Taiwanese director’s drama calls attention to rare disease


TAIPEI — The upcoming local stage version of “Tuesdays with Morrie,” adapted from a best-selling memoir by American author Mitch Albom, draws attention to the struggles of patients suffering from a fatal nerve cell disease.

In the 1997 memoir, Albom recounts the life lessons he learned from his visits with his former professor Morrie Schwartz, who was dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.

The book has sold more than 11 million copies and has been adapted for TV and stage.

The local edition of “Tuesdays with Morrie,” is directed by Daniel S.P. Yang, formerly of the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre. It features veteran actor Chin Shih chieh in the role of professor Morrie, and Pu Hsueh-liang as the student.

Yang, Chin, and Pu on Thursday went to Taipei City Hospital to visit the 17 ALS patients there who are confined to bed.

“As an actor, I communicate through acting. But now I realize how valuable it is to be able to communicate,” Chin said. “People with ALS face each moment of their lives with great difficulty. Physically, they are limited, but they must have immense inner strength.”

For his part, Yang told reporters that through the drama, he hopes that the public will become more aware of the difficulties that ALS patients go through, and will support and encourage the families and caregivers of patients battling the rare disease.

ALS strikes approximately 1 to 2 in every 100,000 adults annually worldwide, and about 6,000 people die of the disease every year, according to Dr. Huang Chi-hsun. In Taiwan, the number of ALS patients is around 1,200.

“Tuesdays with Morrie” will be staged in Taipei, Hsihchu, Chiayi, Kaohsiung and Taoyuan from Feb. 24 to Apr. 17.