UM to host ‘Addiction Roulette’ performance and explore addiction and incarceration | Local News

The University of Montana, the Montana Department of Transportation, and the No Joke Theater are hosting an “Addiction Roulette” event Monday night on the UM campus.

“Addiction Roulette” examines addiction through a collage of original, scripted scenes. The event is a way for the Missoula community to learn more about the connection between incarceration and addiction through theater, said No Joke Theater Artistic Director Leah Joki.

“It’s a huge problem that addiction is such a big part of our prison system,” Joki said. “Really, there should be more treatment, as opposed to incarceration.”

The performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Masquer Theater on the UM campus. It’s free and open to the public, and no reservations are required. A question-and-answer session with the director, teachers and performers will follow the performance.

85% of people incarcerated in Montana are there for substance abuse issues, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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Several actors and participants volunteered through the Missoula Pre-Release Center. There are five performers as well as a handful of teaching artists.

The skits include original scripts written by people incarcerated under the Warm Springs Addiction Treatment and Change (WATCh) program detailing their experiences with DUI arrests. These are written by Native American writers, Joki said.

In Montana, Native Americans make up 6.5% of the state’s population, but they make up 25% of the population in male prisons and 38% for females, she said.

“It humanizes their experience and acts as a catalyst for conversation about social justice issues in our community,” Joki said.

The group also has material from Broadway playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis and pop culture material that deals with addiction, such as HBO’s hit show “Euphoria.”

“I tried to hit him from all sides,” Joki said. “We deal with addictions to alcohol, methamphetamine, heroin. It’s a non-judgmental way to start the conversation.

Joki estimates the volunteers put in around 100 hours of rehearsals, practicing the scenes four times a week.

The DUI Project originated as a pilot program of the WATCH program through UM’s College of Arts and Media. Funding through the dean’s office, supplemented by funds from the Montana Department of Transportation, made the project possible, she explained.

Joki is a former UM and the first person from Montana to attend the Juilliard School in New York. Before retiring to Missoula, she worked for the California Department of Corrections. There she performed and taught in over 30 prisons.

“My goal is to bring the arts in corrections (facilities) into the Montana justice system,” Joki said. “It’s been my life’s work.”

She hopes to train a younger generation to return to work and integrate the performing arts into correctional facilities to explore rehabilitative treatment rather than punishment.

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