THE DOCTOR STORIES
By Richard Selzer
February 3, 2004
Nominated for a Pen/Faulkner Award The Doctor Stories (2003, Picador, ISBN 0-312-20403-5) is an adaptation for the stage of five harrowing, thought-provoking, truth-based medical tales by award-winning author and surgeon Richard Selzer in collaboration with playwright Kathryn G. Maes. Four of the stories are taken from Selzer’s 1998 book of the same name, and one is based on a new autobiographical tale.
The short plays include "Sarcophagus," a surgeon’s traumatic experience of a patient’s death in surgery; "Imelda," the story of a surgeon in Honduras who is compelled to repair a dead girl’s cleft palate in accordance with her mother’s wishes; "Fetishes," about a hysterectomy patient who cannot bear to reveal to her husband the painful secret that her upper teeth are false; "Whither Thou Goest," the story of a widow who wishes to listen to the heart of her dead husband beating in another person’s chest; and "Atrium," a new autobiographical story about Selzer’s encounter with a dying boy who asks him, "How would you spend the last day of your life?"
"Disburbing and biting, touching and uplifting. . .The Doctor Stories identifies strength in frailty, rapture in healing, and meaning in the single details of everyday life." - Journal of the American Medical Association
The play marks the second time that Selzer’s work has been adapted as a play. Tony Award-winning playwright David Rabe’s A Question of Mercy (1998), is based on a New York Times Magazine essay by Selzer about an AIDS patient who implores a retired doctor to help him end his life.
Surgeon and writer Richard Selzer was born in Troy, New York, graduated from Union college in 1948 and received his M.D. from Albany Medical College in 1953. After completing a surgical internship and residency at Yale University in 1960, Dr. Selzer remained as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery until 1985 in addition to maintaining a private practice. His acclaimed books about the practice and meaning of medicine are required reading at virtually every medical school in the United States.
Selzer’s writing career began in the 1970s with the publication of Rituals of Surgery (1973), his first collection of short stories. Other books have included Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery (1976), Confessions of a Knife (1979), Letters to a Young Doctor (1982), Taking the World in for Repairs (1986), Imagine a Woman (five novellas) (1990), A Mile and a Half of Ink (a diary) (1990), Raising the Dead: A Doctor’s Encounter with His Own Mortality (1993), and The Doctor Stories (1998).
Kathryn G. Maes, who collaborated with Selzer in the adaptation of The Doctor Stories, is Chair of the Department of Theatre, Film, and Video Production at the University of Colorado at Denver.
Mark Dalton, director, is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at UAlbany. He is pleased to be working again with Richard Selzer and the Writers Institute. Previously he worked with Richard on THE BLACK SWAN and A QUESTION OF MERCY.
Donald Faulkner, producer and dramaturge, has worked, taught, and collaborated on writing projects with Richard Selzer across a friendship of more than twenty years. Faulkner has directed stage adaptations of stories by Latin American writers, and as Director of the Writers Institute was one of the founders of the Authors Theatre project.
David Bunce, actor/writer, has played London’s West End, Off Broadway, toured to Russia and the Middle East and worked many of the regional theatres on the East Coast. Film roles include Brett Piper’s Arachnia (Professor Mugford) for Artists View/MTI/Edgewood Studios, Good Samaritan (Good Samaritan) for HBO, The Only One (Colonel Monoco) for Bull Penquin Productions, Disoriented (Dr. Lustgarden) for Pinatubo Films, Earthen Vessels (Uncle Kelly) for CDH Productions, and Mind Cell (Professor Loramar) for Talon Films. He is Peliculo in the NYS Theater Institute/Time Warner national broadcast of A Tale of Cinderella and the writer/director of the sitcom Soup’s On for BRRB Productions. David serves as adjunct acting faculty for Russell Sage College and is in his 20th year as a member of the resident acting company of the NYSTI.
Marna Lawrence is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at UAlbany, where she teaches and directs departmental productions. An actress and director from New York City, she earned her M.F.A. in directing from Indiana University.
James Leonard served on the UAlbany Theatre Department faculty to 30 years, many of those as head of the performance program. He appeared recently in staged readings of THE BATTLE OF HENRY JOHNSON at Cap Rep, and GALILEO for Theatre Voices. He has been heard in voiceovers and commercials, as well as in his role of Lt. Haskell in VOICES OF GETTYSBURG. His University Theatre performances include BURIED CHILD and JOHN BROWN’S BODY.
Yvonne Perry received her BFA in Acting from Adelphi University and her M.A. in Theatre from UAlbany, where she now teaches. She is also a freelance commercial actress, voice-over artist, and industrial film host. Since returning to Albany in 1998, she has done readings for Capital Rep, StageWorks, and Movies Without Pictures (with Upstate Independents).
Christopher Rickett is a fourth year student in the UAlbany Theatre Department. He has performed in the Department’s productions of SEE HOW THEY RUN, WOMAN IN BLACK, and NOISES OFF. In March he will appear in the Department’s production of ALL IN THE TIMING.
Eileen Schuyler has performed at Capital Rep, Studio Arena Theater, StageWorks, NYSTI, Fulton Opera House, Queens Theater in the Park, Cohoes Music Hall, Proctors, Soho Rep, Williamstown Theater Festival, and the Kennedy Center. She has done numerous readings of new scripts under development both locally and in New York City. A teacher of acting at UAlbany, Eileen will appear in Fuddy Meers at Capital Rep this spring.
Leigh Strimbeck teaches acting at UAlbany, as well as teaching for the Capital Region Center for Arts in Education. She was in the Writers Institute reading of Selzer’s A QUESTION OF MERCY.
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.