First Person

Actress Robbie McCauley on her sweet story

Also a playwright and Emerson College professor, McCauley will use her recent $50,000 United States Artists fellowship to further her autobiographical play, “Sugar.” 

Emerson theater professor and performer Robbie McCauley.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Emerson theater professor and performer Robbie McCauley.

I like to reflect reality through performance, and, in fact, I do have to CHECK MY BLOOD SUGAR within the period of time I’m doing the play. There’s some stress involved in performing that I have to manage, so I thought, well, this is an opportunity to find the performative aspect of what I do. Some nights I would TAKE MY INSULIN SHOT [on stage] because it warranted it, and some nights I would say, well, that’s a good number, and I don’t have to do this right now. Or, I better eat something because it’s low. It’s AN IMPROVISATIONAL MOMENT. Many, many people know diabetics, but we’re talking about breaking the silence. Many people appreciate being let in on a process that even their relatives may not have shared with them.

I started this work many years ago as part of my long-term interest in TELLING THE BIGGER PERSONAL STORY that everyone has, that is connected to larger events around them. And so I finally got to my story about diabetes. And during that time, diabetes’s presence as an epidemic began to be reported.


Sugar has to do with getting more people who have diabetes — and their relatives and other people who are interested in diabetes — talking about it. I bring up a story-circle process that ALLOWS PEOPLE TO TALK OPENLY with a few cues. Telling my story helped me, so long range I think it would be helpful to other people. That’s A KIND OF DRAMA WORK I’ve been doing for quite a while. The grant will help me organize that work more. — As told to Joel Brown

Interview has been edited and condensed.

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