Noordhoek resident Milton Schorr has more than one story to tell – he writes daily – but it is his play The Heroin Diaries which has turned the spotlight on him.
Milton’s hour-long play about the delicate dance of addiction has wowed the Imbewu Trust; who chose Milton as one of this year’s SCrIBE winners.
The decision was made following a week of professional staged readings, featuring four finalists.
Nokuzola Zoe Bikwana’s No Christmas For Us was also a winner, and other finalists were Carla Lever for her script Food For Thought and Mark Tatham for Man Up.
SCrIBE is a national competition which provides the opportunity for playwrights to develop their work.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, co-founder of the Imbewu Trust, Samantha de Romijn, said that the standard of the top plays this year had been especially high.
“Milton and Nokuzola’s scripts were compelling stories, wonderfully told and with huge potential to be crafted into a theatrical experience,” says Ms De Romijn.
The Imbewu Trust will be lending its support to the forthcoming run of The Heroin Diaries at Alexander Bar in Cape Town city centre, directed by Fred Abrahamse.
The Heroin Diaries introduces the audience to two characters, and perhaps, some aspect of themselves.
Milton has been clean for 10 years and speaks frankly about the intricacies of addiction and relationships. There are no illusions for him anymore. His path to recovery has given him new eyes. And, he says, in his experience, nobody in a relationship with an addict is clear, themselves.
“It may not be drugs, it may be power, or being needed, or something entirely different: but if your partner is an addict, you are too. And if you are both addicted to drugs or drugs and alcohol in particular, your relationship is sick, and it always will be, until you are in recovery,” Milton says.
He doesn’t believe external influence makes much of a difference.
“What a sober or clean person may not understand is that the rejection is not personal. The addict sincerely believes that that drink, or that drug, is all that matters, is all that can fix how they feel. It is really that simple. And you can do very little to impact that; that person has to hit their own rock bottom. It’s been said before, it is still true,” Milton says.
He stresses the importance of boundaries and says if unchecked, an addict will drag you into their own spiral.
He then speaks gently but firmly about the ways that all people numb their pain or distract themselves: food, sex, television, gaming… and says that even good things, such as exercise or extreme sports, can become an addiction.
“We sometimes have this idea that addicts have these dramatic, brave, colourful lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we are seeing is sheer desperation to be accepted, to be loved, to find a place where they belong.
“And it’s weird, 10 people can take the same drug, and for instance let’s just say, two will become addicts. It isn’t guaranteed; that switch is a deeply internal matter – it is inherent in how resilient we are to trauma or loss.”
In the stage play that has struck such a chord with the judges, we meet Craig, a 34-year-old heroin dealer who has been a drug addict for 20 years. On the day he is planning to check out quietly, the way he always knew he would – by overdose – he meets 16-year-old Leila, who arrives at his flat searching for her own oblivion.
On the surface, the play revolves around his one last chance; to question the life he’s led – and perhaps choose a different ending.
“But the deeper in you go, the more you discover that this is one deeply flawed man,” Milton says.
“How could he not be? We know that we remain emotionally stuck at the age that we are when we started taking drugs – or drinking.”
Milton mentions drinking because for him, that was the doorway. He first became addicted to alcohol, then drugs.
He has used the 12-step programme, and says he is at step 12 now, the part where he is able to share what may help others; and he chooses to do this through the arts.
Milton is a writer, actor, traveller. He says his recovery process has deepened his capacity to act with understanding and that while he was desperate before to do any role and would feel a rejection as a rejection of himself, he is now strong enough to know the difference, and to not pursue just any role.
“Is it weird to think that my journey has gifted me with… discernment?” he asks.
“I found the feedback from the readings an invaluable experience and will take them in to consideration for my forthcoming run. I am thrilled to be a SCrIBE winner,” he says.
Milton has also invented a fascinating form of theatre that calls himself and his co-actors to be wholly engaged and authentic on stage.
“It’s called The Game and it is a stage play which has a rough sketch. In that, we have maybe four things that are going to happen on stage in one night; but we have no script. We simply step into our characters and explore the theme, and honestly, it produces the most amazing intimate experience. Basically if we as actors haven’t left our hearts on the stage that night, we haven’t done our jobs,” he says.
The Imbewu Trust is a non-profit organisation which was established to promote the development of contemporary South African theatre and arts and to help showcase it on an international stage.
It seeks to create an accessible community of varied voices that can flourish through collaboration, resourcefulness and innovation.
For further information visit www.imbewuarts.com