for the play and then show the men what she wrote and they’d change the lines to be the language they speak to each other.
“The big thing this has taught me is these guys are just plain resilient,” Wiles said, as the men don’t give up and keep going until they are successful. “They are amazing men that I have been honored to work with. The Holy Spirit does speak through all of us and there were several scenes I would try to do that wouldn’t work and they’d rewrite it.
“This play hits to the heart of the matter (of addiction). When you are dramatizing somebody’s stories … taking a story that is similar yet different because these stories are individual, but also they are all universal, you are telling a story that belongs to someone you know or sharing your story so somebody can act on your story. It really brings everything home. It’s cathartic. It helps you learn from it. It helps you think about it. It helps you grow from it and I think it brings closure and everything for them to advance in their recovery.”
A few actors spoke about the play and their characters. The Dispatch agreed to use first names only to protect their identities as they continue their journey to recovery in the program.
Kurt, who is playing Luka, said Luka is an adult/teen challenge graduate who talks to addicts on the bus to try to call them out of darkness and into the light.
“(It) helps me because I see the way I was and how I got caught up into addiction myself,” Kurt said of being in this play. “I mean, there are little bits and pieces of it in my life, too, and I see how this program has turned my life around. Hopefully showing this play to people will help them somehow. I’m sure it will. I’m sure it will touch lives.”
The character name of the addict is Landon, played by Rick.
Rick explained the plot.
“The play starts off with me losing my mom and I go through a really tough time. I get into drugs and I learn I can make a really good living out of selling drugs and come to find out it comes at a really high cost and I can’t trust anyone.”
Rick said the scene is on a bus and the other actors play men who have graduated from the recovery program. These men try to talk Landon into entering the program to accept the Lord Jesus Christ into his life. Landon doesn’t want anything to do with it and he is rude to the men. He continues to sell drugs.
“It’s not until I have a breaking down moment when I call out to Jesus saying I need you to prove to me you are real,” Rick said. “I ask him to send an old friend from prison back in my life to prove he is real. And he does that and he shows up on the bus. And I start believing, and from there everything falls into place. I start listening to these guys and my dad stops at my apartment asking that I go to Teen Challenge. I go there and once I go there, I run into my birth father, who I haven’t seen since I was an infant and we are reconnected. We get a second chance. He continues to be a part of my life.”
Gabriel is playing the character of Johnny, a graduate of the recovery program, who is trying to give back what he received and trying to help people who are still lost in their addiction.
When asked how being a part of the play is helpful, Gabriel said, “It’s helpful because we will portray the entirety of what addiction is. I think a lot of people have stigmas toward addicts, but they don’t realize it starts long before they start using drugs, so I’m really excited about the play.”
Samuel is playing Levi, a program graduate, who is trying to find his way to be obedient to the Holy Spirit under the guidance of the other three graduates.
“(This play) rehashes it all,” Samuel said. “I think we all have a little bit of these characters inside of our real life story so I agree it helps bring old things out. I think it has helped me grow to be obedient to the Holy Spirit and memorizing Scripture and helping me to be obedient to the prompting on him telling me what to do.”
“I just want to say it is nice to be in the paper for something positive instead of something negative, like a lot of us are used to here at Teen Challenge,” said Chad, who plays Marlon. “It’s great to get our story out there and to show that there is hope here for people with addiction.
“We put a lot of time and effort into this and it’s been real fun.”
The play is open to the public. Teen Challenge will accept free-will donations to support the drama team. People who attend will have an opportunity to meet the cast after the play.
For more information on Central Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, call 218-833-8777 or visit www.mntc.org.