13 Years of Storytelling: MSK’s Visible Ink Writing Program Presents Performances of Works by Patients  

Visible Ink Performance

Visible Ink Performance, April 2016.

For more than a decade, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s (MSK) Visible Ink writing program has given a voice to more than 3,000 people with cancer, allowing each of them a unique opportunity to express themselves through interpretive dance, music, and poetry. On Monday, March 28, at 6:30pm ET and again at 9pm ET, Visible Ink will present a virtual performance of 14 works written by MSK patients and performed by actors, singers, dancers and musicians from film, television, and Broadway. Featured performers include those from the Broadway companies of “Hamilton,” “Company,” “Come from Away,” “Chicago,” and more. The performances will be streamed via Vimeo at visibleink.vimeo.mskcc.org and registration is not required for the event.

Since 2008, the program, which is open to all MSK patients, has welcomed writers of all ages and of every writing ability. Participants can write on any topic, in any form, with the individual guidance of an experienced mentor. Since its inception, more than 300 mentors have volunteered their time. These include Tony- and Emmy Award-winning writers, New York Times bestselling authors, and writers from Vogue, Time, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Parenting, US Weekly, Vanity Fair, and more. Visible Ink is funded solely by grants and donations.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic kept Visible Ink from being produced as a live show, it presented the team with the opportunity to explore new ways of showcasing the patients’ stories through film and gives viewers the chance to enjoy the performance from the comfort of home,” said Judith Kelman, Founder and Executive Director of Visible Ink. “We are thrilled to bring back the production for its thirteenth year and empower patients to give voice to their stories.”

Highlights from the upcoming performance, which feature pieces based on patients’ essays, memoirs, poetry, fiction, and original songs, include:

  • Straight Talk on the Corner,” by Daphne Gregory-Thomas: Actress Lucy Martin recounts the patient’s journeys from home to chemo sessions, and the life-affirming interactions she had with caring strangers. 
  • Breasts,” actress Susan Spain (from the Fox TV series Our Kind of People) narrates Lisa-Erika James’ touching story of the bond of friendship between Ms. James and her three childhood friends, who all prayed daily for bigger breasts when they were girls, juxtaposed with the jarring realities of the double mastectomy she had to treat her cancer as an adult. 
  • Patient writer Catherine Porter, herself a Broadway actress and song writer, has written a beautiful song called “This Mountain,” which is performed in a full-length music video by Broadway and recording star Shannon Rugani (known in the music world as Empress).
  • “The Cancer Support Group on Zoom,” by Juliet Melamid, explores the need for cancer patients to stay connected during the pandemic and how important that support can be — even when it comes from new acquaintances, in little boxes on a screen, whose names you may not remember.
  • “Enduring Biweekly Chemo was Easy; Finding Purell, Wipes, and Toilet Paper was Hard,” by David Machlowitz is a laugh-out-loud essay about critical supply shortages early in the pandemic, performed by Company actor Javier Ignacio.
  • “Opus One,” performed by Miss Saigon star Devin Ilaw, is a haunting poem about love, loss, and loneliness.

The show includes direction by Greg Kachejian, music direction by Andrew David Sotomayor, and choreography by Matthew Steffens. Performances are made possible with the support of The Rona Jaffe Foundation, The Alexis Gregory Foundation, and The Society of MSK. Together, these illuminating stories and poems represent a fraction of the works written by MSK patient participants that are published in an annual anthology. To purchase a copy and to learn how to join or support this program, please visit: visibleink.mskcc.org.

Nick Gardner
(917) 843-3834
[email protected]