Oakton presents a play about contemporary healthcare issues

news-let-me-down-easy-poster.jpgDes Plaines, Ill. (Feb. 17, 2023) – Community members are invited to attend a staged reading of “Let Me Down Easy,” which examines systemic racism and classism in our healthcare system and explores how Americans view death in contrast to the rest of the world. The play will be presented only twice at Oakton, so mark your calendar for Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m. or Sunday, Feb. 26, at 2 p.m., and buy the tickets before they sell out.

“We chose to produce this staged reading of ‘Let Me Down Easy’ to promote a collective discussion on healthcare issues in the U.S. Although this version of the play is just over 10 years old, the Covid-19 pandemic underscored the ongoing inequities in American healthcare, prompting us to revisit the questions posed by this play,” says Mary Ringstad-Gagliano, professor of Speech and Theater and “Let Me Down Easy” director.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), data shows racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. experience higher rates of illness and death across a wide range of health conditions, including diabetes, asthma and heart disease, when compared to their white counterparts. These health disparities were also evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, says CDC.

The play is a collection of monologues derived from interviews with real people, including patients, doctors, counselors and clergy — some famous, some not — most of whom have firsthand experience with the American healthcare system. The playwright, Anna Deavere Smith, developed the play over several years after interviewing over 300 people on three continents. Smith created an indelible gallery of 20 individuals – from a rodeo bull rider and a world heavyweight boxing champion to a New Orleans doctor during Hurricane Katrina.

The cast of 20 actors, including five current Oakton students and seven former students, represents 10 cities and towns in the area.
  • Addison: Bilal Hussain
  • Arlington Heights: Alice Brown, Bill Brown and Steve Kozelka
  • Chicago: Eileen Ferguson, Jon McFarlane, Janie Toft and Salvador Velasco, Jr.
  • Deerfield: Allison Fradkin
  • Des Plaines: Maeve Bernero
  • Elgin: Linda Windham
  • Evanston: Olivia DiPadova, John N. Frank and Ann Stuart
  • Morton Grove: Lauren Guter, Donald Shipman and Andy Simon
  • Niles: Grantly Scott
  • Skokie: Patricia Kelly and Hanna Schoeneman

Smith is an American actress, playwright and professor. She is best known for her roles in “The West Wing” and “Nurse Jackie.”As a dramatist, Smith was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award. She was also a 1996 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, often referred to as the "genius grant.” In 2013, Smith received the 2012 National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama, and in 2019, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

For information on purchasing tickets ($8 general admission; $6 students and seniors), you can visit our box office online.

The Footlik Theater is located at Oakton’s Des Plaines campus, 1600 E. Golf Road, Des Plaines, IL 60016.