Centre Stage’s ‘The Tin Woman’ shares heartwarming story

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“The Tin Woman” explores the journey of a woman named Joy (Sara Tolson) who receives a heart transplant and later decides to meet her donor’s family. Photo by Escobar Photography

Based on a true story, “The Tin Woman” follows graphic designer Joy O’Malley on her search for meaning, belonging, family, and hope after receiving a second chance at life — a heart transplant.

Bringing awareness to the need for more organ, eye, and tissue donors with sponsor Donate Life SC, Centre Stage will share Joy’s touching adventure on select nights this month.

“This show is funny and heartwarming, a tear-jerker at times, but really a celebration of how people can overcome loss when we do it together,” director Maegan Azar says.

Playing the role of Joy, Sara Tolson calls the play “inspiring, touching, and hilarious.”

“‘The Tin Woman’ follows a topic that touches the lives of many, and a topic that may touch your life one day,” Tolson says.

The story begins with Joy living and working in New York City with a heart condition that leads to her receiving a heart transplant and deciding to meet the donor family.

“She is estranged from her family and has very few interpersonal relationships,” Tolson says of her character. “She has felt like a burden most of her life and is striving to put that behind her. She’s an artist, she struggles with self-esteem and feeling valuable, she has a short fuse, and she can be really awkward at times.”

With “The Tin Woman” being her 11th production with Centre Stage, Tolson thoroughly researches her characters to bring life to the stage. For the role of Joy, she watched videos of heart transplant recipients meeting their donor families, read about the surgical transplant process, and read and watched interviews from various perspectives on the process.

“I’ve also looked into anti-rejection medicine and the recovery process of those who receive organ transplants, because that’s what I would do if I were actually about to receive one,” Tolson says.

In addition to the transplant process, Tolson says much can be learned from this play — from cherishing people and life to finding family outside of a biological family.

Azar joined Centre Stage in 2011 and has directed four shows, as well as acted in productions. She prepared for “The Tin Woman” by talking with an ICU nurse friend, interviewing the playwright, reading scholarly articles about the psychology of the transplant process, and reading “Sick Girl” by Amy Silverstein.

The most beneficial research the cast experienced was a conversation with a heart transplant recipient who’s a Donate Life SC spokesperson. The recipient shared her story to give the cast a personal perspective and show how remarkable transplants are.

Azar says the more complicated story within the production is about love, family, and redemption. Parents Hank and Alice and daughter Sammy struggle with grief from the loss of their son and brother, Jack. And Joy struggles with her second chance at life.

“Through the donor’s presence in the show, these people are brought together to shape a new family, to thrive through surviving this loss, and to find love in the strange twists and turns that life can lead us through,” Azar says.

The story raises awareness of the complicated process of organ transplants both emotionally and physically for all involved. Azar says she hopes the production will lead people to become organ donors. “It is easy to do, and through organ and tissue donation, one person has the chance to help upwards of 70 people,” she says.

Donate Life SC media relations coordinator Mark Johnson says that with waiting lists growing fast, organ, eye, and tissue donors are life donors.

“Currently, there are approximately 115,000 people nationwide in need of an organ transplant, and approximately 1,000 of them are in South Carolina,” he says. “On average, one person is added to the nation’s organ transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. Unfortunately, 20 people a day die waiting on a lifesaving organ transplant in the United States.”

Audience members can talk to volunteers with Donate Life SC who are transplant recipients and donor family members after the performances. Donate Life SC will have a booth for people to learn more about donation and register to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor.

“We encourage everyone to make their decision to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor known by signing up on the state’s donor registry at the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, at DonateLifeSC.org, or through the iPhone Health app medical tab,” Johnson says.


“The Tin Woman”
When: June 19-30, Tuesday-Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m.
Where: Centre Stage, 501 River St.
Tickets: Center $30, gallery $25, side $15
Info: www.centrestage.org 

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