AAFP and NIDA’s Addiction Performance Project: “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”

This the Radio City Music Hall in New York, Ne...
This the Radio City Music Hall in New York, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you watch the TONY Awards on Sunday, June 9, 2013?

This past Sunday the TONY Awards was held at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. According to the Nielsen Ratings 7.2 million people tuned in to watch this annual event that recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. It is an exciting evening for those who are nominated both for new productions, as well as revivals of works previously produced on Broadway. It is also a fun evening for those of us who are lucky enough to have seen a show or two on Broadway or on a National Tour or even in our regional theaters.

The truth is live theatre is really quite remarkable. Our experiences with live theatre actually can start at a very young age: a simple little production in a grammar school auditorium, the tryouts for middle school and high school productions of old favorites, and of course, if we are lucky enough to attend college or live in a college town we can be treated to really fabulous live performances of classics and award winning playwrights where we learn about life and all life brings – the good, the bad, the hardships of the family dynamic.

Live theatre is just that…live and filled with the unexpected: The actor that becomes ill, the lights that don’t work, the sound system that fails, every production is just slightly different and that is the magic that is ours to keep when the lights go down and places are called. To experience live theatre is what we now like to refer to as a “teachable moment!”

AAFP offers new educational tool with Long Day’s Journey Into Night

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) announced this week that they have joined with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in creating a new tool for family physicians and other health professionals to learn more about drug abuse and addiction by creating a video which utilizes professional actors reading the Act III of Eugene O’Neill’s play about addiction “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

According to the AAFP News Now article Robert Rich Jr., M.D. chairs the AAFP Commission on health of the Public and Science’s Opioid Abuse and Pain Management Workgroup. Dr. Rich states that this project was designed to help physicians to:

  • better identify and more successfully treat or refer drug-addicted patients in primary care settings; 
  • explore the role of individual biases and beliefs about people who abuse drugs and how these beliefs affect each physician’s approach to screening for addiction and treating addicted patients; and 
  • use empathy, knowledge, and supporting tools to improve communication skills and confidence in using screening tools and resources, such as the evidence-based Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment practice model. 

Are you familiar with O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night?

Eugene O’Neill actually wrote his four act play Long Day’s Journey Into Night in 1941-1942; however, it was published in 1956, three years after he died. In 1957 it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as the 1957 Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Actor in a play (Fredric March).  In 2003 it was revived on Broadway and won the Tony for Best Revival of a Play, Best Actor in a Play (Brian Dennehy) and Best Actress in a Play (Vanessa Redgrave). The play is considered to be semi-autobiographical and takes place on one day in August 1912. Addiction and the effect that addiction has on a family is one of the play’s themes, as all three males are alcoholics and the mother is addicted to morphine. O’Neill suffered from both alcoholism and depression.

If you have never seen a production of the play, then perhaps you have seen one of many film adaptations from the 1962 version to the 1996 version that aired on PBS Great Performances in 1999.

NIDA’s Addiction Performance Project video

The video shown below was recorded on October 20, 2012, at the American Academy of Family Physicians Scientific Assembly 2012 in Philadelphia, PA. It is part of the NIDA’s Addiction Performance Project which features Act III of Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here. You can also learn more about this project here. Additionally you can view and read how experts reacted to the live reading of Act III.

As Dr. Rich points out O’Neill’s play “…reminds us that addiction affects families on many levels. It can lead to shame and it can lead to arguments and it can lead to broken families and pain on the part of many family members dealing with the individual who has the addictions.”

Hopefully family practitioners will embrace the Addiction Performance Project and incorporate its objectives in their day to day interactions with those affected by the disease of addiction.  

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