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Play Features Recorded Family Phone Conversations About Cancer and Death


In 1988, a student at San Diego State attached a recording device to his telephone. It was part of a project for a communications class, in which the student was supposed to study naturally occurring conversations. The very first caller he would record would be his father, who called to tell the student that his mother had cancer.

The student did not remove the recording device following that very jarring telephone call. As a result he recorded sixty phone calls with members of his family, right up until the day his mother died. The tapes of those conversations have been turned into a play called Listen.

Listen is quite simply an account of one family’s conversations about dealing with a loved one’s sickness and death. The play opens this Thursday, and runs through Sunday at San Diego State University’s Experimental Theater.


  • Wayne Beach , executive director of listen and a professor of communication at San Diego State University.
  • Patricia Loughrey, playwright of listen and a lecturer in School of Theatre,Television, & Film at San Diego State University.
  • Jane Haggerty , volunteer at the American Cancer Society in the division of Information Navigation and Support.

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