When CenterStage’s John R. Leffert chose to include Margaret Edson’s play, W;t, in the company’s 2013-14 season, he knew he was tackling a very difficult challenge.
In recent years, CenterStage has focused on musical theater, and that is what his audiences have come to expect. W;t is not musical theater.
Leffert has not shied away from society’s issues – addressing how society reacts to and deals with prejudice, homosexuality, poverty, mental illness and drug abuse. With W;t, he took on terminal cancer.
In what has become a CenterStage tradition, Leffert, his colleagues and committee built on the deeply moving message of the play, transforming it into a tikkun olam opportunity – a chance to make this world a better place – through the mitzvah of giving tzedakah. As a result of their efforts, $1,500 was raised.
CenterStage made one performance of W;t, a benefit performance for Gilda’s Club Louisville, an agency with national ties that offers cancer patients and those touched by cancer a safe place to go to deal with all the challenges of dealing with cancer – physical and emotional, to learn more and even to escape from it for a while.
“We partnered with Gilda’s Club,” said CenterStage Development and Outreach Manager Lenae Price, “because when we chose that play, David Klein was the current Jewish Community of Louisville Board President, and he recommended that we reach out to them.” Klein died in January, so that performance was also presented to honor his memory.
In addition, CenterStage took up collections for several other agencies after each show. “The main character in the play suffered from ovarian cancer, so it was an obvious choice to partner with Ovarian Awareness of Kentucky (OAK),” Price explained. “Because we are the JCC, it was a good fit to help educate Jewish women about Sharsheret, a support agency that specifically caters to Jewish women struggling with breast cancer. John also wanted to partner with Hosparus because of the role they played in his life when both of his parents struggled with cancer.”