Bill W. and Dr. Bob Opens Tonight in NYC

By Hunter R. Slaton 07/08/13

The cast and crew tell The Fix why this production of the story of AA's founding is unique.

Patrick Boll, the new face of Bill W. Photo via

Bill W. and Dr. Bob, a play about the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, opens tonight at the Soho Playhouse in NYC (click here for tickets.) The play, co-written and produced by Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey and directed by Seth Gordon, focuses on the meeting, friendship and recovery of AA's co-founders, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, as well as their wives, Lois Wilson and Ann Smith, who co-founded Al-Anon. Broadway veteran Patrick Boll plays stockbroker-turned-12-step-founder Bill W., and though Boll is a newcomer to the story of AA, his character's struggles are familiar to him. "My father was a major alcoholic before he passed," Boll tells The Fix, adding that the script "really rang true for me."

The play has been staged more than 100 times in 35 states, as well as Australia, Canada and England. But this production is unique in that all proceeds will go to the Hazelden Foundation, who will put the donations towards a planned college tour of the play, to combat campus binge drinking. "This is the first time that we are doing it the way we want to do it," Shem tells us. The play's mission is threefold, the producers explain: to celebrate recovery, to educate about alcoholism and to reduce stigma. It also seeks to highlight the power of relationships and community in recovery—and not just in recovery from alcoholism. Shem says it's relatable to anyone who has experienced any form of suffering or isolation: "You don't have to know anything about alcoholism or drug abuse to love this play."

Like AA, the play has evolved with some help from group participation. At a talkback session after the first reading of the script, an audience member who had met Bill Wilson described the AA co-founder as "the kind of guy who could talk a dog off a meat wagon"—a line which later made its way into the script.

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Hunter Slaton is the esports managing editor for Blizzard Entertainment. You can find hunter on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.