Diabetes Identification: The Musical (?)

The winner of the year’s Bayer Dream Fund contest certainly has something fresh and different in mind. Wendy Coleman, a theatre and address professor at Albany State University in Georgia, will use her award to “compose and perform a drama about handling life with diabetes,” complete with dance and song numbers. The piece is called This is Our Story: Learning, Loving and Living Well with Diabetes, scheduled for a short tour of five southern states starting this August.

I’m convinced there are lessons that are valuable there, but I’m somehow having difficulty imagining lining up in the box office. So I had a chat with Wendy herself to dig a bit deeper into her vision. Here is my miniature interview (“minterview”?)) with Wendy:

So were you working on a drama about diabetes until you heard of the Bayer contest?

I was thinking about ways to get out the message about how important it is after identification to actually take it and proceed and take care of yourself… and I thought, “What should we do play?”

Who are the figures? And how long is it?

It’s a play that I am and intermission, based on my life — I handled my identification in 2005 with Type 2. The main character goes to a physician that is new, and is told she has diabetes. Such as this didn’t even actually happen to her — she walks out of the office of doctor moves into denial and drops the prescription slip for her glucose meter to the trash can. She’s suffering from symptoms, fatigue and the rest…

Later she’s a “Dickens minute” where her Aunt Bessie comes back from the past and walks her through history to help her know that “this is not just about you; it is about the past, present, and future — – people who’ll come after you.”

I’m still having trouble visualizing a Broadway version. What are?

Her “aha moment” is when she meets her great grandfather who is likely to be a minister. She begins to know more about who she is. . I’m also a minister (an assistant pastor at a local church in Albany), so this ties in my own life. She sees him struggling with some complications of diabetes. He’s in a wheelchair, and he states “it is because I was too proud and too busy and that I didn’t wish to go to the physician.” They’ve a real conversation about the way he comes to know his wellness.

I’m trying to not allow it to be drab and dreary. We’ll use a great deal of humor. Mostly we’ve got young actors embodying older people — maybe not as characatuers, however they deliver life and pleasure to the depiction of being older. There is also plenty of singing and dancing. We’re working on the lyrics using an experienced musician, and we’ll will bring into a dance business to do some of the dancing scenes.

So what would be your measure of success for this particular play?

I wish to see people encouraged to get observation, to learn their history, and their family history. And if you’re diagnosed with diabetes to understand it doesn’t need to be a death sentence. It requires some changes, which is easy, but might make a major difference. I also want them to not be ashamed and afraid and embarrassed if they’re diagnosed.

For me working on this has had an impact on my cardiovascular care. I’m more aware and more accountable in caring for myself. I don’t ever want to be a hypocrite: if I’m not doing this, then how do I inform others what’s ideal?

I’m hoping we’ll get sponsors and that after our Dream Fund operation in December, the drama will grab on and be able to take it all.

Well Wendy, I’m still with a bit of trouble visualizing it. But heck, if plays titles like Menopause the Musical and Urinetown can make it big, I’m convinced there’s a chance for one about an ailment effecting as many millions as diabetes does. Break a leg!

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