UF colleges partner to present play about cystic fibrosis

January 7, 2016
Leah Spellman

Brennen Reeves uses one word to describe the play he co-created with David Lee Nelson: honest.

Breathe chronicles Reeves’ journey to live beyond the odds, detailing his struggle of living with cystic fibrosis and being a double lung transplant. The University of Florida’s College of the Arts and College of Public Health and Health Professions are partnering to bring the one-man play to UF Performing Arts’ Squitieri Studio Theatre Jan. 16-17.

Breathe was created after Reeves took a solo performance class with Nelson at the College of Charleston. First previewed in November 2014 at Theatre 99 in Charleston, SC, the play was named one of the top five shows at the 2015 Piccolo Spoleto Festival in South Carolina.

It was at that festival that Lucinda Lavelli, dean of UF’s College of the Arts, saw the play and believed the UF and Gainesville community would find the story compelling. She approached Michael G. Perri, dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions, about a co-sponsorship to bring the production to campus.

Creating Breathe and opening up about his personal story was not easy, Reeves said.

“Everyone has baggage; everyone has their Breathe show,” he said. “I've found my voice in life, and I hope people can see that. My show is funny – don’t take life too seriously – and it’s said – one step forward, two steps back. That's what my life has been.”

Reeves, who majored in theatre performance, lives in Charleston where he continues to perform both on stage and in film. He has appeared in more than 10 shows and is involved in Charleston’s comedy scene where he performs stand-up and sketch comedy. While traveling with his show, Reeves is working on a creative non-fiction novel about his life. Nelson, director/co-creator of Breathe, is an award winning actor, playwright and solo performer.

Attendees of the Jan. 17 performance are invited to stay after the show for a panel discussion moderated by Jill Sonke, director of UF’s Center for Arts in Medicine. The panel will feature Reeves and Nelson along with Dr. Mutasim Abu-Hasan of UF's Department of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine and Dr. David Fedele of UF's Department of Clinical and Health Psychology in the College of Public Health and Health Professions.

Reeves said that coming to UF is a dream.

“I hope students, professors, anyone and everyone that can come, comes,” he said. “My wish is that everyone goes home after the show and relates their lives to Breathe."

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