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Miss Evers' Boys

Miss Evers' Boys
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: David Feldshuh
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service (cover may change)
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 101
Pub. Date: 1995
ISBN-10: 0822214644
ISBN-13: 9780822214649
Cast Size: 1 female, 6 male

About the Play:

Finalist for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Miss Evers' Boys is a full-length drama by David Feldshuh. Set during the Tuskegee Study, one of the most notorious medical secrets in American history, a research nurse wrestles with her loyalty to the institute's doctors while her band of patients finds the will to live through the power of music. Miss Evers' Boys is based on a true US government study that went on for 40 years, and only stopped when the Associated Press broke the story in 1972. Especially recommended for school and contest use.

Miss Evers' Boys is based on the controversial real-life Tuskegee Study. From 1932 to 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service deliberately and secretly withheld treatment for decades from a large group of poor, rural black men with syphilis so that doctors could study the natural progression of the untreated disease. We first see Miss Evers in 1972 giving evidence to the US Senate after a whistleblower went to the press: the play shuttles between the chronological re-enactment of her career and her witness-stand commentary. The study begins as a way to aid poor farmers of the South by providing them with treatments for syphilis. Eunice Evers, a black research nurse, convinces a group of four men in rural Alabama to join the study. She becomes a friend to the men who form an amateur song-and-dance group, which they call Miss Evers' Boys, and she drives them to events where they compete for cash prizes. They are the focus of her care. After the money stops coming from Washington, the doctors revise the study to chart the effects of untreated syphilis in these men, rather than extending long-term care and medication they are told they will receive. Nurse Evers is faced with a difficult decision: to tell the men that they are now part of a control group to see what untreated syphilis will do to them, or follow the lead of the doctors she respects, one Caucasian, one African-American, whose only purpose is to serve science and supposedly their respective communities. Nurse Evers remains fiercely loyal to the tenets of the nursing profession and does not tell the men they are no longer receiving medication. She does this with the assurance that as soon as medication becomes available, her men will be the first to receive it. But fourteen years later when penicillin finally becomes available as a way to treat the disease, it is denied to her study group. Nurse Evers, devastated at the news and starting to watch her men die, can no longer keep silent. Shunned for her silence of fourteen years, Nurse Evers holds her head up and explains the reasons and emotions that kept her in the study and kept her caring for her men. Some of them forgive her, others do not, as Nurse Evers tries to put back a world broken by prejudice, disease, time and trust. The eye-opening revelations in Miss Evers' Boys helped catalyze an apology to the survivors of the Tuskegee Study and their families by President Bill Clinton on behalf of the United States.

Miss Evers' Boys premiered in 1989 at the Center Stage in Baltimore, Maryland and became the second-most produced play in American regional theater in 1991-92, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in drama and was adapted into an HBO move in 1997, winning four Emmy Awards, including Best Picture. It is regularly performed in high school and college theatre productions as a showcase of student talent.

Cast: 1 female, 6 male

What people say:

"…artistically conceived, fully realized, deeply felt, often humorous and moving…the talk is always warm and persuasive, it benefits from a strong infrastructure of physicality, an undercurrent of action frequently bursting to the surface." — New York Magazine

"There is a deeply moving play being performed…that every American – and I do mean every American – should witness…Not only is this play loaded with messages for all of us who claim to be civilized, for sheer drama and entertainment it's worth more than the cost of the tickets." — Chicago Sun Times

"You could make an argument that the single most important feature of the play is its very existence; that simply by being, by having been written and produced, the play accomplishes its purpose. It is also one helluva piece of writing. The play is a powerful moral statement; it could hardly have been otherwise. But it is warm, humane and even, astoundingly, funny along the way, and it is never preachy." — Atlanta Journal-Constitution

About the Playwright:

David Feldshuh completed his actor training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in the 1960s, studied mime with Jacques Lecoq, but quickly shifted careers and started directing, and soon became Associate Artistic Director of Minneapolis's Tyrone Guthrie Theatre. Then, aged 32, he changed careers again, and went to medical school, supporting himself via his directing career and completed a residency in emergency medicine, a specialty he continues to practice. He is author of three published and widely produced plays, most notably, Miss Evers' Boys, for which he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in drama. As an HBO movie, Miss Evers' Boys received twelve Emmy nominations, winning five including Best Picture and the President's Award for television presentations exploring vital social issues. Dr. Feldshuh has served as Professor of Theatre and as Artistic Director of the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts at Columbia University for over 25 years.