Sunday, September 25, 2011

WEEKEND ROUND-UP: MISERY LOVES COMPANY

But let's be fair. It's not just misery that loves company, it's most other moods and people! 

A New York Times story from last February explores how "When Patients Share Their Stories, Health May Improve." The article opens with the case of a man awaiting a liver transplant. He exercised to make sure he could withstand the operation itself. But he was still afraid that he wouldn't be strong enough physically or mentally to survive afterwards. So what did he do? He talked with other patients. He told his doctor, who wrote the article, "You doctors have answered all of my questions, but what I really needed was to hear the stories about transplants from people like me." It was those stories, he says, that "made me believe I'd be O.K."

The positive impact of story-sharing has been understood anecdotally for quite some time. But now the release of a research study -- the occasion for the article in the Times -- lends additional scientific rigor to the field of "narrative medicine." (You can listen to my podcast interview with Rita Charon, director of the Narrative Medicine program at Columbia med school, here.) Some of the nearly 300 high-blood-pressure patients in the study responded well to hearing the videotaped stories of others with the same malady -- so long as they were culturally-appropriate, i.e. that they were from someone of the same culture. 

It is on the same logic that other health story sites operate. Patient Stories (logo at top), for example, features text stories on various conditions, and invites users to submit their own stories to be written up. They have published a book of some of those stories. Health Talk Online hosts over 2,000 video and text stories of people with diverse health problems, organized by type of problem, gender, age, and so on; a twin site, Youth Health Talk, is geared towards the young'uns. The former site headlines a quote from Philip Pullman: "True stories are ... nutritious and sustaining. They feed the mind with information and the heart with hope and strength."

An open question I have is why we like hearing stories from "people like me," or -- if this is the same thing -- "culturally appropriate" stories. Intuitively it makes sense; If I had cancer or hypertension of another serious condition, I think I'd be more likely to given "hope and strength" by the stories of people who share my age or race or gender or class or language. Or maybe even my height! I could more readily identify with them, just as I more readily identify with characters in movies who are more rather than less similar to me. But why shouldn't I be able to draw strength and hope from people who are different than me culturally? A failure of the imagination? I don't know.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

INSIDE STORIES PODCAST 32: EDDIE DOWLING AND "THE GLASS MENAGERIE," PART 3 OF 3



First things first: Thanks a million to the Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH) for their help with this episode.

This is the last of three podcast episodes of stories from Eddie Dowling, a theater titan who produced, directed, and starred in the original 1945 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' play "The Glass Menagerie." These stories come from a set of oral history interviews with Dowling conducted in 1963. The original interview tapes no longer exist, just the transcript, so you'll be hearing me, Paul VanDeCarr, reading from the transcripts. You can listen to this episode on the player above, or subscribe to the podcast for free in iTunes.

In the first two episodes, Eddie Dowling talked about falling in love with "The Glass Menagerie," assembling a cast, as well as the run of the play in Broadway and its big (if terrifying) Broadway premiere. 

In this final episode of the mini-series, you'll hear about the acclaimed but rocky 18-month run of the show, and the fate of leading lady Laurette Taylor.

Many thanks to the Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH) for permission to use these stories in the podcast. You're welcome to share this podcast, but if you want to cite or use this interview in a project of your own or in some other context, you'll have to ask CCOH for permission. The contents of the Eddie Dowling interview are protected by copyright, and may not be cited, reproduced, or otherwise used without express written permission from the Columbia Center for Oral History, at Columbia University in the City of New York. 

CCOH has a world-class collection of thousands of interviews (in text, audio, and video formats) with people in the arts, government, business, philanthropy, social movements, and more. Check out their website, or drop them a line to learn more! They're very friendly, and the Center is open to the public.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

INSIDE STORIES PODCAST 31: EDDIE DOWLING AND "THE GLASS MENAGERIE," PART 2 OF 3



For starters, let me say thanks to the Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH) for their help with this episode.

This is the second of three podcast episodes of stories from Eddie Dowling, a theater giant who produced, directed, and starred in the original 1945 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' play "The Glass Menagerie." These stories come from a set of oral history interviews with Dowling conducted in 1963. The original interview tapes no longer exist, just the transcript, so you'll be hearing me, Paul VanDeCarr, reading from the transcripts with whatever meager thespian talents I've gained from watching theater and film over the years! You can listen to this episode on the player above, or subscribe to the podcast for free in iTunes.

In the first episode, Eddie Dowling talked about meeting Tennessee Williams, falling hard for "The Glass Menagerie," and assembling a cast. 

In this second episode, Dowling tells the story of theater critic George Nathan's role in shaping the play, or at least sending Tennessee Williams into despair, and of the Chicago run and the nerve-wracking Broadway premiere.

Eddie Dowling and wife Ray Dooley, from this Camden history website.
In the third and final episode of this mini-series, which I'll release next week, you'll hear about the acclaimed but rocky 18-month run of the show, and the fate of leading lady Laurette Taylor.

Big thanks to the Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH) for permission to use these stories in the podcast. You're welcome to share this podcast, but if you want to cite or use this interview in a project of your own or in some other context, you'll have to ask CCOH for permission. The contents of the Eddie Dowling interview are protected by copyright, and may not be cited, reproduced, or otherwise used without express written permission from the Columbia Center for Oral History, at Columbia University in the City of New York. 

CCOH has a world-class collection of thousands of interviews (in text, audio, and video formats) with people in the arts, government, business, philanthropy, social movements, and more. Check out their website, or drop them a line to learn more! They're very friendly, and the Center is open to the public.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

INSIDE STORIES PODCAST 30: EDDIE DOWLING AND "THE GLASS MENAGERIE," PART 1 OF 3



First off, thanks to the Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH) for their help with this episode. More on them in a minute.

I'm pleased to present the first of three podcast episodes of stories from Eddie Dowling, a theater giant who produced, directed, and starred in the original 1945 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' play "The Glass Menagerie." These stories come from a set of oral history interviews with Dowling conducted in 1963; the full transcript of the interviews runs to over 800 pages, and covers Dowling's whole life up to that point. This trio of podcast episodes just includes the stories about "The Glass Menagerie." The original interview tapes no longer exist, just the transcript, so what you'll hear is me, Paul VanDeCarr, reading from the transcripts with as much dramatic brio as I can muster! You judge how well I do. You can listen to this episode on the player above, or subscribe to the podcast for free in iTunes.

I was enraptured by these stories when I first read them at the Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH), and I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I did. In this first episode, Eddie Dowling talks about meeting Tennessee Williams, falling in love with "The Glass Menagerie," and assembling a cast, which included the talented and notorious Laurette Taylor. 

In the second and third episodes, which I'll release in the coming weeks, you'll hear about the harsh words that renowned theater critic George Nathan had for Tennessee Williams before the play opened, the Chicago premiere, the edge-of-your-seat Broadway opening, the acclaimed but rocky 18-month run of the show, and the fate of Laurette Taylor.

Thanks a million to the Columbia Center for Oral History for permission to use these stories in the podcast. You're welcome to share this podcast, but if you want to cite or use this interview in a project of your own or in some other context, you'll have to ask CCOH for permission. To be clear: The contents of the Eddie Dowling interview are protected by copyright, and may not be cited, reproduced, or otherwise used, in whole or in part, without express written permission from the Columbia Center for Oral History, at Columbia University in the City of New York. CCOH has an unparalleled collection of interviews with all kinds of people dating back decades -- in text, audio, and video format. Check out their website, or drop them a line to learn more! They're very friendly, and the Center is open to the public.