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Play sends transplant recipient in search of herself

By Dave Jones on April 26, 2007 in University

This play comes with an illustration: fig. a.: the heart.

The work by UC Davis master of fine arts candidate Emily Davis is described as an examination of the human heart from mythical, historical, metaphoric, scientific and mystical perspectives through the ages and through its secret chambers.

The play's world premiere is scheduled in May in the Studio Theatre at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. A preview performance is set for 8 p.m. May 10, with subsequent performances at 8 p.m. May 11 and 18-20, and 2 p.m. May 12.

When the play begins, Ruby Myerson has just had a heart transplant. Upon waking, she discovers that she no longer knows herself. On her quest to find her old heart and the donor of her new heart, she finds herself in Venice, the Egyptian underworld and the Heartbreak Hotel, and a number of mythical figures visit her.

Medical and religious texts from around the world and throughout time are sprinkled throughout the play. The cast numbers 13, and the play also includes physical theatre techniques, shadow puppetry and evocative visual elements.

Ruby is played by Melanie Julian, a visiting teacher of voice, speech and acting in the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Said Julian: "Ruby feels a different force in her body that is leading her to be a somewhat different person, and some heart transplant patients have reported similar changes. There is controversy around this, but it does raise questions about what makes us human."

Davis said these are the kind of questions she hopes to stimulate in her audience. "I was looking for connections across time and culture, science and art," she said, "and the heart seemed to be both a literal and a symbolic entity that could encompass these different perspectives."

Davis is a founder and artistic director of New York City's Messenger Theatre Company, where she writes and directs. At UC Davis last season, she directed the critically acclaimed Macbeth.

Other collaborators on fig. a: the heart include MFA candidates Carrie Mullen, scenic design; Javan Johnson, lighting design; Peiju Liao, costume design; and Rick Scholwin, sound design.

Erie Vitiello is publicity director in the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,