By the time he began college at the University of Tennessee, Andy Rogers was no stranger to balancing acts. When he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 15, “seeing good blood sugars was like getting good grades,” he says.
This innate self-motivation showed up again in Rogers when he pursued a major in biochemistry while performing in multiple musical productions for his theatre minor. Rogers combined his two fields to create an independent project and thus “Andy and the Beats,” a musical about type 1 diabetes, was born.
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Rogers’ sister was diagnosed before Rogers himself, giving him someone to lean on during his diagnosis. “I relied heavily on my sister and the T1D community,” he recalls. He hopes “Andy and the Beats” will “create a community for newly diagnosed patients with type 1 diabetes,” he says, offering the same support he found invaluable during his early days with the disease.
The show opens with a peppy trio, who introduce themselves as, “the Beats.” From here, the story dives into the main character, 12-year-old basketball-loving Andy’s journey with type 1 diabetes. The play combines fantasy and physiology with characters such as the villainous Virus. The characters of Andy’s mother and friends hold prominent roles as well, as the show addresses all facets of living with a chronic disease.
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Several cast members also have type 1 diabetes. Rogers credits his local JDRF chapter for helping spread the word about his project to the diabetes community. He believes this added authenticity transforms the play from being just a show to a more powerful tool for awareness and advocacy.
Rogers, who directed, wrote, produced, casted and starred in the production, explains: “Audience members learn about the physiology of diabetes through a song of orientation that the doctor sings to Andy during his visit. They learn about the working parts of the pancreas through a heart-wrenching scene with Andy after a fight with his mother. They learn about the misconceptions of developing diabetes when Andy’s friends make fun of him at school. They learn about the research initiatives involved with finding a cure through a montage.”
Check out this highlight reel from Andy and the Beats
The show has been wildly successful: “The reality of the impact came after speaking with a variety of audience members,” Rogers says. He recalls mothers of children with type 1 diabetes thanking him for accurately illustrating life after diagnosis. He said they appreciated that the play drove home “that the battle is constant and consistent within the framework of their lives.” Furthermore, Rogers is proud that his project made students, “excited that projects like this could be pursued and that they didn’t necessarily have to choose between the sciences and the arts.”
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Rogers also has high hopes for the future of the play. “I really see this project—in a variety of formats—in the orientation process during diagnosis,” he says. Currently, Rogers is turning the play into a children’s book, as well as looking to re-format it into a ‘bus and truck show.’ He believes schools would be attracted to the show’s kid-friendly combination of scientific information and anti-bullying messages.
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Rogers says, “I will never run of out of motivation within the medical field because my sister, myself, and millions of children with diabetes are counting on me to bring them joy in the midst of pain.”
For more information about “Andy and the Beats” and the current promo on DVD, please contact Andy Rogers directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit us at www.joslin.org to learn more.