The Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus’ spring concert next month will feature the Philadelphia premiere of “Through a Glass, Darkly,” a musical piece that examines the complexities of crystal-meth addiction in the LGBT community. Last week, in preparation, the chorus members got a crash course on the drug and its consequences.
Sandy Smith, vice president of marketing for PGMC, contacted LGBT health facility Mazzoni Center to enlist assistance in educating the chorus about the real-life issues the piece will address.
Mazzoni clinical therapist Rand Faulkner, along with his partner Daniel Potoczniak, who is a psychologist, met with about 80 PGMC members Feb. 24 to discuss some of the physical and psychological effects the drug can incur on the user, as well as the far-reaching impact it can have on one’s life and loved ones.
Through his work at Mazzoni, Faulkner frequently sees patients who are addicted to crystal meth.
“It’s very prevalent in this city, and I’d say the majority of the individuals I work with who use meth are also HIV-positive, so it’s been kind of a crusade of mine to do something about this. It’s a real disease in our community,” Faulkner said. “There are no real statistics on [crystal-meth use] in the gay community, but from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty high.”
In addition to discussing the hard facts of addiction with the chorus members, Faulkner and Potoczniak also sat down with the men who will play leads in the piece to give them a glimpse into the mindset of the characters they’ll be depicting.
“Through a Glass, Darkly,” written by Michael Shaieb, follows 36 hours in the life of Sebastian, a Wall Street broker whose life is crumbling due to his addiction.
While out at a bar one night, Sebastian meets Billy, a younger gay man whom he seduces into using the drug with him, while Sebastian’s worried partner, Zack, waits home alone. Sebastian eventually deserts Billy at a hotel, however, and by the end of the piece the roles begin to reverse, as Billy spirals into his addiction and Sebastian begins to acknowledge that he needs help.
Matt Geyer, who portrays Sebastian, called his discussion with Faulkner and Potoczniak an “eye-opener.”
“I’ve seen friends of mine who’ve made the mistake of falling into that trap but I’ve never been the addict, so talking with them kind of helped me understand that mentality,” he said. “The addict is just as much a victim of the drug as the people around them, and that’s something I didn’t really grasp before.”
Faulkner said that was precisely the message he was hoping to communicate.
“I was worried that the audience might see Matt’s character as a bad guy because he is at times abusive to his partner and gets the other character hooked on meth, but I don’t want people to see him as that. They’re all victims of it,” Faulkner said.
Justin Scott, who plays Billy, said he was already aware of the impact that meth use can have on a person, as he previously was a user.
“I relate with Billy very much because when I was younger, I was Billy, many times,” he said. “I was that boy in a hotel room getting high, wondering when my friend was coming back. That’s the reason why I wanted to be a part of this and why it means so much to me.”
Scott shared his story with fellow PGMC members at last week’s discussion, and said talking about it and taking on Billy’s struggle has been therapeutic.
“If I didn’t talk about my own experiences, it’d feel like I was lying. It’s important for me to be honest, both with myself and other people,” Scott said, noting that it’s also necessary for the LGBT community in Philadelphia to take a frank, truthful look at the pervasive problem of crystal-meth use.
“One of the things about crystal meth is that so many more people have done it than care to admit, and even more people have been affected by it in more ways than they care to remember,” Scott said. “It’s everywhere.”
For more information or to purchase tickets for the show, which runs April 16 and 17 at the Arden Theatre, 40 N. Second St., visit www.pgmc.org.