Oncological Sciences Center

'50/50' screenwriter Will Reiser to speak at Purdue Cancer Culture & Community symposium

October 12, 2012

Award-winning screenwriter Will Reiser, whose 2011 comedy-drama film "50/50" won acclaim for its portrayal of a 27-year-old battling cancer, is the keynote speaker next month for Purdue University's Cancer Culture & Community Colloquium.

Will Reiser

Will Reiser
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"An Evening with Will Reiser," scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8 in Stewart Center's Fowler Hall, will kick off a weeklong lineup of Purdue activities highlighting how the arts and literature provide an outlet of expression to those struggling with cancer.

"Purdue's Cancer Culture & Community program has become a dynamic and moving tribute to those who have sought film, literature, music - any form of artistic expression - to communicate how they have been touched directly by cancer," said Marietta Harrison, director of the Oncological Sciences Center, the Discovery Park research center leading CCC.

"And this year's lineup of activities will center around Will Reiser's talk and the story of his personal battle with cancer that formed the basis of the popular movie, '50/50.' "

All Cancer Culture & Community Colloquium events are free and open to the public.

Primary sponsors are the Oncological Sciences Center along with the Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts. Other sponsors for the 2012 Cancer Culture & Community Colloquium are the Office of the Provost, Office of Engagement, Purdue Center for Cancer Research, WBAA Radio, Purdue Student Union Board, Department of Health and Kinesiology, Purdue Discovery Lecture Series, Dennis Gerhardt, Michael Shelton and the Tippecanoe Arts Federation. ((

The Purdue Student Union Board is sponsoring the free showing of "50/50" at 7 p.m. and again at 9:30 p.m. Nov. 1 in Stewart Center's Fowler Hall.

Reiser was diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer at the age of 25. Today, he's cancer free. The title of his film "50/50," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, comes from the survival odds given to the main character.

While he acknowledges that "50/50" is fiction, Reiser has said in interviews that the film is based on his own "really absurd, surreal experience" of being a cancer patient as a young adult. When he became ill, Reiser was an associate producer on the HBO comedy series "Da Ali G Show," which is where he and his best friend Rogen met in their early 20s.

Directed by Adam Levine, the film focuses on the character, played by Gordon-Levitt, as a 27-year-old public radio journalist with an artist girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), of whom his best friend and co-worker Kyle (Rogen) disapproves.

Adam discovers he has a malignant tumor, known medically as schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma, in his spine and must undergo chemotherapy. He sees on the Internet that his chances of survival are 50-50.

Throughout Adam's struggle, Kyle attempts to keep Adam's spirits high, which include helping Adam shave his head prior to chemotherapy and suggesting that Adam use his illness as a way to pick up women.

The film was nominated for two awards at the 69th Golden Globe Awards. Gordon-Levitt received a nomination for Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) and the film was nominated for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy).

Reiser is currently developing an animated feature, "The Booby," for Dreamworks and a TV series, "The High Life," for NBC. He also will be reteaming with longtime collaborators Evan Goldberg, Rogen and Levine to write and produce the feature comedy "Jamaica," which is loosely based on a vacation Reiser and his grandmother took to Jamaica when he was 14.

In connection with the Cancer Culture & Community Colloquium and its Creating Hope program, a Look Good-Feel Good Community Health Fair is scheduled from 1:30-4:30 p.m., followed by a variety show from 5-8 p.m. Oct. 28 at Lafayette Jefferson High School, 1801 S. 18th St., Lafayette.

The event, organized by Susan McCreery and Kris Swank of the Oncological Science Center, will feature booths based on resources for individuals whose lives are touched by cancer.

Local representation includes more than 35 vendors who promote and demonstrate a healthier lifestyle such as makeup, hair, fitness, wellness, cooking and other health-related services. For more information and a complete listing of vendors, performers and artists, go online to http://www.purdue.edu/discoverypark/oncological/programs/ccc.php

Local artists will perform in their individual expression -- from dancing and singing to improvisation and motivational speaking. Artwork by Indiana Artists with Cancer and other local and regional artisans also will be displayed.

The public also is invited to a free performance of "Offering Red," a multimedia performance piece combining spoken word, live jazz, dance and video at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 1, in the Wells Center, 638 North St. in Lafayette.

A poet, two jazz musicians, a dancer and a videographer from Purdue have assembled a tribute to Mary Hambleton, a visual artist who lived and worked with melanoma for the last seven years of her life and created her art as an extended meditation on the experience of cancer. The performance piece will feature video images from her artwork.

Performers include Donald Platt, a poet and professor at Purdue who has published four books of poetry and been awarded two individual artist's fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts; Danny Weiss, a saxophonist with roots in the New York City jazz scene; Don Nichols, a percussionist who was trained in San Francisco; Kelli Rachel, a dancer who recently graduated from Purdue; and Kathy Evans, a videographer known for doing the end-zone camera work at home Purdue football games.

Sponsors for this event are the College of Liberal Arts and Cancer Culture & Community.

In 2007 Discovery Park's Oncological Sciences Center, in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts, launched the annual Cancer Culture and Community initiative to explore how the arts and literature provide an outlet of expression to those struggling with cancer.

Oncological Sciences Center, created through a gift from Lilly Endowment in 2005 and housed in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, is the Discovery Park arm of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research. It builds on existing research areas and is expanding Purdue's thrust into nanotechnology, drug delivery, and cancer care and prevention.

Cancer Culture & Community events lineup: ((    

Sunday, Oct. 28

* 1:30-4:30 p.m. Look Good-Feel Good Community Health Fair, Lafayette Jefferson High School, 1801 S. 18th St., Lafayette

* 5-8 p.m. Variety Show, with local talent, Lafayette Jefferson High School

Thursday, Nov. 1

* "Offering Red," Wells Center. Poem written by Purdue creative writing professor Donald Platt (multimedia performance combining poetry, live jazz and video of artwork of Mary Hambleton)

* 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Screening of "50/50," Fowler Hall, Stewart Center (Sponsored by Purdue Student Union Board)

Thursday, Nov. 8

* 5-7 p.m. A movement experiment exploring the physics of a shared dance, moving from a place of 50/50 -- a place where anything is possible, Pao Hall

* 6 p.m. Exhibition of artwork: "How Do You Talk About What You Don't Want To Talk About?" responses to film "50/50," PAO Hall, Patti and Rusty Rueff Galleries, East Gallery

* 7:30 p.m. "An Evening with Will Reiser." Fowler Hall. Presentation by Will Reiser, screenwriter of movie "50/50"

* 8:30 p.m. Q&A Reception, East Faculty Lounge

Friday, Nov. 9

*10:30-11:30 a.m. "Bringing It All Together: Dramedy Workshop" with Will Reiser, Krannert Auditorium

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu     

Sources: Marietta Harrison, 765-494-1442, harrisonm@purdue.edu

Donald Platt, 765-494-3727, plattd@purdue.edu

Kristine Swank, 765-494-4674, kswank@purdue.edu

Susan McCreery, 765-496-6147, smccreer@purdue.edu

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