The Way Home Pays Tribute to National Hospice Month with Two Murray Performances This Week
In honor of National Hospice Month, Murray's Playhouse in the Park's senior acting troupe, Old Duffers and Powder Puffers, is presenting two performances of Constance Alexander's spoken word opera The Way Home on Thursday, November 30, at First Presbyterian Church in Murray at 6 pm and Friday, December 1, at Playhouse in the Park at 2 pm. Playing the roles in this reader's theatre piece are Beth Buchanan, Nancy Dycus, Marci Edmonds, Shirley Johnson, Gerry Mellon, and Joyce Morrison. Playwright Constance Alexander speaks to Asia Burnett about the upcoming performances and the inspiration behind the work.
The Way Home began as a partnership between Alexander and WKMS under a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson and Benton Foundations called Sound Partners for Community Health. Alexander's decision to focus the project on end-of-life experiences was inspired by two Western Kentucky women, both diagnosed with cancer. The first, a woman from Trigg County, struggled to come up with money for her expensive chemotherapy treatments. The second, a woman from Murray, was able to receive treatment under Medicaid and, moved by the Trigg County woman's story, helped Alexander start a fundraising campaign for the Trigg County woman called the Theresa Fund. As part of the original WKMS project, Alexander conducted interviews for a radio documentary titled Promises to Keep. After completing the project, Alexander felt compelled to continue telling the women's stories.
"I still had these voices of these two women and the important things they had to share," Alexander explained. "I was doing a lot more playwriting than I had been doing earlier. So, I started working on The Way Home. It's like an opera. It has all of the components of an opera; there are arias and recitatives but no singing. It's poetry. So, it sings in its own way." Alexander said the piece was first performed at Horse Cave Theatre in Horse Cave, Kentucky, before being produced nationwide.
Alexander said that while she collects no royalties on the performances, she asks that any money raised go to either the uninsured, breast cancer funds, or women's health funds. She decided to bring the reader's theatre piece back to Murray now in honor of National Hospice Month. "I am a great proponent of hospice and have been for many years. Just in the past couple of years, my husband was also a hospice patient. So I had that experience very up close and personal. Over the years, it is interesting and heartening to me that people are learning more and more about hospice and what an amazing support system it provides for people and families at the end of their lives."
"I created this as reader's theatre so that actors of any age can be very comfortable in participating," Alexander continued. "That means the actors will have a script in hand, and there are parts assigned. It is almost like a choral piece, in a way. I think the oldest person who ever took a role was a cancer patient in Louisiana. She was 86. So, often, cast members are people who have had some experience with cancer or with hospice or with end-of-life issues."
"It's uplifting, and it's funny — audiences laugh at some of the things because how do you get through things as sobering as end-of-life issues without also being able to have some humor as you go through those things? So, that's another aspect that I'm happy about," Alexander concludes.
Murray's Playhouse in the Park will present two performances of The Way Home in Murray. The first will be Thursday, November 30, at First Presbyterian Church at 6 pm. The second will be at Playhouse in the Park on Friday, December 1, at 2 pm. Admission is free, but donations to Anna Mae Owen Residential Hospice House are welcome. Stables Realty Group will host a reception after both performances. For more information about the productions, contact Beth Buchanan at email@example.com. Questions for the playwright may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.