Bill W. and Dr. Bob

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Artwork for Bill W. and Dr. Bob

Bill W. and Dr. Bob is a play written by Stephen Bergman and Janet Surrey, published by Samuel French, Inc. The play will return to Off-Broadway after being produced in some thirty of the fifty United States, Australia, Canada, and England. Bill W. and Dr. Bob began previews at The Soho Playhouse on July 8, 2013.

The first production of Bill W. and Dr. Bob began previews off-Broadway at New World Stages on February 16, 2007 and opened on March 5, 2007. It ran for 132 performances and closed on June 10, 2007. It is based on the story of William Wilson (Bill W.) and Dr. Robert Smith (Bob S., or "Dr. Bob"), the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and their wives Lois Wilson and Anne Smith, creators of Al-Anon. Bill W. and Dr. Bob is written by Stephen Bergman and Janet Surrey, produced by Bradford S. Lovette, Dr. Michael and Judith Weinberg, and The New Repertory Theatre and stars Marc Carver as Man, Kathleen Doyle as Anne Smith, Deanna Dunmyer as Woman, Rachel Harker as Lois Wilson, Patrick Husted as Dr. Bob Smith and Robert Krakovski as Bill Wilson. It was directed by Rick Lombardo and with music composed by Ray Kennedy.

A video was produced of the 2007 Off-Broadway production by The Hazelden Foundation.

The 2013 Production[edit]

A new production of Bill W. and Dr. Bob began on July 8 at The Soho Playhouse in NYC in 2013.

In the new production, Patrick Boll (Mamma Mia, Faith Healer, Twentieth Century) starred as Bill Wilson, a famous New York stockbroker who crashes with the stock market, becoming a miserable drunk. Returning to the role he performed to acclaim at the Cleveland Play House, Timothy Crowe (resident acting member of Trinity Repertory Company) played Dr. Bob Smith, a surgeon in Akron who has been an alcoholic for thirty years and often goes into the operating room with a hangover. Both are isolated, alone, and on the brink of death. Through an astonishing series of events, the two men are brought together and, realizing that “the only thing that can keep a drunk sober is telling his story to another drunk,” forge a relationship. They help each other stay sober, and then pass on what they’ve learned to others.

The wives of Bill and Bob are an essential part of the story. Denise Cormier (Bill W. and Dr. Bob at the Cleveland Play House) and Deborah Hedwall (The Fall to Earth), respectively, played Lois Wilson and Anne Smith. Daniel Pearce (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Falling) and Liz Wisan (Other Desert Cities), as the Man and the Woman, will play many various roles.The creative team for this production includes set designer Wilson Chin (The Jammer), costume designer Teresa Snider-Stein (I’m Not Rappaport) and lighting designer Ann Wrightson (Tony nominee August: Osage County). The Hazelden Foundation is the Presenter, Cinnamon Ventures is the Producer, and Roy Gabay Productions (Chaplin, Rock of Ages) is General Manager. This production was funded by tax-exempt donations to the non-profit Hazelden Foundation. There are no investors. Net proceeds go to Hazelden to support a college tour of Bill W. and Dr. Bob to address the epidemic of binge drinking on campuses, and to patient aid and educational resources for youth and young adults.Disclaimer: This work does not imply affiliation with or endorsement by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.


Winner, 2007 Performing Arts Award National Council on Alcohol and Drug dependenceWinner, 2010 Best Play Award, Regional British Columbia Drama FestivalWinner, 2010 Best Play Award, Regional British Columbia Drama FestivalWinner, 2010 Top Theatre Stories in Cleveland, Cleveland Plain DealerWinner, 1995 One of the best plays of the year San Diego Union TribuneWinner, 1995 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award to Dr. Samuel Shem

The story[edit]

"In 1929, the famous New York stockbroker William G. Wilson crashed with the stock market and became a hopeless drunk. Dr. Bob Smith was a surgeon from Ohio, who had also been an alcoholic for thirty years. In fact, he often went into the operating room with a hangover. Through an astonishing series of events, Bill W. and Dr. Bob Smith met and formed a relationship, each helping to keep the other sober. The two went on to form AA together." Set mostly in 1935, Bill W. and Dr. Bob has been lauded—for its authenticity, its humanity and its humor—by critics and remarkably diverse audiences, regardless of whether they, or one of their loved ones, are alcoholic. When the show was last produced in NYC, in 2007, The New York Times called it “an insightful new play,” and The New Yorker described it as “an endearing portrait of friendship uplifted by warm humor.” Variety has called the play “deeply human and audience-embracing.” The Boston Globe deemed it “inspiring” and “a textured, truthful telling of AA’s story,” and wrote that the play provides “evocative portraits of two complex men, without portraying either as an untarnished hero.” The San Francisco Chronicle described the show as “surprisingly entertaining, engrossing, and touching,” and found that “most moving is in the growing bond between Lois and Anne, the wives.”, among many others, pointed out that “you don’t have to be an alcoholic or a member of AA to enjoy this—this is what good theatre should be.”

