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Poet and Playwright Constance Alexander

Renee Shaw talks with poet, playwright and civic journalist Constance Alexander about end-of-life issues and her new spoken word opera "The Way Home."
Season 18 Episode 12 Length 28:03 Premiere: 12/11/22

Murray-Based Writer Discusses Her Dramatic Work That Explores End-of-Life Issues

The work is described as “reader’s theater” or a “spoken word opera,” but for Constance Alexander, her play “The Way Home” is meant to foster conversations about a subject people usually want to avoid: death.

“Most of the time, people say, ‘If I die’ instead of ‘When I die,’ says Alexander. “It is an inevitable thing and it is a part of life. And as difficult as it is, it brings insight and wisdom.”

The Murray-based poet, playwright, and journalist crafted the play out of a series of interviews she did for a public radio documentary she produced for WKMS-FM more than 20 years ago. Over a two-year period, Alexander spoke with a Trigg County woman in her 50s and a Calloway County woman in her 60s, both of whom were battling cancer.

“The Way Home” is a dramatic interpretation of those conversations that features characters representing the two women, and a journalist interviewing them.

“It is a reader’s theater piece, which means that the actors don’t have to memorize lines,” says Alexander. “You can read it and perform it.”

In the play, the character Teresa has already survived one bout with cancer in her 30s when she finds herself facing a second diagnosis in her 50s. Without insurance, she isn’t sure how she will afford the costs of her treatment. That’s when neighbors in Teresa’s small hometown step up to help.

“They put her on another chemo drug, and she went to a local pharmacy to inquire about the cost,” Alexander says. “They called her later and said, ‘We’ll pay for it.’”

The other character, Pat, is already battling Parkinson’s disease when she notices a new set of symptoms. For a long time, her doctors attribute Pat’s ailments to the Parkinson’s. It is only later that they realize she has stage 4 breast cancer.

Alexander says the women, like many cancer patients, found themselves trying to pull information out of their doctors about their diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.

“I’m having to read a lot of books and learn to speak your language.” says one of the women in the play as frustration rises in her voice. “I got a book on anatomy and physiology and started looking in the glossary to find words in my pathology report, and I spend time online looking for information... I just want you to realize that I want to know what’s going on. I have a right to know, don’t I?”

After Alexander had completed her interviews with the two women and produced her radio documentary, she found that she still had their voices in her heart and head. That’s when she decided to craft the interviews into a theatrical piece. Her working title for the play was inspired by the Jane Kenyon poem named “Otherwise.” But as she completed work on the final scenes, Alexander says the name “The Way Home” jumped into her mind.

“When I hit that line... I just broke down because it was just perfect, it was just right,” says Alexander.

Even before the play was published by Finishing Line Press of Georgetown in 2020, “The Way Home” had been performed by groups around the country, from main-stage productions at arts centers to community theaters, from college campuses to hospital conference rooms. A Louisiana performance featured an 86-year-old woman battling the fatigue of her own cancer treatments. In Arkansas, a local television reporter with terminal breast cancer read the part of the journalist. From the beginning, Alexander says she never wanted to make money off the play.

“Rather than get royalties for this piece, I just wanted to see it performed anywhere anyplace to raise money for these issues,” she says.

When Grief Comes Home

The play has taken on new meaning for Alexander, who lost her husband to lung cancer in early November. Roy Davis was an artist, coffin maker, and long-time director of the University Art Galleries at Murray State University. With her own grief still so fresh, Alexander says she is trying to stay busy and rely on the support of family and friends.

“You just have to feel however you do feel – every emotion possible, I run through all of them several times a day,” she says. “It’s a cliché but you do have to feel your feelings and not isolate too much, and accept the help that people are so willing to give.”

Davis was renowned in Murray for his extravagant and eccentric holiday decorations. One year Alexander says her husband even fashioned a Christmas tree out of pork chops. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to decorate their home for this holiday, but she says she finally decided it was the right thing to do.

“For me there’s comfort in that,” says Alexander. “It reminds me of the past, but it also is a reminder of this is my present now and my future as being a widow.”

She’s also working on the final draft of a novel called “There’s Something I Need to Tell You.” Not unlike “The Way Home,” Alexander says the book is meant to inspire conversations among readers about the things too often left unsaid.

“It’s important to talk to each other and to share the intimacy of our own thoughts with the people who are around us and the people we care about,” she says. “We don’t always talk about these issues and I have a profound belief that the arts are a way to surface issues that we need to talk about.”

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Kentucky Edition host Renee Shaw in a green dress with the logo superimposed over the image along with a CHECK SCHEDULE button.Kentucky Edition host Renee Shaw in a green dress with the set behind her and the logo superimposed over the image along with a CHECK SCHEDULE button.

