A story about losing yourself, losing hope and finding it again.
By Hayley Grgurich
When Nanette Gingery graduated from high school, she had a decision to make: become a counselor, or move to New York and pursue a career in musical theater. Ultimately, she chose both, using her collegiate theater training in her career as the co-owner of Summit Care Wellness to write a musical and help people overcome addiction and start their second act.
Gingery sat down with Renew following the first run of her show, Rehab: A Musical Journey, a dream five years in the making.
Renew: What surprised you most about the process of bringing this show to life?
NG: I was surprised about how long it took and the work it took and the budget that it required. I had the idea five years ago. I was doing the StairMaster at my health club and I was thinking about my life and reading an article in Newsweek about Rent the musical and I knew I wanted to write a musical about rehab.
I just said yes to the idea. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but that was okay. I knew if I just took the first small step, it would be great. I naively, after about nine months of writing, ran up the stairs and said to my partner, ‘It’s done!’ not knowing that it was going to go through four years of revisions and honing it to make it the best it could be.
Renew: Did you find that in auditions, people were already able to tap into their experiences to inform their characters, or were they initially playing to stereotypes about addiction and the nuance came later?
NG: I believe it was a little bit of both. Since the beginning people have been so curious about Rehab: A Musical Journey. A musical is such a unique idea and especially for what was it all about. Some of them came to audition—in fact one actress in particular had some personal experience as far as dealing with a son who had gone through some problems. The more she got into character and the more we discussed the addiction process, the more she was able to understand the disease.
Renew: Have you ever considered using acting or improvisation classes as a therapeutic activity for patients undergoing rehab?
NG: Not formally, but of course we do role-playing. That’s pretty common in the treatment field because we want to give people the tools to handle a situation when it actually happens to them. We’ve always incorporated music into the therapeutic process and environment. It’s my belief that we need to touch people through all of their senses and tap into the whole person.
Renew: What was the reaction of any of your patients who attended the show?
NG: As people move through the addiction process they get back their sense of humor and they get back to seeing reality. This show is funny. There are high comedic spots and very melancholy, dramatic points as well. And my thought was, ‘Gosh, how will clients who are really fresh in recovery react to this?’ But we took our clients that are in rehab to the show and they loved it. And in fact we had one client who was a pretty challenging case and he came out and said, ‘This has changed my life,’ and you could tell. He’s been a changed man ever since.
Renew: Do you have any plans to extend the run of the show or to put it up in other cities?
NG: We will be putting it up in other cities. We are looking at shopping it around to regional theaters. One of our goals is to find a regional theater in Atlanta to have the show going during the AA International Convention in 2015. We are starting here in Lincoln, Nebraska and we want to take it national, we want to take it worldwide. It’s wonderful—and I didn’t do it alone. It took a community, it took a village and I’m passionate that it’s a must-see.
To get in touch with Nanette and suggest a regional theater in your area for Rehab: A Musical Journey, find her on Facebook at Rehab: A Musical Journey.