About the Creators[edit]

Samuel Shem (Co-Writer and Co-Producer) Samuel Shem (née Stephen Bergman ) has been called “easily the finest and most important writer ever to focus on the lives of doctors and the world of medicine” (The Bulletin of the Harvard Club of NYC). His classic novel about medical internship, The House of God (1978), was recently named by the British medical journal The Lancet as one of the two most important American medical novels of the 20th century (the other being Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith). It has sold over two million copies in thirty languages. The Boston Globe called the sequel, Mount Misery (1996), about psychiatric residency at a mental hospital of that name, “outrageously funny, a sage and important novel by a healer and a Shakespearean.” These novels are bestsellers in America, Germany, Spain, Latvia, and the Czech Republic. Shem is also the author of Fine (1986), a novel about a psychoanalyst, which The New York Times described as “funny…full of dazzling, zany intelligence…energetic and exuberant.” The Spirit of the Place(2008, Penguin paperback 2012) was the winner of the national “Best Novel of 2008” award from USA Book News, and the national “IPPY—Independent Publishers Book Award (Silver Medal) for Best Literary Fiction 2009.”Two of Shem’s plays, Room for One Woman and Napoleon’s Dinner, have been published in The Best Short Plays anthologies.Aside from Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Shem and Surrey are authors of a nonfiction book, We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Women and Men (1999, Basic Books), winner of the 1999 Paradigm Shift Award of the Boston Interfaith Counseling Service, and a curriculum for middle/high school students, Making Connections: Building Gender Dialogue and Community in Secondary School.Shem / Bergman is a prolific speaker all over the world. He has given commencement addresses at over fifty medical schools including, in 2009, the Commencement Address at Harvard Medical School. In 2008 he delivered the Gold Lecture in Medical Humanities at the American Association of Medical Colleges, and the 2008 keynote addresses at the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities, and the American Medical Student Association. In 2012 Shem and Surrey were Visiting Artists/Scholars at the American Academy in Rome.

Janet Surrey (Co-Writer and Co-Producer) Janet Surrey is a clinical psychologist, author, Buddhist teacher, and founding scholar of the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at Wellesley College. She is co-author of Women's Growth in Connection and Mothering Against the Odds, as well as other nonfiction books that deal with women’s relational psychology, addiction and spirituality. She was a faculty member of Harvard University for many years, and is now a member of the Institute of Meditation and Psychology in Boston. She is co-author, with Samuel Shem, of We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Women and Men, and also a curriculum, Making Connections: Building Gender Dialogue and Community in Secondary Schools, 2006. Known for her writing and speaking all over the world, she recently completed a training program to be a Community Dharma Leader.

Seth Gordon (Director) Seth Gordon is Associate Artistic Director of the St. Louis Rep this season. Previously, he spent nine seasons in the same capacity at the Cleveland Play House. At the Play House, he produced FusionFest, a performing arts festival, and the Next Stage Festival of New Plays. His Play House directing credits include Dinner with Friends, Proof, Forest City (world premiere), Vincent in Brixton, Tuesdays with Morrie, A Christmas Story, RFK, Of Mice and Men, The Chosen, Doubt, The Lady with All the Answers, Inherit the Wind, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, and A Soldier’s Tale, which featured a rarely produced libretto by Kurt Vonnegut. This season for the Rep he’ll direct Next Fall at the Grandel Theatre and The Fall of Heaven in the main stage season, in addition to directing A Christmas Story at Syracuse Stage. He has also directed in Cleveland for Dobama Theatre, the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival, and the Beck Center for the Arts. He recently directed the Arabic premiere of Our Town in Cairo. Previously, he served as Literary Manager and then as Associate Producer of Primary Stages in New York, where he produced and/or directed countless productions, workshops and readings of new plays by this country’s leading playwrights. He has also directed at many other New York theatres, and has directed and lectured at various universities including The New School and Case Western Reserve University. He received the 2004 and 2006 Northern Ohio Live Award for Excellence in Theatre. He considers himself a lucky man. Seth directed the box-office smash, critically acclaimed production of Bill W. and Dr. Bob at the Cleveland Play House in 2010

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