Go Ask Alice: An Original Play About Medications And Health Issues

Go Ask Alice play Record storyGo Ask Alice, an original play about medications and health issues, premiered in Minneapolis and Duluth in late November 2016. The play addressed health disparities and cultural beliefs about health, illness and disease, and focused on drugs and medicine.

“What makes the play unique is its basis on real medication experiences in patients’ words, gleaned from the results of a national consumer survey,” said Professor Paul Ranelli, who came up with the idea for the play two years ago. “The goal was to develop a theater production that could be used as an educational tool for practitioners and students in health professions.”

According to Ranelli, 81 percent of adults in the U.S. take at least one medication each week, and nearly one out of three people have a prescription for five or more different medications.

“Every day individuals make decisions about prescription medication,” Ranelli said. “Go Ask Alice is based on the real-life stories of patients. Those stories show the impact that someone’s experience with medicine has on their health and on the people who care for them.”

Go Ask Alice grew out of a research venture coordinated by Professor Jon Schommer and his colleague Lawrence Brown from Chapman University School of Pharmacy. Their survey concluded with an open-ended question, “If you have any comments about medicines, pharmacists or health, please write them in the space provided,” and about 5,000 of the more than 30,000 respondents had more to say.

Armed with those verbatim responses and entries from the “Medication Experiences, Stories from Users/Patients” Facebook page, Ranelli and graduate student Alyssa Bortz started the process of using theater as the medium to extend the dialog among practitioners and students in the health professions about patients’ perceptions about medications and health.

To bring the play to life, Ranelli partnered with Minnesota author and playwright Syl Jones to write the script, and Minneapolis-based Mixed Blood Theatre, which provided the cast and directed the production.

During the one hour performance, six actors portrayed a number of characters, including pharmacists, other health care providers and patients, and shared stories on medications, the healthcare system and drug advertising.

“The goal of the play was to entertain, but also give the audience a fresh perspective on medications and patient concerns,” said Ranelli.