A Feb. 4 event at the New Hazlett Theater highlighted end of life issues and elder care with informational displays and a short play about the struggles of one family in providing care for their grandmother “Vesta.’
Written by Spokane, Wash. Playwright Bryan Harnetiaux, Vesta has been presented in a number of communities throughout the United States. Local productions for the purposes of education and dialogue on end-of-life issues are licensed by the Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life in Durham, NC.
The play is being produced by the Northside Health Improvement Partnership, and will feature actors from the Open Stage Theatre Company. NSHIP is a community partnership made up of over 20 stakeholders working to improve the health and wellness of Pittsburgh’s Northside residents through strategic initiatives based on community input.
“Part of our mission is to raise awareness about the health and wellness issues which may affect Northside residents,” said Debra Caplan, NSHIP Chairperson and Sr. Vice President, Allegheny General Hospital. “Producing this play is a great way to do that while creating an important intergenerational dialogue.”
Sharon Latsin, the senior director of Access Intiative for Vitas Hospices, said that there is an under-use of end of life facilities amongst many groups of people, including African Americans.
“It’s a discussion that’s not had in many African American homes,” Latsin said. “Vesta is a way we can inform the community about the issue.”
Vesta is a 76-year-old woman who has suffered a stroke and is working to improve her quality of life. The play details her interactions with family members and a social worker assigned to oversee her physical therapy.
The play winds from heartbreaking moments to down-to-earth humor, as Vesta navigates her life after her stroke. Her daughter Carol and grand-daughter also struggle with their own lives and their relationship with Vesta.
The event also showcased various forms of elder care and end-of-life care, with displays from various local agencies and businesses. Mary Minetti, from the Reformed Presbyterian Home, was handing out tote bags and dispensing information to concerned guests interested in knowing more about elder care.
Hospice Care and other programs were showcased as well. Guests snacked on slices of cake and gathered in the lobby of the theater until the program began.