99-012 (Heart To Heart)

Distributed August 29, 1999
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Glenn Hare



Heart to Heart to tour Rhode Island
New play to educate women of color to risks of heart disease
Heart to Heart (Ain't Your Life Worth Saving?), an original drama set in Providence, is designed to educate women of color to the warning signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease. The free touring production will be staged at 11 sites throughout Rhode Island and will include free health screenings for audience members.

Ada: Mama, what's wrong?
Vonnie: Just a little gas flare up. Get me some water, baby.
Ada: (Handing Vonnie the glass of water) Why don't you lie down for awhile?
Vonnie: (Resting on a sofa) That's better. Must've been them potato chips I ate and all that coffee I had at work.
Ada: You're doing too much running around.
Vonnie: Now what is it? I must have forgot something. I went to work, picked up your brother from his practice, picked up the prescription, filled up the car, went to choir rehearsal, picked you up, did the grocery shopping ... Oh Lord!
Ada: What is it?
Vonnie: Your father! I forgot to pick up Charles! He said he'd be finished painting by five.
Ada: Mama, Daddy got a ride with Uncle Jimmy; remember? They probably stopped off somewhere to have a beer.
Vonnie: Oh yeah; that's right.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A new play showing the warning signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease in women of color will tour Rhode Island Sept. 27 through Oct. 8. Heart to Heart (Ain't Your Life Worth Saving?) tells the story of the Costa-Hendersons, a working class family of African-American and Cape Verdean descent living in Providence, as they journey through risk factors, warning signs and actual heart attack.

The free production is the result of a partnership between the American Heart Association New England Affiliate, Lifespan, and Rites and Reason Theatre at Brown University, and six years of planning, fundraising and organizing.

Written by local playwright Elmo Terry-Morgan and directed by Marsha Z. West, the play reveals the myths, wives' tales and other barriers that keep many minorities from seeking proper cardiovascular care. Heart to Heart focuses on Vonnie, a 40-year-old secretary and mother who has a poor diet and is constantly on the go; Ruthie, her smoking, overweight sister; and LaShaunne, their junior executive cousin who feels the strains of corporate culture.

"The play is rich with factual information presented in a funny and culturally sensitive manner," says Rites and Reason managing director Karen Allen-Baxter. "Audiences will find the drama enlightening as well as educational."

Along the way, the play illustrates the ways that family, friends and medical professionals can break down the barriers of misinformation and save lives.

Editors: Writers wishing to preview the play can do so during a full dress rehearsal at Rites and Reasons Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Interviews with cast members, the director, and officials from Lifespan and the Heart Association can also be arranged. A photo and video opportunity will take place at the theatre on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. Rites and Reason is located at 155 Angell Street. For more information, contact Glenn Hare in the Brown University New Service at (401) 863-2476.

Heart to Heart will be performed in 11 neighborhood sites, free of charge, in Providence, Pawtucket, Newport, East Providence and Woonsocket. One hour before each performance, free health screenings will be given. The screenings will include blood pressure, cholesterol and stroke assessments, with counseling and referral information. An audience discussion will follow each presentation.

"Cardiovascular illness is the number one killer of people of color," says Nancy Thomas, communications director of the American Heart Association New England Affiliate. "It hits women of color especially hard." According to Heart Association research, the death rate for women of color from cardiovascular disease is 67.2 percent higher than for white females.

The performances are funded by The Rhode Island Foundation, Mary P. Oenslager Fund of the New York Community Trust, and the generous support of Aetna U.S. Healthcare through an unrestricted educational grant from Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories.

Neighborhood Performance Schedule

Monday, Sept. 27
Woonsocket High School 
777 Cass Avenue, Woonsocket 
Health Screenings 6 p.m., Performance 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 28
Hope High School
324 Hope Street, Providence
Health Screenings 6 p.m., Performance 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 29
Rhode Island Hospital Cafeteria
593 Eddy Street, Providence
Health Screenings 3:30 p.m., Performance 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 30
Community College of Rhode Island-Providence Campus
1 Hilton Avenue, Providence
Health Screenings 6 p.m., Performance 7 p.m.

Friday Oct. 1 
Edward R. Martin Jr. High School
111 Brown Street, East Providence
Health Screenings 6 p.m., Performance 7 p.m.

Saturday Oct. 2
Oliver Perry Jr. High School
370 Hartford Avenue, Providence
Health Screenings 1 p.m., Performance 2 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 4
Ebenezer Baptist Church
475 Cranston Street, Providence
Health Screenings 6 p.m., Performance 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 5
St. Martin DePorres Center
160 Cranston Street, Providence
Health Screenings 11:30 a.m., Performance 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 6
John Hope Settlement House
7 Burgess Street, Providence
Health Screenings 6 p.m. Performance 7 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 7
Thompson Middle School
39 Broadway, Newport
Health Screenings 6 p.m., Performance 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 8
Jenks Jr. High School
350 Division Street, Pawtucket
Health Screenings 6 p.m., Performance 7 p.m.
Facts About Heart Disease and African-Americans
From the American Heart Association
  • The age-adjusted death rates from cardiovascular diseases are 49.4 percent higher for black males than for white males and 67.2 percent higher for black females than for white females.
  • Stroke death rates are 97 percent higher for black males than for white males and 71.4 percent higher for black females than for white females.
  • Blacks are more likely to have high blood pressure than whites; develop it earlier in life; and at any decade in life it is more severe.
  • Among blacks age 20 and older, 46 percent of men and 47 percent of women have blood cholesterol levels over 200 mg/dl -- a level at which the risk for heart disease and stroke begins to rise.
  • Physical inactivity is more prevalent among blacks compared to whites, and recent studies show the percentage of those not involved in any leisure time physical activity is steadily increasing.
  • The prevalence of death from diabetes is much higher for blacks compared to whites.
  • Among blacks age 20-74, 57.5 percent of men and 66.5 percent of women are overweight. That compares to 59.6 percent of white men and 45.5 percent of white women.
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99-012