“Sarah & The Dinosaur” is a compelling story based on EMU alumni Sarah Elizabeth Pharis’s the experiences with cancer.
The play featured many EMU community members; from recent alumni Sarah Gant, Braydon Hoover, and Heidi Muller to former professors Ingrid De Sanctis (playwright/director) and Barbra Graber, to current assistant professor Kirsten Beachy.
The play opens with Sarah in the middle of teaching her young students about dinosaurs when she receives news of her cancer. Soon after, she is visited by a mysterious creature in a dinosaur costume who only goes by “Dinosaur.”
This creature wants to be friends with her. Dinosaur is constantly snacking on junk food and following Sarah around. Soon Sarah learns the identity of Dinosaur: it is her cancer. Her reaction is not a welcoming one. This makes Dinosaur say, “Everyone reacts like this!” and hang its head in shame.
“I’m sorry,” it says, “but I’m hungry.” When asked if it needs to feed on Sarah’s good cells, it responds, “Yes.” Strangely, this moment made me feel a bit sorry for a representation of cancer.The play followed Sarah’s life as it changes through cancer, and learning she only has six months to live. Dinosaur haunts Sarah through her roller coaster battle with cancer. A year later, Sarah is still alive despite the odds, but the cancer has grown.
A touching scene between Sarah and her boyfriend Charlie reveals their fears and vulnerability. Charlie admits his fears to Sarah ashamedly and Sarah tearfully tells Charlie about her fears of death and dreams about Heaven. It is obvious to the audience just how much they mean to each other and how much this cancer has shattered their lives.
Instead of ending with Sarah’s death, the play ends with Sarah’s surgery, removing half of her liver and taking most of the cancer with it.
Dinosaur visits Sarah, this time with a present: a pink tutu and a tiara.
“I love it!” Sarah exclaims, and then she pauses and reflects: “You’re not going anywhere, are you? Well, I’m not either!”
Dinosaur’s gift represented the growth Sarah has experienced as a person through her battle, the small consolation for her burden of cancer and the hope she has found in other people like Charlie, her students, and her family.
The two dance together and the play ends with the two in harmony. Sarah came to terms with having cancer and has decided not to miss out on life because of it, choosing instead to live like never before.
I enjoyed the originality and emotion of “Sarah & The Dinosaur.” The acting was wonderful, the set was creative without being distracting, and the plot captivating. I am not quite sure what the play was saying by comparing cancer to a dinosaur. However, the emotions were very raw and moving. The relationships between the characters were heartwarming and encouraging to anyone in search of hope in life.
by Monica Root