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High School Teachers and student
Carson, Calif – When the Theatre Arts Department at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) stages its world premier of “Detox,” teachers from Redondo and Leuzinger high schools and a Banning High School student will be featured in a talent-rich cast of local musicians and dramatic artists. Curtains will open up on “Detox” on Friday, April 23, at 8 p.m. Curtains will close on the final production on Sunday, May 2, following the 2 p.m. matinee performance.
Vincent Conard teaches English at Leuzinger High School while pursuing a teaching credential at Cal State Dominguez Hills. He plays the role of Brett, a college history professor with a drinking problem who is the primary focus of the play. Conard, who played in a 1995 CSUDH production of “Six Degrees of Separation,” hopes the play’s message will reach not only to his students, but also other students as well.
“As a school teacher, I see kids who struggle with drugs and alcohol all the time,” Conard said. “I just think it’s important for people to know there are solutions for people with substance abuse problems.”
Kerry Riccio teaches music at Redondo High School and plays Mary, a woman with a wealthy upbringing who falls off the deep end following a traumatic event in her life. Riccio is eager to perform in “Detox” and emphasizes the importance of the subject of substance abuse.
“I am ecstatic to get back on stage again,” Riccio said referring to her appearance in prior musicals in the South Bay. “This is really an important issue that a lot of people tend to skate by and don’t deal with.” Riccio, a CSUDH alumna who received a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts in 2001, is currently working on a teaching credential and understands how pervasive alcoholism can be, particularly for students.
“I have been absolutely appalled with how many of my students go out and drink on a regular basis,” Riccio said. “Kids talk about using pot like it’s nothing; it’s really frightening. I grew up in Palos Verdes and had friends that were influenced by drugs and alcohol a lot and not in a very positive way. I saw parents of my friends that were very involved in cocaine and other drugs who had serious issues that stemmed from alcoholism problems.”
Riccio, who serves as the choir director, dance guard advisor and 9 -12th grade English teacher at Redondo High School, said alcoholism is something that affects everyone and doesn’t seek out one type of person.
Also featured in the cast is Jessica Garrison, a 16-year-old drama student at Banning High School. Garrison plays the role of Angie, a 20-year-old recovering alcoholic, who along with her husband, also a recovering alcoholic, is trying to find her place in society.
Garrison was alerted to the production of “Detox” by her drama teacher and CSUDH alumna, Sunee Foley. Garrison welcomes the opportunity of portraying a somewhat older woman in the play.
“All the roles are major roles in the play, and no one is particularly greater than another,” Garrison said.
Written by theatre arts professor Rex Heuschkel, “Detox” paints a vivid picture of the challenges of life in a drug and alcohol detox center. The components of humor, drama and music are interwoven in the fabric of this play as characters navigate the hazards of substance abuse in their lives. As the characters journey towards sobriety, they stumble upon compassion, love and personal identity.
“I wrote the first draft of ‘Detox’ many years ago while in an alcohol recovery program,” said Heuschkel, who heads “Dominguez x 12,” a 12-step, self-help substance-recovery network based on Alcoholics Anonymous that meets weekly on campus. “It was my way of trying to put a disjointed life experience into some kind of responsible order. Upon my first draft of ‘Detox,’ I had discovered the one link to recovery that has kept me reaching to this day, hope. Hope in things getting better so long as I am willing to accept responsibility for who I am and what I do.”
Heuschkel said his life and the play’s script have gone through dynamic changes since the original draft. “A year ago, I took ‘Detox’ off the shelf, knocked off the dust and shared it with my colleagues,” Heuschkel continued. “I called in a former student who had a gift for dramatic writing, Sunee Foley, and she helped create a playable, dramatic structure.” Heuschkel has since recruited Jake Fleder to compose the play’s musical score and completed re-writes with Foley to bring “Detox” to the stage. Heuschkel said he is very nervous as the opening day draws closer.
Profile on the Director
Sydell Weiner, Ph.D., is a director and actress from New York. She received her acting training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Yale School of Drama, and has performed professionally in both New York and Los Angeles. As a director, she has staged “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” “Gypsy,” “A Chorus Line,” “Uncommon Women and Others,” “Crimes of the Heart,” “A Shayna Maidel,” and many others. She teaches acting, directing, creative dramatics, speech and play analysis.
Dr. Weiner has published articles in The American Journal of Psychotherapy and the Journal of Clinical Psychology comparing the art of theatre to the practice of psychotherapy. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a private practice in Torrance. Dr. Weiner is also listed in Who's Who in Entertainment, Who's Who Among American Women, and Who's Who in the World. She is a recipient of the Lyle Gibson Distinguished Professor Award for excellence in teaching. Dr. Weiner, a CSUDH alumna, received her master’s degree in marriage and family counseling from the university in 1996.
Please visit the university Web site at www.csudh.edu for information on
campus curriculum and activities. Learn more about upcoming events presented
by the Department of Theatre Arts at www.csudh.edu/theatre/index.html.
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Last updated Thursday, April 15, 2004, 9:40 am, by Stephanie Brown (sb)