SHU, Hospice team up to sponsor play on end of life issues


Players in the SHU production of “Vesta” are (l-r) Carissa Villanueva, Jocelyn Near, Hadley Williams and Matthew Porter. Photo by Jim Lincoln.

Theatre Siena and Hospice of Lenawee are partnering to offer “Vesta,” a play about a family coming to terms with the end of their grandmother’s life. Sponsored by Old National Bank, “Vesta” is student-led, with senior Alissa Reeder directing Siena Heights University (SHU) students who lead the cast. There will be two separate performances on April 15 and 16, both at 8 p.m. at the Francoeur Theatre at 1247 E. Siena Heights Dr. in Adrian.

“This story takes you through Vesta’s life, her relationship with her relatives and the decisions her family has to make during her death,” Reeder said. “It shows how they’re dealing with it, from when she has her stroke to when she ends up passing away.”

Reeder was asked by the faculty at SHU to direct the play as her senior project after Hospice of Lenawee brought the play to the attention of the university.

“When I’m directing, I feel a sense of pride. I like being able to create something, and I’ve always loved theater,” Reeder said. “At one point or another, everybody will have to make decisions for family members who are about to pass away, so it’s telling the story from our point of view.”

Hospice care is often misunderstood, said Reeder, and one of the goals of the play is to portray hospice as one of the best things families can do for their dying relatives.

“We want to relate to other people and get the message across that hospice is actually a good thing,” Reeder said.

Susan Turner, director of community relations and development for Hospice of Lenawee and Reeder’s mother, spoke with other community organizations that had preformed “Vesta” before passing it on to Theatre Siena.

“Most of what I heard was that there was a great outpouring of support for it, and it was a wonderful success,” Turner said. “We wanted to do a student show, so we called Mark DiPietro at Siena and presented the idea. They immediately loved it.”

“Vesta” was written by playwright Bryan Harnetiaux and is presented at Siena Heights through an arrangement with the Hospice Foundation of America. Since 2015, Hospice and Theatre Siena have been working on the play. The cast and crew have taken tours of Hospice of Lenawee in order to learn more about hospice care.

“While working with the students, they’ve asked questions about hospice and you can tell they’re so committed to this project,” Turner said. “It’s been heartwarming to watch.”

After the show, guests are invited backstage to talk with the cast, as well as Hospice of Lenawee employees. “It’s a great opportunity to learn and ask questions about end-of-life care in a comfortable setting,” Turner said. “You’re going to see a group of young people that has taken this project to heart.”

Tickets are $6 per person and can be purchased online at or at the box office before the show. More information can be found by calling Hospice of Lenawee at 263.2323.


Tecumseh Herald


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