The story of Sisyphus, the mortal condemned by Zeus to repeatedly push a boulder uphill, provides a metaphor for the ages. Cleveland Public Theatre used it as the basis for Up the Mountain, a collaboration with residents of Y-Haven, a transitional housing program for formerly homeless men recovering from substance abuse.
"Addiction is a struggle," explains CPT's Jeffery Allen, co-director of the play. "We looked at that on existential terms of every person's struggle. We're all struggling with something and pushing it up a mountain, only to have it fall back upon us."
Up the Mountain was developed over three months, with more than a dozen Y-Haven residents. The men -- in their 20s through 50s -- helped write the drama, serve as crew members, and star. Performances take place this Thursday through Sunday.
"The men have really jumped into it with full commitment and no apologies," Allen says. "It's refreshing and exciting to work with them. Professional actors sometimes censor themselves. These guys don't censor themselves -- they're very open."
The story places Sisyphus in contemporary times. He becomes obsessed with a beautiful car, which gets in the way of his life, friends, and family. Ultimately, he must decide between his dream ride (itself a metaphor for various addictions) and the things that mean the most to him. "Our modern-day Sisyphus is pushing his own burden of addiction up the mountain," Allen says. "Will he take the opportunity to find redemption, or will he be forever cursed to push his burden up the hill?"
Allen says the cast and crew relished the opportunity to creatively channel their fixations. "Art can make a positive change in people's lives," he says. "Drama as a tool of self-expression and healing is a powerful experience."