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Coral Gables

Actors’ Playhouse director opens up about his own issues before Judy Garland play


If you go

What: ‘End of the Rainbow’ by Peter Quilter.

Where: Actors’ Playhouse, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday (additional 2 p.m. show Jan. 22), through Feb. 9.

Cost: $55 Friday-Saturday, $47 other shows (10 percent senior discount, $15 student rush tickets, Saturday-Sunday excluded).

Information: 305-444-9293 or

David Arisco stood before about 25 people and an addiction specialist to talk about losing control.

The artistic director of Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre opened up during a discussion with George Hobbs, an addiction specialist with Baptist Health, before Wednesday’s performance of End of the Rainbow,a play that details singer Judy Garland’s struggles near the end of her life.

“I never thought I was a closet eater,” said Arisco, as he recounted his struggles with binge eating during late nights after work at the theater. He would go home, after a long day and night without eating, and immediately head to the refrigerator, where he stuffed himself.

At one point, he weighed more than 400 pounds.

Hobbs led a 45-minute discussion about addiction and its portrayal in “End of the Rainbow.” Garland died at age 47 in 1969 from an unintentional drug overdose of barbiturates. She’d struggled with addiction since childhood.

Actors’s Playhouse is hosting lectures on addiction before every show, which runs through Feb. 9. A specialist from the South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center will speak an hour before each performance.

Hobbs explained how the story is an accurate depiction how people around those who suffer from addiction can act as enablers.

“[Garland] had doctors everywhere ready to medicate her wherever she was performing,” he said.

Arisco, who has lost 130 pounds since having bariatric surgery in July, shared his success with Hobbs and his own concerns about dependency on painkillers. Due to his weight, Arisco has had severe pain in his knees and back and was taking Oxycontin, which is habitforming.

The surgery and subsequent weight loss has proven a better route for his health issues.

Arisco said Garland developed her dependency as a child performer when studios gave her amphetamines to work long hours and barbiturates to sleep at night.

“At an age she needed love and sympathy and nurturing, she didn’t have it,” he said.

David Vittoria, assistant vice president at South Miami Hospital’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center, said in an interview Tuesday that Garland’s story sends a message to those who may be enabling a loved one who needs professional help, albeit unintentionally.

“You may not always know that when you think you’re helping somebody, you’re actually enabling their disease,” he said.

Barbara Stein, Actors’ Playhouse executive producing director, said in an interview the lecture series is a creative way to dovetail entertainment with community outreach.

“We thought this would just be the perfect opportunity,” she said. “An opportunity to engage professionals that are out there to do a service to help people who are in the treatment and recovery process.”

On Wednesday, Alan and Shari Mitchell were in the audience before the show. On vacation from Minnesota, they thought the lecture and show would make for an interesting evening.

And it was, they said.

“We didn’t know the director was going to tell us so much,” Alan said.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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