Genesius Theatre presents play about the beginnings of Alcoholics Anonymous

"Bill W and Dr. Bob" will return this weekend only at Genesius Theatre in Reading. (Photo by Kathi Christie)

READING — Back by popular demand, “Bill W. And Dr. Bob” — a play about the miraculous and humble beginnings of Alcoholics Anonymous — makes its triumphant return to Berks County at Genesius Theatre for one weekend only. The show runs today at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. The debut of this wonderful play, directed by L J Fecho, was presented to sold-out audiences at Easy Does It Inc. in Leesport in 2011.

“Bill W. And Dr. Bob” tells the story of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, two hopeless drunks whose sometimes stormy friendship, buffeted by their strong desire to recover from their chronic alcoholism, led to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935.

Written by Stephen Bergman and Janet Surrey, “Bill W. And Dr. Bob” is believed to be the first play to depict the relationship between Wilson and Smith and the early days of Alcoholics Anonymous, a rich, provocative dramatization of what remains one of the most enduring, if unlikely, success stories in American history.

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“Bill W. And Dr. Bob” is again directed by Fecho, president of Entourage Entertainment/LetUsEnterTrainYou.com and artistic director of Genesius Theatre in Reading.

Once again, Fecho has brought together a cast of local veteran actors. Dan Smith is back to play Bill Wilson and also Cathy Miller returns as Mrs. Lois Wilson and Diane Smith as Mrs. Anne Smith. New to the cast is Chuck Austin as Dr. Bob Smith. Brandon Kegerize is playing a compilation of male characters including Ebby, Bill Wilson’s friend who helps him get sober and also Billy, the third AA Member. Amy Hudak is playing a compilation of female characters including the wife of Billy, who was the third person to join AA.

The scenic design is by L J Fecho and John Bigos, costume design by Cathy Miller, lighting by Spencer Moss Fecho and sound design by Tim Shapiro.

“Bill W. And Dr. Bob” is the compelling and often humorous story of how Wilson, a failed stockbroker, and Smith, a surgeon, met in 1935. Diagnosed as an incurable alcoholic, Wilson determined that what he needed most was fellowship with other alcoholics after previous attempts at recovery failed him. When Wilson’s desire to drink overwhelmed him during a trip to Akron, Ohio, he picked out the name of a clergyman at random and asked if he could give him the name of a local alcoholic to talk to. That search led him to Dr. Bob Smith, a respected surgeon who frequently operated while inebriated.

The stockbroker and the surgeon first met in the living room of Akron matron Henrietta Sieberling on May 12, 1935, talked for six hours straight — the first AA meeting — and history was made. On June 10, Dr. Bob took his last drink and drug, and this is taken as the date of the founding of AA.

Genesius Theatre is located at 10th and Walnut streets in Reading. To purchase tickets for “Bill W. And Dr. Bob” with all major credit cards visit the website at www.genesiustheatre.org or call 610-373-9500. All Tickets cost $15 and credit card fees apply. Tickets are also available at the door.

For more information, contact the theater at 610-371-8151. Genesius Theatre is handicap accessible and there is free parking next to the theater (limited spaces available). This production is rated PG (some minor adult language).

About The Authors

Stephen Bergman (co-author) was a doctor on the Harvard Medical faculty for 30 years and, under the pen-name “Samuel Shem,” is a playwright and novelist. His plays “Room for One Woman” and “Napoleon’s Dinner” were produced Off Off Broadway as The Shem Plays and selected for The Best Short Plays of the Year anthology. Other plays he wrote include “The Life at Ground Zero” (Blackburn Theatre, Gloucester) and “Courtenay’s Gym” (The Boston Shakespeare Company, where he was playwright-in-residence for two seasons). His novels include “The House of God” (cited by The Lancet as one of the two most significant medical novels of the 20th century) “Fine” and “Mount Misery.” The novels have sold more than two million copies in 50 countries.

Janet Surrey (co-author) is on the faculty and board of the Institute of Meditation and Psychotherapy in Newton, Mass. She is a clinical psychologist in private practice and has taught at the Harvard Medical School, Andover Newton Theological School and the Episcopal Divinity School. She is the author of many books and papers in the area of relational psychology, women’s psychological development, spirituality, and addiction. She is a Founding Scholar of the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at the Stone Center, Wellesley College, and with her husband co-authored the nonfiction book: “We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues Between Men and Women.”

Presentation of “Bill W. And Dr. Bob”does not imply affiliation with nor approval or endorsement from Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.