More Than Just a Play

Florida Studio Theatre’s The White Chip Is Part of a New Project That Helps Artists With Addictions

“Part of the myth of being an artist is ‘burn bright, die young.’ None of that is true.”

By Kay Kipling February 26, 2024

If you or anyone you know has ever attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, you understand the significance of a white chip or token—it means you’re taking the first step on the road to sobriety. That’s also the starting point for Sean Daniels’ play The White Chip, which will be onstage beginning Wednesday, March 20, as part of Florida Studio Theatre’s Stage III series.

Daniels may be a familiar face to improv lovers who have attended FST’s improv festivals in the past. He was a co-founder of the Atlanta troupe Dad’s Garage, which has often performed here, and he’s now a resident director at the theater. The local production of The White Chip, which has been performed to acclaim off-Broadway and elsewhere, marks his first time directing this very personal play. Daniels himself struggled with alcoholism, but has been sober for 12 years now.

“When I was able to finally get sober, I decided I was going to try to write the thing I couldn’t find—about addiction, science and brain chemistry,” says Daniels. “It started off as a writing exercise—a monologue I wrote the third day of being in rehab. But as I shared it with people they were like, ‘Do you mind if I pass this on to my mother or brother?’” He realized the piece’s potential to reach more people as a play, and The White Chip had its world premiere in 2016 at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Massachusetts before productions in Pittsburgh and then off-Broadway in 2019. A second run off-Broadway just began on Feb. 1.

Audiences’ strong response to The White Chip is “still a surprise,” Daniels says. “Every time we do the play, I’m figuring that 90 percent of the audience doesn’t want to be there but has to sit through it. Then somebody comes up to me afterward and says, ‘That play is about my ex-wife’ or ‘my dad.’ It’s universal. I went to a series of readings from it in Scotland, and it was profound. One woman came who had lost her son and wanted to understand why. One guy brought his family so they would understand him.”

That reaction makes sense when you know the statistics around addiction. “It’s more than 46 million people in our country,” says Daniels. “We just don’t talk about it the way we do diabetes or other illnesses.” The incidence is particularly high in the arts and entertainment world, he adds. “Artists suffer depression at higher rates than the average person,” he says. “And for the most part, our industry happens at night.” Daniels says that type of schedule “can lend itself” to substance abuse.

Also, he says, “There’s a real built-in narrative in the arts that addiction is sort of the deal with the devil you make to be an artist. We all love Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson. Part of the myth of being an artist is ‘burn bright, die young.’ None of that is true.”

While the topic of addiction may sound heavy, Daniels emphasizes that 
The White Chip delivers a lot of laughter. “I don’t really understand a world that doesn’t have humor in it,” he says. “I’m a Gen X-er who grew up in the after-school special age. Just being serious doesn’t work. Humor has to be our way in.”

Beyond the show itself, Daniels and the theater are behind The Recovery Project, which attempts to remove the stigma of addiction through the development of new plays and outreach. In Atlanta, The White Chip toured at rehab centers to more directly connect with those in recovery. Daniels hopes to do the same here, along with creating basic informational videos, along the lines of sexual harassment training or active shooter drills, to be used in the workplace. He and the theater are also working to establish what he calls a “warm line”—not a hotline, but a way of sharing resources anonymously through calls made to fellow performers and artists who have been through similar struggles. It’s a strategy he says already exists quietly in other professions. 

“The Recovery Project is specific to our industry, because I really believe that the arts are the way we change national narratives,” says Daniels. “The play itself is a bit of a white chip. If you’re interested in quitting, it’s a place to start.”

The White Chip will run March 20-April 12 in Florida Studio Theatre’s Bowne’s Lab. For tickets, call (941) 366-9000 or visit 

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