GALVESTON, Texas - The University of Texas Medical Branch student readers theater will present two performances of "A Plague of Angels" at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 15 and Wednesday, July16. The first performance will be at the Rosenberg Library; the second will be at UTMB Levin Hall North. The productions are free and open to the public.
The play illuminates the struggle of Mary Mallon, also known as "Typhoid Mary," to escape quarantine by the New York Health Department. The drama is written by Mark St. Germain and directed by Cheryl L. Kaplan, director of UTMB's theater outreach and education.
"In the 1900s, she was called the most dangerous woman in America," Kaplan said. "Her story is an interesting look at the moral and ethical questions of the day but it is also funny, poignant and relevant today," she said.
Mary Mallon, a single Irish immigrant, was one of the first healthy carriers of typhoid fever to be identified in the United States. The readers theater production tells the story of Mallon's life. Mallon transmitted typhoid as a cook, and three of the 50 infected died. She was quarantined twice for a total of 26 years. The science of bacteriology and the idea of asymptomatic transmission by healthy carriers was new at the time.
"It was a legal quagmire in the 1900s," Kaplan explained. "The state felt it needed to protect the public, but there were questions about its right to sentence a woman to life in quarantine when she had not committed a crime."
The play is sponsored by the Theater Outreach and Education Program at the Institute for the Medical Humanities at UTMB. It is supported by the UTMB Professionalism Initiative and the UT Systems Academy for Health Science Education.