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Young Actors Theatre is the largest youth theatre in Indianapolis and the only downtown theatre that produces original works by youth, for youth.


Thanks to a generous grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Young Actors Theatre is able to put on our largest-scale project to date: Love Over Dose, an intensive peer-to-peer theatrical project to address the opioid overdose epidemic in Indiana.  

For several years, Young Actors Theatre has specialized in original plays by youth that address social issues that affect youth, like bullying, anxiety, and social media. While we have addressed drug abuse before, Love Over Dose is an expansion of scale and timeframe that will greatly increase our efficacy as a grassroots intervention in how Indianapolis youth view drugs, addiction, and recovery.

Opioid addiction and overdose are especially present on the minds of YAT staff and students because of Executive Director Justin Wade’s personal experience as a homeless heroin addict in Indianapolis for ten years. YAT’s original style of theatre, Self-Empowerment Theatre, is the combination of Justin’s theatrical training at YAT in the ’80s and ’90s, his experiences as a leader in the Indianapolis punk rock scene as a young adult, and the skills he developed to survive and overcome his addiction.

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An original play by youth, for youth.


Young Actors Theatre’s by-youth, for-youth model of theatre hinges on one thing we know to be true: kids and teenagers listen better to their peers than they do to adults. Youth audiences respond better to messages from people they trust, especially people about their age, than they respond to messages from adults (especially unknown adults).  

This is one of the reasons we think Love Over Dose’s highly motivated teen actors have a chance at making a true difference in how their audiences view drug abuse and addiction.

Throughout Spring and Fall 2020, Love Over Dose will perform for public audiences in addition to at least 5,000 Indianapolis-area students, at least 75% of whom are underserved.  As youth through Indiana and the U.S. learn about the opioid crisis and develop empathy, they’ll reduce the stigma of addiction by the same token, and make real progress towards the goal of fewer overdoses each year to come.


Love Over Dose isn’t a script or a play that already exists.  Rather, over the course of a year of research and rehearsals, a group of teen actors is working with director Georgeanna Wade to built an original play from scratch.  

For the first three months, rehearsals will focus on visiting speakers who have a story to tell about the opioid crisis, including recovered addicts, medical first responders, therapists, judges, and chronic pain patients advocating for opioids’ benefits. As we move into the process of devising an original play throughout Summer and Fall 2019, we’ll be drawing on the complexity, the pain, and the hope within the experiences we see in our research phase to build and develop original characters.


Devised Theatre: Who writes the script?



Just like
Hamilton :


Original art takes a long time to develop.

The current project is an expansion on an original play from Young Actors Theatre’s series of social issues plays, The Court. Our 2017 play, The Court versus Heroin, showed the protagonist’s experience of addiction through an extended metaphor in a fairy-tale world, only to discover near the end that the story being shown is the one being written in the protagonist’s diary after a near-fatal overdose.

After realizing that the scope and quality of our performance was limited by time rather than by the skill of our actors, we decided we needed to devote more than a semester to our next play about opioids. Hugely successful productions like Hamilton aren’t made overnight; they take years to develop.  Funding from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust allows us to honor the subject matter and our students’ potential by devoting a year to developing the play and a year to performing.




The Team


The youth actors and writers of Love Over Dose, ranging from seventh to eleventh grade at the time of their auditions, will all be in high school by the time they finish their performances at the end of 2020.


Project Manager




Graeme Cannon

Assistant Director


Katya Bain



Mira Bloomer


Lucy Bozell



Bethany Compton



Henry Estell


Angus McCutcheon


Reese Stephens


Lily Weidenbach


Adri Gullion



Ellie Millis


Georgia Stevens


Paula Hopkins



Hannah Schultz



Francesca Taylor



Eli Kohn


Sadie Sheetz



Sofia Warren-Fitzgerald



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