Our program explores the deep intersection between medicine and the arts, and My Coma Dreams exemplifies the crucial links within that intersection. Dr. Rita Charon
MY COMA DREAMS will have its New York City premiere – in the most fitting and meaningful way! On March 2, 2013 we will do two performances at the Miller Theatre under the auspices of The Program in Narrative Medicine, a groundbreaking graduate program at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University.
Saturday March 2, 2013. Two performances at 3 and 8PM.
The Miller Theatre at Columbia University. Info & tickets
What makes this New York premiere so exciting is the synergy between our show and its new producing partner, The Program in Narrative Medicine. In Berlin, we discovered how the piece could speak to an audience of medical professionals. In San Francisco, we were blessed with a great venue to present the show to the general public. And it was rapturously received by a sold-out house. In New York we are going to bring those two types of audience together!
The Program in Narrative Medicine was started by Dr. Rita Charon, a Harvard-educated internist who had come to feel frustrated by the limited ways she was able to communicate and empathize with her patients. She set out to try to broaden her understanding of the doctor/patient relationship through literature, philosophy and the arts. Her casual investigation eventually led to a PhD in literature and the founding of the Program in Narrative Medicine. Read more here (“How Storytelling Is Changing the Way Doctors Treat Illness” Oprah magazine)
Dr. Charon has said of the upcoming presentation:
As a lifelong jazz fan, I am thrilled to be working with Fred Hersch, one of the foremost jazz musicians of our time. As a physician and educator, I believe that this production cuts right to the core of representation and what it means to be a patient, a doctor, a caregiver—to be human.
We will be returning with our entire artistic and performing team in place: Fred and Michael, and our extraordinary ensemble conducted by Gregg. Eamonn and Aaron will again be working their magic behind the scenes, making it all look easy.
More coming up from Fred and me as we get closer…
The October 30th performance of My Coma Dreams at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco was a knockout. (Also to note that Halloween weekend in SF is not to be missed!) Herschel and I did some adjusting to the music and script that re-focused different aspects of the piece, some lighting cues were changed, and Michael Winther gave his best performance of the piece so far. We are hoping that there will be more national and international performances of MCD in the not-too-distant future – and are actively working on this – but this is a big undertaking for a presenter and it will take time for it to find venues. All of us are very proud of what we have achieved – it is a unique “jazz/theater” experience – and we want as many people as possible to see and experience it! More soon and Happy New Year!
The world works in mysterious ways. We’re going to Berlin!
After reading the feature article about me in the Sunday New York Times Magazine from late January, 2009, [click here to read it] I was immediately contacted by Dr. Jean-Daniel Chiche, a Parisian doctor who was putting together the annual conference of the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine Congress to invite me to speak at the Congress in Barcelona in October, 2009. (See my address at the opening plenary of the Congress on the Audio/Video page of this site – I also performed a solo concert that evening.) Intensivists were very taken with the story of my coma and recovery and many commented that it was great to hear from someone who had been through – and survived – the kinds of medical challenges they deal with every day in the ICU.
Now Dr. Chiche has decided to produce a radically new production of My Coma Dreams at their next Congress in Berlin on October 3rd. It will take place in The Forum of an amazing Frank Gehry building (click the link, but please be patient, as the view of The Forum comes on screen after a couple of minutes). There will be standard projections of the video imagery behind the stage but the images will also be projected onto the glass “clouds” above the audience – who will be encouraged to view the piece while lying down! Herschel and our tech team, in conjunction with the team in Berlin, may add other elements such as a live video of the show that will be simultaneously projected on panels to the side of the stage. It is rare for a new piece to get, on its second outing, a new production that has a different spin and is quite imaginative. Check this blog for more posts as this all develops.
David Hajdu’s review in The New Republic (May 13, 2011) begins by enumerating some of the pitfalls of the dream-story. He puts it very well:
Few things of meaning come across as more meaningless than another person’s dreams. Everything that makes a dream fascinating to the dreamer—the confusion, the illogic, the mercurialness of time, place, and identity—seems like little more than random weirdness when the Id involved is not our own. As a means for making art, moreover, dream-telling is treacherous for all but the most artful of tellers.
And truth be told, “random weirdness” is exactly what Fred and I were intent on avoiding in the creation of the piece. I told him early on that to me the greatest dream-writer is Kafka, because his style is so pellucid, so precisely not weird that the reader has no choice but to become immersed in the dream-reality of his narratives. And in Fred’s score every dream is also approached on its own terms, without musical ‘commentary’ or willful strangeness. For my part, I was determined that every moment of the piece be based on very clear dramatizations of the dreams – even when the ‘meanings’ of the dreams were elusive or ambiguous. Michael Winther, our wonderful star (although of course, he’ll blanch at that description) was invaluable in keeping me honest on this issue during the rehearsal process. His work as a performer is so grounded in the real that he would always insist on finding the most straightforward, simple approach to everything we did in rehearsal. We never once allowed ourselves to fall back on the idea of “this section makes no sense, but what-the-hell? It’s a dream.” Except, of course, as a grim joke when things weren’t going well.
In summary, Hajdu says that My Coma Dreams is…
…an expansive, ambitious new long-form work that escapes the treachery of dream-telling…
I found the piece unshakable—serious, profoundly moving, and sometimes disturbing, a work of dream art as elegant as Stravinsky’s “Petit Concert” and as memorable as “Yesterday.”
To read the whole article, click here.
It’s an exciting time for My Coma Dreams. On October 30, we’ll be taking the show to the historic Herbst Theater in San Francisco– an absolutely eye-popping, gorgeous theater that is part of the SF War Memorial complex. Here’s a peek:
Herbst Theater, San Francisco
For details and tickets, click here. We have made some small adjustments to our floor plan to accommodate the stage space of the Herbst, but Aaron Copp (our designer) and I (our writer/director) have met and gone over the necessary modifications. I think they’ll actually help the look of the stage environment.
Most importantly, all of us on the artistic team are incredibly eager to get back to the piece, which had an odd and wonderful gestation the first time around: in a word, it simmered for a long time and then came to a boil very quickly. I think all of us only began to appreciate the piece we had made once it was over. Now we are all ready to approach it with much clearer focus — we know what we’ve got.
My Coma Dreams meant so much to so many people in our audiences the first time around, that I hope this blog will eventually become a real forum for our community to comment and reflect upon the piece and the issues it raises. For now, we’ll start off the blog with a few interesting things that have already been said about My Coma Dreams, and some thoughts from our artists involved in the project. –Herschel Garfein