Interview with Tara Handron – Drunk With Hope in Chicago

Date: Aug 27 ’10
Region: North America

While pursuing her masters at Georgetown University’s CCT program, Tara wrote the one-woman show, “What’s a Girl to do When It’s Time to Put Down the Drink?” as part of her thesis. It premiered at Georgetown in April 2008 and at the H St Playhouse in Washington, DC, in February 2009. She recently performed Drunk With Hope in Chicago at the DC Fringe Festival in 2010.

CCT Network:  How did you come up with the concept for your performance?

Tara Handron: First off, I somehow come up with the idea of writing a play for my thesis in a conversation with Prof Tinkcom at orientation. He was supportive and so the idea was planted. Later, when I started looking at all the research I had conducted over my one plus years at CCT and was considering my thesis research, I always kept in mind: would this work as a performance, how would it, and why must it be a performance. I believe you cannot fully describe what a recovery meeting is like though text. It must be experiential.

CCT Network: What was the creative process for developing your characters?

Tara Handron: Writing, writing, and more writing. In fact, the play did not start out as a one-woman show. It was a series of scenes. As I looked at the women in recovery, I was observing and considering the major messages I wanted to convey, that dictated the one-woman, monologue style format. In addition, in the rehearsal process in preparing to present it at Georgetown, I made changes to the characters. I did reading with friends. You must hear your writing aloud. That is when I the writer can hear what makes sense, what does not, what is repetitive and what might be missing. I should also mention I took a playwriting class through Georgetown’s drama department since my background is in performing. That was crucial!

CCT Network: What research did you do to flesh out the characters and address the critical subject matter?

Tara Handron: The research I did was to not only flesh out the characters but also to create them and inform them. My characters are compilations of all the women I observed in recovery meetings (given the universal nature of the illness this method worked very well), spoke to women informally one on one, interacted with them in online recovery meetings and surveyed. I am fortunate to have friends in recovery that really helped me to connect with women in that community. They were, for the most part, very kind and forthcoming with information and their experiences. They appreciated my desire honor their experiences and provide accurate representations of their lives through my play.

CCT Network: You incorporated online interaction as part of the performance. How effective do you think online interaction is concerning support groups and providing support to overcome personal issues?

Tara Handron:  I cannot speak for all online support groups. The structure of “12 Step Recovery” started in 1935 with two men talking about their shared experiences struggling with alcohol. That structure has grown to help millions. I think, and my research gleaned, that while this can be helpful and supplemental, for long term recovery and satisfaction, the recovering alcoholic or addict will need and likely desire face to face interaction with other alcoholics and addicts. Online meetings can be very useful for those want to “test the waters,” for those in remote areas, and for those who have long term recovery and are finding ways to reach out and help others as they are already pretty establish in the recovery routine.

CCT Network: How did you get involved with the Fringe Festival and describe the experience?

Tara Handron:  A director I worked with in Chicago strongly suggested I go the Fringe Fest route. I was exhausted after producing the show on my own in 2009 yet wanted a way to do it still. I am glad I did. I have had the opportunity to share it with a wider audience and essentially workshop it. Festivals are great for refining and testing new material/pieces. I do not think I will be one of those people though who does it year after year. While the festivals take care of many of the production details there are some drawbacks like having to share the space with many groups, limited time in the space, and you still have many details like PR and marketing to be on top of.

CCT Network: In addition to DC, where else are you performing and how did you choose these locations?

Tara Handron: It will be premiering in Chicago in their Fringe Fest next week! (Sept 1-5) I was accepted to other festivals but decided on DC because I am based here and knew there were still plenty of people here who wanted to see it. I chose Chicago for similar reasons. I knew I had many friends in the acting community and in the recovery community there, that would love to see it. Having acted and lived there for a long time, I knew I would have an audience and could easily navigate the terrain there in terms of the show’s logistics and getting a stage crew together. 

CCT Network: Describe your experience as a CCT student and how have your studies impacted your creative and professional endeavors?

Tara Handron: I loved my CCT experience. I jumped in and sought to squeeze every bit of experience and wisdom out of the offerings knowledge our program and at Georgetown. I started out taking a wide range of classes that appealed me (Gender and Pop Culture, Broadcasting Rules & Regulations, etc.), yet always throwing in a wild card, if you will. Then in the beginning of my second year, I started to see my bigger picture forming in terms of how I wanted my CCT experience to crystallize and serve my goals. I have a wonderful job as a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton. It is demanding but is utilizing both sides of my brain, which is what I wanted my CCT experience to prepare me for, and it did! I also could not have written a play for my thesis, in and so robust a way, without the structure and resources of CCT, and especially with a great thesis advisor (Dr. Diana Owen) whose brain was able to fill in where mine was less quantitative. 

CCT Network: What do you hope to achieve with your performance?

Tara Handron: My hope has always been to spread awareness about the disease of alcoholism, its unpredictable and ever-present nature, and reduce what stigma likely still exists. I have been hard pressed to find someone who does not have a neighbor, family member or co-worker who struggles with this illness. I hope to shine a more realistic light on recovery since the media and reality TV, for example, seem to struggle to do so, much of the time. Moreover, of course, entertain! Elicit emotions, provoke thoughts in people and inspire them to take action in their own life, whatever that action might be, is part of my job as an artist. What better reward is there than to know you might have inspired and educated someone? I cannot think of anything better. Humor, sometime dark, is a powerful tool that I really enjoy employing in conveying my messages. 

CCT Network: Do have plans for additional creative works?

Tara Handron: Yes! Once I do this show some more and hopefully find a way for it to either logically go on or come to an organic conclusion, I would love to do some more writing. I have lots of random scribbling and Post-its and emails to myself right now containing ideas.