SOCIAL ISSUES

‘Anytown’ is a touring musical with a mission

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

“Anytown” is the story of a senior in high school named Hope Baker. She’s a star athlete and has a 4.0 GPA. It’s her last soccer game that will change her life.

“She’s injured and as a result of that injury a boy that she likes and is really interested in, offers her a prescription opioid pill and that transforms her,” explained Jim Jack, the writer of “Anytown.”

The musical was created to highlight opioid abuse and how it’s impacting teens and families of all backgrounds.

New data shows that on average eight people die every day in New Jersey from a drug-related overdose.

Jack says he conducted many interviews to put the story line together.

“We also learned, in the writing of this, is genetic predisposition has an incredible power to make someone much more vulnerable, so we learn in the course of the story that Hope’s father was a former addict,” said Jack.

The production is touring middle and high schools in New Jersey to bring awareness about the dangers of prescription opioid misuse.

“Casting is always critical. What we’re looking for are people who are wonderful artists, but even better humanitarians,” said Jack. “Every show ends with a post-play conversation so that there’s a direct conversation with the children and students afterward.”

Joe Piserchio, one of the actors in “Anytown” says his older brother was addicted to painkillers.

“They’ve seen this character of Joey go through these problems, and then they hear myself as Joe Piserchio tell mine and my brother’s story, I think it’ll connect it that much stronger for them,” he said.

His brother is now four years sober, but Piserchio says it was a tough time for his entire family.

“He’s the biggest motivation I have for doing this show. This is my second year on tour with George Street and this show was a very big reason why I decided to come back for a second season. I do think about him a lot during the show. I see a lot of him in Hope,” Piserchio said.

Piserchio plays Hope’s best friend on stage.

“He watches Hope deal with what she’s dealing with and he doesn’t quite know what the right step is. He has a conflict of does he tell Hope’s mom what’s going on with Hope or does he keep it to himself.”

Piserchio’s parents have seen the show.

“They’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “My mother cried because she saw all of herself in Robin, who is Hope’s mother,” said Piserchio.

On opening day the audience was filled with leaders in health care and education. The lights dimmed, the actors sang the opening number and the spotlight was put on a new kind of prevention.

“One of the biggest things that I hope people come away with is the feeling of hope,” said Piserchio.