McGovern Medical School students, faculty, and staff were treated to an emotional vocal performance courtesy of actor and playwright Ruddy Cravens Dec. 13, part of this month’s presentation of the Arts & Resilience Program – a series of events designed to link the arts and humanities with medicine.
Cravens is the producer and director of Shakespeare Outreach, Houston’s only free touring theatre, and has taught acting and Shakespeare at University of Houston. He holds numerous directing credits for the Houston Shakespeare Festival and has acting credits for a variety of film and TV productions, including “Breaking Bad,” “Friday Night Lights,” “No Country For Old Men,” and “Ray” among others.
Cravens and a group of local actors performed a reading of “Wondergirl,” a story about a husband and wife grappling in a hospital over the health of their unborn twins who may be born prematurely. As the story unfolds, one of the twins dies shortly after birth but the other – a girl – survives. Cravens offered a scene-setting narration throughout the performance, which also focused on the husband and wife’s internal struggles with their daughter’s uncertain future. After the situation worsens, and a revelation that the girl’s condition is not improving, the mother decides to take the situation into her own hands in an emotional finale.
Some of the story’s background came from Cravens’ own experiences with his wife, he said. He emphasized that his experience with the staff at Texas Children’s Hospital was positive during the challenging premature birth of his twin son and daughter, he unfortunately lost his son after six months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“Everyone there was so supportive,” Cravens said. “It’s such an alien world for us to go into. As lovely as they try to make it, it’s terrifying every day you go in.”
While he called the experience of losing a child “horrific,” he hoped the story would help bring a sense of what typical people go through when faced with the uncertainty of losing a loved one.
“I know there’s a chance doctors could look at people as problems to be solved – which I think is necessary to be able to do what they do – but at the same time it can be beneficial to lose that dispassionate distance,” Cravens said. “I think theater can help do that for people.”
The next event in the Arts & Resilience Program will be 4:30 p.m. Jan. 17 in MSB 3.001 and will feature artist Gael Stack and a presentation titled “The Artist Speaks.” The program is sponsored by the Dean’s Office in collaboration with the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics.