Notes on Courage With a Cure, by Anna Franco
Courage With a Cure is my play, released in August 2014. I started writing the play around the time that I was researching medical innovation for a talk that I gave in 2012. The play is about a patient who needs medication that is not available in the US.
Courage With a Cure is about a woman, Ginnie Searlyse, who discovers that she has a neurological disorder that prevents her from playing the piano, typing, writing, or doing other things that use fine motor skills with her hands. She has ataxia/dysmetria, a disorder that prevents her from accurately judging distance, which causes her to have trouble striking the right keys on a piano or keyboard.
Ginnie seeks medical help and is referred to a hospital in Taiwan, where she can be treated with a drug that is not available in the US. Cerebesil (a made-up drug for the story) has a strange side effect. As she progresses through her treatment, Ginnie learns that the side effect of this drug has attracted the attention of some who are neither doctors nor their patients.
Is Ginnie affected by the side effect?
Unity of Purpose
This play does not uphold the unity of time and space, although it does have an integrated plot idea. It takes place over several months and spans two continents. This was necessary for the plot, as the main character is being treated with medication over this time period, and the medicine is only available on the other side of the world. I had to show Ginnie over several months, and I had to have her travel from the US to Taiwan for the treatment to happen.
I was not bothered by this fact about the play; it still remained logical. Unity of time and place are classical ideas in drama. One of my favorite plays, Cyrano de Bergerac by Rostand also does not hold to the unity of time and place. Cyrano travels to the Spanish border, and the play concludes many years later, after the main action has taken place. Still, the play upholds a integrated purpose and plot.
I tried to uphold an integrated purpose in the plot and action of Courage With a Cure, as the main action centered around Ginnie getting her medicine, despite whatever obstacles come her way.
Two of the biggest challenges I faced when writing Courage With a Cure were (1) having the doctor and the biochemist explain the drug’s side effect, and (2) working through a scene with bad guys.
Challenge #1. Explaining the side effect of the drug was difficult because the human mind is complex. I did not want the message to be that the drug can substitute for character, or that virtue comes in a pill, but I did want the effect of the drug to be significant in the plot and in the character’s lives. I also wanted to show a separation between reason and emotion. To bring these theoretical ideas into a plot was challenging.
There were so many opportunities for the characters to misunderstand or misinterpret the side effects, and in fact, that is what I was counting on with the criminal characters. Even the good characters had valid concerns and questions. Ginnie understandably worries that the side effect of the drug, with its behavior altering ability, could defeat the overall purpose of the drug, which is to give her more control over her fingers’ actions. Mr. Isaki questions whether the drug makes a person more moral, or whether it just effects their emotional experience.
Although I think the length of the play was appropriate for that story, I realize that the drug’s side effect could be explored in far more depth (perhaps this is the basis for a sequel).
Challenge #2. Creating evil characters is a challenge, at least it is for me. There is a tendency on my part to distance myself from them, yet I do not want them to be cardboard characters. In Courage With a Cure, the two criminal characters do not even have names, apart from Man #1 and Man #2. This is not unique to the bad guys, though; even the guards have names Guard #1, 2 and 3. Still, it is a sign that I could not consider the villains beyond their necessary place in the plot. I do show that as criminals, they are also cowards, aptly so in a book about courage. They are short-range characters with no appreciation for the independent human mind, unlike the heroes of the play, the doctors, biochemist, and some of the patients.
Courage With a Cure was not initially meant to be humorous. In fact, it covers very serious subjects (illness, crime). For the most part, the play is serious, but elements of humor do crop up, Still, the fact that people are trying so hard to get on with their lives, despite their medical condition, shows that the subject truly is serious (although this is not incompatible with the humorous elements).
Courage With a Cure is available on Amazon.com and CreateSpace e-store. For now, unlike the medicine in the story, this play is only available through US distribution, but that may change later as I look into expanding distribution.