KNOXVILLE — A senior in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is integrating the two disciplines and bringing them to life in his senior project.
Andy Rogers, who is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and minoring in theater, went beyond writing the required research paper for his major; he has written, produced, directed and soon will be starring in a musical in the form of an independent project centered on a disease he and his sister suffer from: Type I Diabetes.
“I have been involved with this disease for so long and I wanted to know more about the disease that affects not only my sister and me, but millions of kids who didn’t ask for it,” said Rogers. “The musical is a reflection of my research paper and will shed light on the ins and outs of the disease and what it actually entails — the daily struggle, the lifelong fight, the long-term consequences and the misconceptions.”
Showtimes are 7p.m. on Feb. 18 and 19, and 2 and 5 p.m. on Feb. 20 at Clarence Brown’s Lab Theatre. Donations to the nonprofit Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) are suggested.
Cynthia Peterson, professor and head of the department of biochemical, cellular and molecular biology, said Rogers’ project is the first of its kind for her department.
“I decided to give him free reign to pursue this work and unleash his creativity,” she said. “Andy will be bringing biochemistry to life and I feel very fortunate to be able to support this unique project.”
Rogers discovered he was diabetic one summer afternoon when trying to mow the yard. He couldn’t muster the energy to start the lawn mower and had been extremely tired and irritable for several weeks. This is when he realized something was wrong.
“My life has definitely turned upside-down from my experience with the world of Type I Diabetes,” said Rogers. “It’s a lifestyle change for everyone involved: different foods in the refrigerator, how to take care of your sibling when she isn’t feeling well, what signs to take note of in case of emergency, and so much more.”
The musical follows young Andy on his journey from discovering he has the disease, to studying to learn everything he can about it, to developing an unsuccessful homemade cure, to ultimately finding comfort in other children who also have juvenile diabetes.
Rogers says these children are the true stars of the show.
“I can stand up on stage and sing to people all day about the struggles of a diabetic, but kids have this innocence and enormous amount of power to move people. Their addition to the show in the finale really shows that this disease is real. It’s not often that actors actually have the disease they are portraying,” he said.
A JDRF representative will be present at each showing to discuss what the organization does and how people can help. To learn more about JDRF, visit http://www.jdrf.org/.