A 2018 production of Michael Gorman's play "Chasing the New White Whale" being performed in New York City. Gorman's newest production, a blues opera, will premiere in Rockland on Sept. 11. Credit: Courtesy of Forty Hour Club

A blues opera that charts the rise and fall of a commercial fisherman battling opiate addiction will premiere on the Rockland waterfront this month. 

The show, “Never Leaving this Boat ― Fragments of a Blues Opera,” is the latest work from Maine playwright Michael Gorman. The Rockland-based playwright and director has spent the last two decades writing plays about addiction and how the issue is intertwined with New England’s commercial fishing communities. 

Gorman hopes “Never Leaving this Boat” ― which is premiering in conjunction with National Recovery Month ― can provide audiences with a launching point for having meaningful conversations regarding the opioid epidemic. 

“Art is what gets people talking. Particularly, with a play, they have something very specific they can relate to,” Gorman said. “[The audience] can share that in a group environment or a forum and we get to talk about this thing that is bigger than all of us and talk about what the next steps are.”

“Never Leaving this Boat” is part of an ongoing arts and advocacy project, Chasing the New White Whale, that Gorman and his production company, the Forty Hour Club, have been working on over the past four years. The project has included a touring series of stage readings, presentations and performances all centered around addressing the opioid epidemic.

Gorman calls the upcoming blues opera “the grand installation” of the project.

The premise of “Never Leaving this Boat” pulls from a trilogy of plays Gorman wrote over the last 20 years, all of which have focused around addiction in fishing communities. Gorman ―  who has lived in coastal fishing communities ― lost his brother to a heroin overdose in 1999. His brother was a commercial fisherman out of Massachusetts .

Herman Melville’s 19th century novel, Moby Dick, has also been a large source of inspiration for Gorman’s past works, as well as the upcoming production. 

“[Opiate addiction is] such a big issue that it’s not an easy thing to address and that’s where Moby Dick comes in,” Gorman said. “The only metaphor I could find that could match the epicness of opioid addiction is the myth of the white whale. It will wipe out your whole family or community if you don’t do something about it.”

While most of Gorman’s plays have incorporated music into their productions, “Never Leaving this Boat” is his first foray into a blues opera. The show will feature 11 songs written by Gorman, who feels the blues as a musical genre lends itself to the heaviness of opiate addiction. 

“I think the blues is the natural form and expression for working class issues like this,” Gorman said. “There is the struggle and the pain but there is the celebration of being able to sing your blues.” 

“Never Leaving this Boat” will premiere Saturday September 11 at 1 p.m., with another performance at 4 p.m. and a final performance Sunday September 12 at 3 p.m.. All performances are being held at the Steel House Amphitheater, located along the Rockland waterfront. 

Ticketing information can be found on the Forty Hour Club website.