Thought provoking and emotive – a new play is offering up an entertaining way to break the silence surrounding black America’s prostate cancer crisis.
The Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN) is working with GDavis Productions on Daddy’s Boys, a play about prostate cancer and its impact on the family. It tells the story of Jessie, a father of three living with a prostate cancer diagnosis, and is currently touring the country.
Thomas Farrington, who founded PHEN in 2003 following his own diagnosis, spoke to Change Together about the group’s latest venture.
How did the play come about?
We were approached by GDavis Productions. The group had already worked on plays about Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes and wanted to adapt the play for prostate cancer.
At the time, we were looking for a way to reach more people and we thought this would be a great way to entertain and educate on a larger scale.
In my role as script supervisor, I worked with the playwright to develop the script to make sure it reflected the real-life experience, was based on hard data and provided useful information around prostate cancer.
How is the play helping to advance PHEN’s mission to eliminate prostate cancer disparity in African-American men?
The PHEN motto is: “Knowledge is the best defense against prostate cancer.” In order to eliminate the African-American prostate cancer disparity, we have to increase the knowledge of men and their families about early detection and how important it is.
One of the biggest challenges has been the silence surrounding the disease and the lack of knowledge about the importance of early detection. We want to break that silence and get people talking about prostate cancer.
Approximately 50% of the play’s audience will have seen prostate cancer up close, either directly or within the family. Coming to an event like this means they can open up and talk about these experiences.
Education is a key part of the whole event, not just the play itself. There are information banners on display and the audience is given play bills that contain facts about prostate cancer. We are also holding workshops and PSA screenings alongside the play.
What role is the church network playing in bringing the play to more people?
The network of churches we work with has been vital in spreading our message. The level of organization it provides means we are able to present the play to many thousands of people who might not otherwise see it.
The church also enables us to reach more women, who might not be an obvious target for prostate cancer information, but who can influence the men in their lives. Educating women about prostate cancer is as important as educating men because they are vital to convincing their husbands, fathers and sons to do the right thing.
By raising the visibility of the disease within the church, people better understand how they can communicate and support each other. Just knowing they can reach out and talk means people do not feel they are alone with this.
What has reaction been like from people seeing the play?
Most people are not sure what to expect. They know that they are coming to a play that focuses on prostate cancer, but it’s also high-quality entertainment. It’s got music, comedy and drama, and the cast are all talented professionals.
We have a feedback survey and the results so far show that the vast majority say their prostate cancer awareness has been increased, and everyone has said they would recommend the play to others. We are achieving what we set out to do.
For more information on Daddy’s Boys, including tour dates and how to book tickets, click here.