'Tuesdays' promises uplifting look at life in shadow of death
Sportswriter Mitch Albom was single-mindedly pursuing his career when he happened to see his former sociology professor Morrie Schwartz speaking with Ted Koppel on “Nightline.”
Schwartz, then 78 years old, was dying of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. ALS causes a gradual loss of voluntary muscle control, leading to eventual paralysis and death. However, Schwartz was remarkably upbeat, sharing his wisdom and insight with a good humor that Albom found irresistible.
Albom flew to Boston to visit Schwartz, repeating his visits for 14 Tuesdays until Schwartz passed away in November 1995. Those visits changed Albom's life forever. He chronicled their impact in his 1997 memoir “Tuesdays With Morrie,” which became a best-selling book and was made into a television movie.
The stage version of the story, co-written by Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher, will be presented at the Mountain Playhouse this month as part of its 75th anniversary season.
While the subject matter is weighty, the play is anything but grim. It is full of humor, music and inspiration.
“It's a very smartly done adaptation of the book,” director Guy Stroman says. “It's funny, insightful and poignant. It's not about how to die; it's about living.”
Schwartz lived his life to the fullest and urged others to do the same. “Just because we get older doesn't mean we stop growing,” Stroman says. “We don't stop learning and living.”
That message is at the heart of the play, which is meant to inspire and uplift its audience. “They'll leave lighter and more enlightened in their lives,” Stroman says.
Ron Siebert portrays Morrie Schwartz.
“(Ron) brings such warmth and commitment and ease to the play, and that's what Morrie showed on camera,” Stroman says. Interestingly, Siebert was a theater major at Brandeis, the same university where Schwartz taught, although the two had never met.
Through his role, Siebert has absorbed many of Schwartz's life lessons. “He said, ‘Love is the only rational act. Without love we are birds with broken wings,'” Siebert says. “That about sums up his outlook on life.”
He says that Schwartz also urged people to accept and be true to themselves. “The play has such a strong positive message,” Siebert says.
The play's episodic format is enhanced by piano music courtesy of Joe Domencic, who portrays Mitch Albom. Albom started college as a music major but switched to sociology because he so enjoyed Schwartz's classes. Domencic is an assistant professor of musical theater at Seton Hill University.
“Music was Mitch Albom's first love,” producer Teresa Stoughton Marafino says. “Joe Domencic has led the life that Mitch Albom wanted.”
Marafino's father, Mountain Playhouse founder Jimmie Stoughton, died of ALS in 1972. The Mountain Playhouse will donate $5 of every ticket purchased to the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the ALS Association. Tickets will be available at the Johnstown Walk to Cure ALS on Aug. 2 at Pitt-Johnstown.
Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins slip past Sharks, 3-2, in shootout
- Hempfield infant fights rare disease
- Lower Burrell family opens home to old-fashioned Easter egg hunt
- New Kensington resident looks to transform city
- Henry: Yough River Trail Council races set for Saturday
- NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
- Retiring Arnold, Lower Burrell mayors look back with contrasting views
- Pirates’ outfield may have few defensive peers
- Sex-soaked culture faulted for fraternity house parties
- Arab nations unite to quell region’s armed insurgencies
- Aspinwall searches for new police chief