Season 18 Episodes

Dr. Monalisa Tailor - Kentucky Medical Association

S18 E18 Length 26:36 Premiere Date 02/05/23

Devine Carama - ONE Lexington

S18 E17 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 01/29/23

Congressman John Yarmuth

S18 E16 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 01/22/23

Former State Rep. Joni Jenkins

S18 E15 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 01/15/23

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton

S18 E14 Length 27:31 Premiere Date 01/08/23

James Comer and Morgan McGarvey

S18 E13 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 12/18/22

Poet and Playwright Constance Alexander

S18 E12 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 12/11/22

Author Emily Bingham

S18 E11 Length 27:15 Premiere Date 11/20/22

Bill Goodman - Kentucky Humanities

S18 E10 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 11/13/22

Restoring American Democracy

S18 E9 Length 26:33 Premiere Date 11/06/22

Breast Cancer

S18 E8 Length 26:45 Premiere Date 10/30/22

Secretary of State Michael Adams on Election Issues

S18 E7 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 10/23/22

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto

S18 E6 Length 27:08 Premiere Date 10/16/22

Darlene Thomas - GreenHouse17

S18 E5 Length 26:57 Premiere Date 10/09/22

Bob Jackson - Murray State University

S18 E4 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10/02/22

David Adkins - The Council of State Governments

S18 E3 Length 27:41 Premiere Date 09/25/22

Melynda Jamison - CASA of Lexington

S18 E2 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 09/18/22

State Treasurer Allison Ball

S18 E1 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 09/11/22

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Renee Shaw speaks with Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County president and CEO P.G. Peeples and former Lexington Herald-Leader columnist and journalist Jacalyn Carfagno who led the effort to document the organization’s success resulting in a release of a 50th anniversary book.

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Dr. Monalisa Tailor, president of the Kentucky Medical Association, talks about the state of COVID, declining immunization rates and how she is seeking to rejuvenate medical care.

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Renee Shaw speaks with retired Lt. Col. Keith Jackson, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs. They discuss the impact of COVID-19 on VA facilities, the posthumous promotion of African American soldier Col. Charles Young to Brigadier General, and other topics.

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Christopher 2X

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Kentucky Authors - Prisha Hedau; Carly Muetterties and Maddie Shepard

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The Rise of Anti-Asian Violence

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EKU Criminal Justice Professor Pete Kraska

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Renee Shaw and psychologist Julie Cerel, Ph.D., a professor in the University of Kentucky College of Social Work, discuss grief and mental health challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Demands and Rewards of Fatherhood

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Connections

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Restoring American Democracy

Carolyn Lukensmeyer and Stephen B. Heintz of the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship talk about the organization's bipartisan report, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, which includes six strategies and 31 recommendations to help the country emerge a more resilient democracy by 2026, the nation's 250th anniversary.

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Premiered On: 09/19/2021

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After more than three decades in the newspaper industry, Rufus Friday talks about his new role as executive director of The Hope Center, Inc. and One Parent Scholar House, which provides comprehensive services to the homeless and those at risk. Friday is a former president and publisher of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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  • Saturday February 4, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday February 1, 2023 4:30 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday February 1, 2023 3:30 am CT on KET
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 11:00 am CT on KET

Dayna Seelig - S15 E12

  • Friday January 27, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 27, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 27, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 27, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 27, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 27, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Rachael Denhollander - S15 E11

  • Thursday January 26, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 26, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 26, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 26, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 26, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 26, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland - S15 E10

  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Alice Allison Dunnigan - Pioneering Journalist - S15 E9

  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Terry Brooks - Kentucky Youth Advocates - S15 E6

  • Monday January 23, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 23, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 23, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 23, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 23, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 23, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Former Congressman John Yarmuth - S18 E16

  • Sunday January 29, 2023 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday January 28, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday January 28, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 4:30 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 3:30 am CT on KET
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 11:00 am CT on KET

Pastor Edward Palmer - Racial Bias and Juvenile Justice Reform - S15 E2

  • Friday January 20, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 20, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 20, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 20, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 20, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 20, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Mike Runyon and Sherita Miller; Wendy Kobler - S14 E35

  • Thursday January 19, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 19, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 19, 2023 2:11 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 19, 2023 1:11 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 19, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 19, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Brent Hutchinson; Christine Thompson - Education - S14 E32

  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Education in Rural Eastern Kentucky - S14 E27

  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Joshua A. Douglas - Voting Rights Reform - S14 E25

  • Monday January 16, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 16, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 16, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 16, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 16, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 16, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Former State Rep. Joni Jenkins - S18 E15

  • Sunday January 22, 2023 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday January 21, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday January 21, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 4:30 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 3:30 am CT on KET
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 11:00 am CT on KET

Colene Elridge - S14 E23

  • Friday January 13, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 13, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 13, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 13, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 13, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 13, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Marcie Timmerman - Mental Health and Wellness - S13 E43

  • Thursday January 12, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 12, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 12, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 12, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Tiffany Manuel - Affordable Housing - S13 E42

  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Shining a Spotlight on Epilepsy - S13 E35

  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Criminal Justice Reform - Cherise Fanno Burdeen - S13 E34

  • Monday January 9, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 9, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 9, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 9, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 9, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 9, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton - S18 E14

  • Sunday January 15, 2023 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday January 14, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday January 14, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 4:30 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 3:30 am CT on KET
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 11:00 am CT on KET

Bob Jackson - Murray State University - S18 E4

  • Sunday January 8, 2023 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday January 7, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday January 7, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY

Dr. Donna Grigsby - S13 E28

  • Friday January 6, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 6, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 6, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 6, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 6, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 6, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY
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