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David Lee Nelson in STAGES on March 3

By Clarke News  |  February 13, 2020
David Lee Nelson

The Clarke University Mackin-Mailander Lecture Series will host David Lee Nelson and his solo play, STAGES, on Tuesday, March 3, at 7 p.m. in Jansen Music Hall on the campus of Clarke University.

Tickets are $10 general admission and are available by phone at (563)588-6393.

The theme for Clarke University arts and lecture offerings throughout the 2019-2020 academic year is Do Something! The goal for these events is to inspire and motivate people to do. Find your passion. Pursue a goal with your whole heart. Help others. Get involved. Be engaged. Make a difference. Do Something!

In 2017, award winning performer David Lee Nelson received news that would forever change his life. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 38. Nelson kept a blog of his time in chemotherapy – a heartbreakingly funny chronicle of his experience with the disease. This material became the basis for his newest solo play, STAGES.

STAGES is not simply a play about sickness: it’s a story of life’s setbacks and surprises and about searching for hope in the most unlikely of places. STAGES is a 70-minute one-man show starring Nelson. Adam Knight is Nelson’s writing partner and the show’s director.

“I like to find serious things and find the humor in them. Cancer is such a tense topic. It’s just asking for release. It’s just asking for comedy. Comedy also is about human beings facing things they are unequipped to handle. This is something we are unequipped to handle. As humans, the best we can do is laugh about it,” said Nelson.

Nelson has a Bachelor of Arts from the College of Charleston and a Master of Fine Arts from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival through a joint program with the University of Alabama. Nelson is a recipient of a Young Alumnus Award from the College of Charleston School of the Arts.

“Art and theater are how we understand the world around us. To try and make sense of this (colon cancer diagnosis) has been such an important part of my healing. I decided early on I would make this an artistic endeavor. So when I’d get sick, I’d think, ‘Oh great, more stuff to write about tomorrow.’ It was great being able to write through this experience,” explained Nelson.

Nelson spent a decade living and working in New York City and now resides in Greenville, South Carolina. He teaches at Furman University and is on the faculty of the Fine Arts Center in Greenville. He writes a daily blog that focuses on the ups and downs of life as a cancer survivor:

The Mackin-Mailander Lecture Series was established in 1997 after Clarke received gifts from Mary Mackin ’34 and Verna Slattery-Mailander ’20, to establish an endowed lecture series. The lecture series throughout the year features prominent outside speakers, a faculty lecture, and an alumni lecture.