MSK’s Visible Ink Writing Program Presents “On Cancer and Coronavirus,” Performed by Stars of Broadway, Film and TV

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Visible Ink

On Thursday, June 18th at 6:00 p.m. E.T. with an encore at 9:00 p.m., Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) will stream a special performance on visibleink.vimeo.mskcc.org, highlighting poignant and humorous perspectives On Cancer and Coronavirus, featuring works from its writing program, Visible Ink. This will be the 12th annual performance of stories written by MSK patients, and the first presented virtually. Visible Ink has always worked with many participants remotely, so it was well positioned to continue to connect MSK patients with experienced writers to support their written expression.

The virtual performance will showcase award-winning actors, singers and dancers, as well as icons of television and film, who will perform the works written by MSK patients and staff during the 50-minute online production, including:

  • Bravo’s Andy Cohen 
  • Emmy Award-winner Susan Lucci
  • Tony Award-winner Laura Benanti
  • Tony Award-winner Randy Graff
  • Tony and Emmy nominee Victor Garber
  • Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Diane Baker
  • Bravo’s “Summer House” cast member Hannah Berner
  • Broadway actor and singer Javier Ignacio
  • TV and theatre actress Susan Spain
  • TV and theatre actor Jonas Cohen
  • TV and theatre actress Yvonne Perry
  • Award-winning director and actor Kevin Craig West
  • Andrew David Sotomayor as Musical Director
  • Matthew Steffens as Choreographer

“During the pandemic, our participants have continued to flex their creativity and tell their stories,” said Judith Kelman, Founder and Director of Visible Ink. “The pieces and wonderful performances resonate powerfully during this unprecedented time.”

Established in 2008, Visible Ink offers patients at MSK the opportunity to write on any topic in any form with the individual support of an experienced mentor.  The largest writing program of its kind, Visible Ink welcomes patients of all ages and writing interests throughout the MSK community.  Research has shown that expressive writing can reduce stress and enhance wellbeing.

“The Show Must Go On”

An annual performance that celebrates participants in Visible Ink typically takes place onstage in Manhattan.  When COVID-19 made it impossible to gather, Greg Kachejian, Visible Ink’s Artistic Director, devised a means to produce the program virtually.  Twelve works from the Visible Ink community were filmed separately and edited for streaming online.

“These stories serve as part of the record of this extraordinary time,” said Kachejian. “Cancer patients are sometimes isolated out of necessity. Some are used to wearing masks and gloves in public during treatment. They can confront scary uncertainties. It wasn’t surprising to see that they had many relevant messages to share at this moment. Our cast and crew honored this wonderful work with their own creative talents and adapted to Zoom rehearsals and at-home filming just as any you’d expect from any resourceful performer.”

The stories speak to the spectrum of feelings and experiences during the pandemic. One, written by an MSK pediatric therapist, focuses on a young patient’s concern for his mother, ironically worried about her leaving the sterile hospital environment and then being more vulnerable to the virus.  Creative outlets also give voice to unexpected scenarios, such as a “fan letter” written to Coronavirus from Cancer. This piece is performed by daytime doyenne Susan Lucci. Hannah Berner of Bravo’s “Summer House” ticks through a relatable list of things she committed to do while in isolation (but hasn’t) and all the things she should NOT be doing (but has). Stellar singers in the cast join in a powerful finale with a hopeful message: “Better Days,” which can be previewed here ahead of the full performance.

Visible Ink: On Cancer and the Coronavirus will stream at 6:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 18th with a 9:00 p.m. encore at visibleink.vimeo.mskcc.org. Visible Ink is supported by grants and donations. Click givevi.org/live for more information and to donate to help sustain this program’s vital work.