LAKEVIEW — Steven Strafford first tried crystal methamphetamine after a hookup in September 2000.
The young actor had just moved to Chicago, and he told his date he was open to pretty much anything.
"Meth made me feel like, for the first time in my life, there was nothing wrong with me," Strafford said, "And that's a hard feeling to let go of.
"I can't speak for all gay men, but [for me], I felt so weak all my life," he continued. "I was emotional. I was very easily hurt, scared. And then I took this drug, and I wasn't scared. I was powerful. I could do what I wanted, and that is dangerous. That's a dangerous feeling."
Strafford would spend the next three years battling a serious meth addiction while trying to build a musical-theater career in Chicago.
Now seven years sober, Strafford, 36, is back in the Windy City with his one-man show "Methtacular," a well-reviewed musical comedy running at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., through Sept. 28.
The show is billed as a brutally honest, funny look at Strafford's struggles with drug and sex addiction. He started writing "Methtacular" in 2009 after he wasn't cast in a role he really wanted.
Strafford said he threw a Daffy-Duck-style fit in his New York City apartment and vented by typing furiously on his laptop. It was just expletives at first, but the actor soon churned out page after page of meth stories.
"I was really surprised by how funny they were," Strafford said. "At the time, I didn't think I was writing a show. I was really into 'This American Life,' and thought I was writing David Sedaris-y essays."
The actor began performing his stories for friends.
"Everyone said, 'This should be a show,'" Strafford said. "And I thought, 'Well, that's a foolish idea. Why would I get up in front of people and tell them I'm a meth addict? That seems crazy.'"
After friends kept prodding, Strafford enlisted veteran director Adam Fitzgerald, and the duo began writing and composing original music. They brought "Methtacular" to New York and Cincinnati, and will finally debut the show in Chicago on Thursday.
"I wanted to bring this story to Chicago, where it happened," said Strafford, who recently returned to Chicago. He now lives in Lakeview with fiance Wade Elkins, a Blue Man in the Blue Man Group.
"Theater Wit, where we're doing the show, used to be the old Bailiwick Repertory Theatre," Strafford said. "I was fired from [there] for being a drug addict. I'll be walking into the space where I was a mess, but telling the story as a man, finally."
About Face Theatre, an Edgewater-based company that brings LGBT voices to the stage, is backing the show's Chicago debut.
"I was just so taken with [Strafford's] unique voice," artistic director Andrew Volkoff said. "He has an ability to take, what I think some people might look at as a harrowing or appalling story, and find a way into it through redemption and humor."
"Methtacular" will show at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., from Thursday to Sept. 28. Tickets cost $10-$35.
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