College of Charleston Department of Theatre and Dance (CofC Stages) to present bittersweet comedy honoring playwright, alumnus David Lee Nelson

A Sudden Spontaneous Event is a hilarious and heartbreaking look at what happens when the life you thought you had is over in an instant. Carole White’s life is just the way she likes it. Until, that is, she wakes confused and in a strange place after suffering a stroke. This bittersweet comedy explores loss, forgiveness and reconciliation as Carole and her son’s fraught relationship drives the action of the play.

Presented by the College of Charleston’s Department of Theatre and Dance, the production is directed by alumnus, adjunct lecturer and noted actor Paul Rolfes.

The play is staged in honor of its playwright, David Lee Nelson, a beloved theatre alumnus (2000), who passed away from colon cancer in September 2020. An accomplished actor, playwright, comedian and winner of the 2013 College of Charleston School of the Arts Young Alumnus Award, Nelson is remembered for his tremendous impact on the theatre community in addition to his writing, teaching, humor and overall inspirational nature. His written works include solo shows The Elephant in my Closet, Status Update, Silence of Lucky, and Stages in addition to plays Folly Beach, Mary & Joseph at The Hampton Inn, Free to a Good Home, and A Sudden Spontaneous Event.

Department Chair Janine McCabe reminisces, “Not only was David an alumnus and colleague but also a close friend to so many of us at the College. He touched countless lives through his many theatrical talents, and his memory lives on through his written works, which explore highly emotional topics while masterfully interspersing humor and human connection.”

McCabe adds, “Having been part of the world premiere of A Sudden Spontaneous Event produced by PURE Theatre (2015-16 season), I’m proud to bring this piece to the College’s stage and share it once again with the Charleston community. We want to honor David with this production and also by creating an award in his name to recognize students who embody his inspirational spirit.”

Playing the role of Carole is emerita theatre faculty member and originator of the role, Joy Vandervort-Cobb. Theatre students comprise the rest of the cast. Designers include students Mattie Davis (costume design) and Julia Mimó (scenic design), along with department staff member Miles Boinest (sound design) and alumna Claire Ahlin (lighting design).

DETAILS: Performances of A Sudden Spontaneous Event will take place at the Sottile Theatre (44 George St.) on November 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. and November 21 at 2:00 p.m. Admission is $20 adults; $15 seniors (60+), military/veterans, and youth under 18; $12 CofC students, faculty and staff. Tickets can be purchased through the George Street Box Office online, by emailing gsbo@cofc.edu, calling (843) 953-4726 or in person. (Patrons can find information and tickets at go.cofc.edu/cofcstages.) 


The College’s 2021-2022 theatre and dance season brings important conversations to the forefront and challenges audiences to think about their choices, relationships, and what it means to be part of a community while navigating how to live your best life. The diverse production season offers plays, dance, musical theatre, and opera — featuring guest artists, new faculty and invited collaborators. Production details and ticket info are listed at go.cofc.edu/cofcstages.

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