Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Flounder gets a kidney

My friend, writer Christopher Meeks, passes along this story about how a play of his has most definitely changed someone’s life (in this case, that of actor Stephen Furst). (And, to answer Chris’s question, no it isn’t coincidence, and yes, it is something else: cause and effect.)

Coincidence—or Something Else?

While casting “Who Lives?”, actor and director Stephen Furst offered donated kidney

When I told my friend and fellow author, David Scott Milton, the following story, he said that writers have an amazing connection to metaphysics. I’ll let you figure out what the following is—coincidence, metaphysics, or something else. This week marks the 10th anniversary of the first production of my play, Who Lives? It also marks the 30th anniversary of the film Animal House. You’d think there’d be no relation, but there is.

In February, I spoke on a radio show called “Kidney Talk” about the publication of Who Lives?, interviewed by two interesting and funny hosts, Lori Hartwell and Stephen Furst. The interview was more like a morning drive-time show, with much energy, questions, and humor. I hadn’t expected humor. Furst, however, had played Flounder in “Animal House” as well as Dr. Alexrod in “St. Elsewhere.” He also had a major role in “Babylon 5” and had become a film director and producer. His own kidneys had gone out due to diabetes complications, and he was now on dialysis himself, volunteering on this radio show.

Furst was so taken with the play, he mentioned to a group of doctors in San Francisco that he’d like to direct it. That mention led to his receiving a call from a large theatre in Cincinatti, the Aronoff Center for the Arts, which was interested in producing the play with him directing for a September production, using a name actor such as John Lithgow. Of course I was elated. Furst flew to Cincinatti in June to do some initial casting. While there, he mentioned to someone that he’d been on dialysis two years already. The person want to know more. Furst explained dialysis made life complex, and he really needed a kidney transplant.

A few days after this offhand mention, Furst received a call. An anonymous donor heard about his plight and wanted to donate a kidney to him if they matched immunilogically. Now Furst was beyond elation. Tests were done. They matched. In fact, Furst should be receiving the kidney as I type this.

In short, because I wrote a play, someone’s life was changed. Of course, we writers hope that we can change lives emotionally, but here’s a case of a physical change. What do we call this? Luck?

Because Furst needs time to recover, the play’s production has now been pushed back. The play will open at the Aronoff Center for the Arts in Cincinatti in January. Those of you in the area, please come. If you want a good read, the book is available at Amazon.com, BN.com, and on the shelf at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena (626-449-5320), among other places.

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