Play, Film Will Share Story of Poland Woman Who Died of Overdose

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The story of a promising young woman from Poland, Ohio, who died last year of a fentanyl overdose is being made into a stage play and movie.

The tragic story of Amanda McAuley, a 2014 Poland Seminary High School graduate, will be told in “Amanda’s Story of Life.” The play was written by Valley-based playwright-filmmaker Michael Anthony Forney, who is also directing it.

“Amanda’s Story” will be presented Oct. 11 at Powers Auditorium. Forney will then recast it and shoot it as a movie in 2025 that will be available on Forney Extreme TV, the streaming site that he launched last year.

Auditions for “Amanda’s Story” will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, April 29-30, at Covelli Centre.

Information about the auditions, and Amanda’s life, can be found at

After McAuley’s death in April 2023 at age 27, her mother, Donna, launched AM Wake Up Call, a nonprofit organization with a goal of raising awareness of fentanyl and preventing deaths.

McAuley was passionate about life and strong in her faith, according to her obituary. She began pursuing modeling and acting while still in high school and went on to win the National American Miss Ohio Teen Top Model Contest in Hollywood.

She later enrolled in modeling classes and was represented by a talent agency in Los Angeles.

The decision to make her life story into a play and film took root in the past few months and furthers Donna’s goal of helping young people avoid a similar fate.

Donna McAuley and Forney met by happenstance in a Poland restaurant last year. They got into a discussion in which she told him about her daughter.

“I said, ‘It sounds like a movie,’” Forney said. “There’s a lot of fentanyl in this area, and she was looking for someone to write her daughter’s story.”

Michael Anthony Forney wrote and is directing “Amanda’s Story of Life.”

McAuley would later go see a production of Forney’s play “Why Me?” Afterward, she chose him to tell the story of her daughter.

“I instantly knew he would be the guy,” McAuley said. “So I reached out to him. I feel so blessed that I met Michael. He has been so on-page with me.”

Forney said he stuck to true events in writing the script, changing names only when necessary.

He is looking for about 30 actors for the play, including extras, singers and dancers. Auditionees are asked to bring a headshot and be prepared to deliver a monologue of their own choosing, no more than a minute or two in length.

McAuley said her goal is to have an impact on young people and to save lives. In recent months, her foundation placed 10 billboards around the Mahoning Valley with Amanda’s photo and the message “Don’t Use the ‘F’ Word. Fentanyl Is Fatal.”

The play is part of that messaging.

“I want to show how a young life is impacted by decisions and choices,” she said. “We’re not teaching our kids how to make better choices. They are getting everything from social media.”

Ten billboards with Amanda McAuley’s photo and the message “Don’t Use the ‘F’ Word. Fentanyl Is Fatal” have been placed around the Mahoning Valley.

She believes a play is an effective way to reach young people, and she wants “Amanda’s Story” to eventually be performed by students in high schools.

“They say you can’t lecture kids, and you can’t scare them,” she said. “But I want the script to go into high schools so they can perform it for their communities – to show what drugs can do to you. I think it might have a big impact.

“My Amanda was a model and a fabulous actor, and she did great things. Then everything changed when that drug got into her,” she said.

The play, she noted, will not just be the sad parts. “It will be about all that Amanda did, and how everything then changed,” she said.

Pictured at top: Amanda McAuley and her mother, Donna McAuley, are shown in this photo. Amanda died in 2023 of a fentanyl overdose.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.