Dana Reeve: A Legacy Beyond Her Husband

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The widow of Superman actor Christopher Reeve has died of lung cancer. Dana Reeve nursed her husband after a horseback riding accident paralyzed him 1995, and also chaired a foundation in his name devoted to research of spinal cord injuries. Noah Adams talks about Dana Reeve's life with actor Roger Rees, who had worked with the singer and actor at the Williamstown Theater Festival.


I'm Noah Adams. This is DAY TO DAY. There was word today that Dana Reeve, widow of the actor Christopher Reeve, has died. She had succumbed to lung cancer late yesterday. Dana Reeve was a singer and actress, but will be best remembered as a caregiver and fierce advocate for those suffering from spinal cord injuries. In 1995, Christopher Reeve was paralyzed after being thrown from his horse.

He lived for nine years in that condition. Dana Reeve and her husband established the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation to fund research into cures for spinal cord injuries. Dana Reeve was also on the board of the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts, where she first met her husband. And joining us now to talk about Dana Reeve is Roger Rees, artistic director of the festival. Welcome, Mr. Rees.

Mr. ROGER REES (Artistic Director, Williamstown Theater Festival): Hello.

ADAMS: Tell us a little bit about how Dana Reeve would have wanted to be described by somebody?

Mr. REES: It's a shock to us, you know, to have to be in the position where we're talking about her in the past tense, because she seemed to demand to be remembered by her vibrancy, and her joyous reflection of life itself, and even given the challenges of this crippling disease, a few weeks ago at a benefit we threw, and there she was, you know, in her condition. I think she was perhaps wearing a wig or something like that, you know, because she had lost her hair, but she was in a gown at a table, and she was laughing and applauding other young performers. Her sense of always being there for the theater was a way she would want to be remembered, I think.

ADAMS: Can you take us back to the time, this is probably before your days at Williamstown, when Christopher and Dana would have met, and think of the young actors who are coming there for this year's season, and how this death might affect them.

Mr. REES: Well, I thank you for thinking that. I mean, the sense the continuance in the theater is, I think, the thing she was trying to celebrate with her life. And yes, they met when they were apprentices. And Apprentices at Williamstown, they paint the scenery, they make the costumes, they sweep the stage, they remove cigarette butts from the lawn outside the theater, and also, they sometimes get too act alongside very famous people, and they get directed by wonderful, wonderful directors, and get lit by famous lighting designers, and stand in front of very beautiful scenery made by the very best people in the business.

And that's how they started and there are pictures of Chris and Dana together in our archive, alongside of Nicholas Zacharopoulos, the man who started the whole place. His energy was passed on to these young people, and Dana and Chris, both of them, are examples of that. And they took that energy and led with it, and went on to be people who are beloved in the business and outside the business, internationally. And that's what a festival like ours does, and that's why she's such a wonderful example of it. Yeah, they met there.

They were young. Chris went away, and when he became famous, he returned and directed plays there with her, alongside her, and they were always in the cabaret. I think the one thing that people remember about the two of them is that she sang very beautifully, and I think Chris didn't sing quite so well, but he sang with energy. And she was a wonderful, wonderful singer, and so they were always up late, at night singing in the cabaret after playing in very, very serious plays in the theater. So, they were the very stuff of theater itself, and it's such a great loss to us, but we must'nt think of it as a loss. We must celebrate her, completely.

ADAMS: Roger Rees of the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts, helping us remember Dana Reeve who died at age 44. Thank you, sir.

Mr. REES: Thank you very much. God bless.

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