Astoria Resident Shines Light On Hospice Care

BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Staff Writer

An Astoria resident’s one-woman show offers a passionate insider’s view of hospice care.

Taren Sterry works as the manager of volunteer training for the not-for-profit Visiting Nurse Service of New York Hospice Care, the largest provider of hospice services in New York City, but she is also a writer, performer and teacher, who has entertained countless families, nurses and hospice care field workers with her one-woman show, “180 Days.”

24ASterry said the show is the true story of her first six months working in hospice care and what led to her career with VNSNY.

After working in hospice care for 11 years, Sterry launched a funny – yet dramatic and uplifting one-woman show that has been touring the country at various conferences and hospice programs since 2008. It also serves as an educational and inspirational piece for the hospice care workers.

“I consciously moved to New York to study death and dying and I unconsciously moved to New York to do theater,” she said.

Since Sterry combined her theater and hospice work, it has given her the opportunity to share the message of hospice in the comedy world and also share the comedy in the hospice world.

“We don’t have to just be hospice workers; I can be a teacher, a counselor, an actor and many things,” she added.
The show ties difficult subject matters like death and dying with poignant humor by narrating it through Sterry’s most memorable hospice patients, while artistically explaining why the idea that hospice is a depressing and taboo topic is an outdated myth.

“The show is my story,” Sterry said. “It is entertaining and it can teach people about what hospice is.”

While “180 Days” is designed to speak to hospice workers, teaching them how to embrace working in this unusual field and helping spark much needed conversations among family and friends about end-of-life care, there are also many funny moments during the show, Sterry said.

“We let them know, it’s really okay to laugh because they think they shouldn’t laugh at such a serious matter,” she said. “But in truth, comedy is a very appropriate coping mechanism when we are dealing with such heavy issues.”

Sterry, who plays 20 different characters during her show with no costume changes, said “I get to share my story with thousands and thousands of people, and more importantly, I get to share the stories of my patients and my own family.”

As for how she wants people to feel after watching the show, Sterry said “It really is up to the audience and each individual to interpret it and relate it to their personal experiences.”

Next year, Sterry said she plans to write her memoir and continue to perform her one-woman show anywhere around the country.

For more information about the “180 Days” show, visit www.180daysplay.com. For more information on how to become a hospice care volunteer through VNSNY, visit www.vnsny.org.

Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, tsakhuja@queenstribune.com, or @Tsakhuja13.