Whenever I’m working on something new, particularly something with a science element to it like THE TIN WOMAN, I always do research and talk to as many people as I can before going near my keyboard. That was particularly true this time. Like everyone, I’m aware of transplant procedures, but also like nearly everyone, it hasn’t really touched my life yet.
The play is based on the true story of a woman who receives a heart transplant and then subsequently meets the family of the donor. (My sister gave me a newspaper clipping about it over Indian food some years back. She said, “Write this and make it not suck.”) At face value, it seems like a straightforward “feel good” show. But the more I dug into the subject matter, the more I realized that there were other possible avenues to run down.
In the course of this show’s life, I’ve been very privileged to meet and spend time with heart transplant recipients and donor families. Most of the recipients are grateful for their second chance and are living their “best life” now, cherishing the extra days they’ve been given. However, there is a kind of subset of them who aren’t sure if they were deserving of the gift. This is commonly called “survivor’s guilt,” and it’s seen in other walks of life, as when people have survived disasters that have taken others and might decide to not go on.
On the other side of the exchange, the families of donors are largely glad to be able to help others at a very difficult time. But nonetheless, they are still grieving, and grief manifests differently in all of us. So exploring that, seeing if people could heal each other, seemed a more interesting way to go with the play.
I will say that survivors and donor families have been very positive about seeing that side of things. They’ve also been glad that, because of the “heavy” nature of the piece, I decided that some humor was an absolute necessity! I never want to put two hours of homework on stage. I always feel that life is all of it – the laughter, the tears, the absurdity – and that we’re all looking for better understanding of our time here and our relationships. It’s so short, a blink.
I hope that you take some of that away from the show.
Tickets for THE TIN WOMAN are now on sale at https://nextact.org/shows/the-tin-woman/?tickets. This production is offered live at 255 S. Water Street. Performances run November 23 – December 18, 2022.