The Recovery Plays of Jackie B.
Jackie Bendzinski, San Francisco, The Recovery Plays of Jackie B., "In Our Own Words: Pioneers of Alcoholics Anonymous," "Our Experience Has Taught Us"
Our Experience Has Taught Us
Four performances during the week of the 14th International Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Rialto Center for the Arts, 80 Forsyth Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30303:
With a sweeping cast of characters that includes Bill and Lois W., Dr. Bob and Anne S., Clarence S., Marty Mann, Cleveland Indian's catcher Rollie Hemsley and the starlet Lillian Roth, "Our Experience Has Taught Us" dramatizes the experiences of the early A.A. groups in Ohio, New York and California. Powerful and entertaining, this play brings to life the often comical and sometimes tragic experiences that led to the adoption of the Twelve Traditions. "Our Experience Has Taught Us" is an unforgettable journey into our group histories, celebrating the precious unity of Alcoholics Anonymous.
For more information see http://www.recoveryplaysofjackieb.org/ and http://www.recoveryplaysofjackieb.org/shows/
Foreword by A.A. historian Glenn Chesnut
(South Bend, Indiana and Fremont, California)
to the printed version of Our Experience Has Taught Us
My story is my message. The recovery community in which I live was formed and is maintained by the living power of the collective story line composed of all the shared experiences that created us as a group. That is what provides the shape to all the underlying energy flowing through the twelve-step program.
On Dec. 11, 1934 Bill Wilson had his last drink and checked himself into Towns Hospital in New York City. Then on Dec. 14, he had a profound spiritual experience -- a vision of the divine light -- and on the next day, two Oxford Group members, Ebby Thacher and Shep Cornell, visited him and brought him two books to read: William James' Varieties of Religious Experience and The Little Flowers of St. Francis. The first was in fact a book of stories, stories about hundreds of people. The second was a book telling the story of one extraordinary spiritual figure.
The reason for doing this came from the teaching of the Oxford Groupís 5 C's (the basis of A.A.'s 12 steps) which they had taken from H. A. Walter's book Soul-Surgery: "Conversion is a matter both of the heart and the will, and if there is anything we can do to assist him .... it is, first of all, to give him autobiographical writings," Walter said, containing the stories of men and women who had undergone real psychic change at the deepest level. So that is what Ebby and Shep did, they brought Bill Wilson stories that would show him the way to turn his life around.
Jackie B. is the master story teller of the new A.A. generation, bursting onto the scene in 2010 with her first play, In Our Own Words. Performed to standing room only audiences at the A.A. International Convention in San Antonio, the play had the people in the audience laughing, crying, standing on their feet and applauding, and being totally pulled into the vivid tales which she spun. This play, her second one -- Our Experience Has Taught Us -- is equally powerful and moving, and explains how the Twelve Traditions arose from the real life experiences of early AA. people.
The twelve traditions are a Bill of Rights for a great spiritual movement, committing it to standards even higher than those of the U.S. Bill of Rights or the French Revolution's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizen. But they are not just a set of intellectualized political theories about how human beings ought to behave. In this play, an old-timer explains to a newcomer that the Twelve Traditions are spiritual principles that arose out of the attempt to live the highest kind of spiritual life: "They werenít written in ink . . . oh no. They were written in sweat and tears and fistfights and blood." And we discover that you cannot understand why the Traditions are there at all, or what they really mean, until you learn the story of how each principle arose.
And the Traditions are more than just a Bill of Rights. They answer important questions about issues which we must still deal with today: How did early AA avoid being torn apart by all the powerful alcoholic egos, and what St. Augustine called the libido dominandi, the out-of-control lust to dominate and boss around and control and criticize everyone else around us? How did they learn to start replacing pride with humility, perfectionism with tolerance, condemnation with compassion, and selfishness with generosity?
It is not only a matter of how I structure my own personal life, but how we agree as a group to structure the community we live in. That is the story of Our Experience Has Taught Us.
So please enjoy yourself fully as you read or watch this marvelous play -- let yourselves laugh wholeheartedly and wonder and marvel, and even shed a quiet tear at the most moving parts. And listen to the stories, for the people in this play are real people, A.A. members who lived and breathed, laughed and wept too, and let their stories produce change in the way you see your life. That will be real too, it will not be a figment of your imagination. God bless you all.
The Way Out: A Musical Journey
through the Big Book
Music and lyrics by Tom S. and libretto by Jackie B. A Bend and Sway production. Two performances during the week of the 14th International Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Balzer Theater at Herren's, 84 Luckie Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30303:
San Francisco's celebrated indie singer-songwriter Tom S. performs an original cabaret inspired by the personal stories from the four editions of the book Alcoholics Anonymous and his own recovery. Music and lyrics by Tom S. and libretto by Jackie B. A Bend and Sway production.
Tom is a song and dance man. In 2005, Tom composed and directed a tango operetta that debuted at Venue 9 in San Francisco. He won the Shennson fellowship for his songwriting in 2011. In that same year he started working as the Artistic Director for the music series Underground Sound at Stage Werx theatre in San Francisco's Mission district. He works as a vocal coach, dance instructor and choreographer, and has been the long time front man for the SF rock band Nickel Beer Rio. Tom originated the role of Bill W. in the premiere of Our Experience Has Taught Us, written and directed by Jackie B. In 2013, Tom and Jackie co-founded Bend and Sway productions, a home for their collaborative creative partnership. Tom has been sober since November 21, 2002.
Balzer Theater at Herren's, 84 Luckie Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30303