Theater of War Frontline opens healing, constructive dialogue to healthcare workers struggling with the toll of the COVID pandemic
DateJanuary 14, 2021
Frontline medical workers continue to confront unprecedented professional and personal challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, there are few opportunities for medical professionals to step back and reflect, share with colleagues, and open up discussions with the broader public outside of clinical settings.
The arts provide unconventional ways to bring challenging issues to the surface and start constructive dialogue. That’s the genesis and power of Theater of War Frontline for Medical Providers.
Theater of War Frontline combines one of the pandemic’s newest forms of communication – the Zoom webinar – with the ancient art of Greek tragedy, reaching frontline medical workers who may be struggling in isolation. This unique forum provides them the opportunity to name and communalize their experiences, connect with colleagues and concerned citizens, and access available resources.
In December 2020, Theater of War Productions completed Theater of War Frontline NYC, a 10-event series of dramatic readings of scenes from Socrates’ historical plays, including Philoctetes and Women of Trachis, to catalyze open discussions about the impact of Covid-19 on frontline medical workers. The performances featured acclaimed theater, television and film actors, including Frances McDormand, Frankie Faison, Amy Ryan, Kathryn Erbe, Marjolaine Goldsmith, Nyasha Hatendi, David Strathairn and Jesse Eisenberg.
The online events included interactive, raw discussions with doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, respiratory technicians and other health professionals who shared their gut responses to what resonated with them across time.
Performances were presented in partnership with ten major hospitals, health systems, professional groups, and nonprofit medical organizations, reaching thousands of participants in more than 30 countries, engaging healthcare workers and concerned citizens.
The special program was developed by Theater of War Productions, the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, and the Johns Hopkins Program in Arts, Humanities & Health.
“This was an amazing production. The discussion afterward was inspiring to me to continue patient care.”
“This play was a complete translation of what I have been experiencing or witnessing. I haven’t necessarily been in the field, but I work behind the scenes seeing how decisions are made and how they’re implemented and watching my coworkers, my friends, pretty much my family come off their shifts knowing they have to go back home to their families and not knowing if they are going to be able to come back home, when’s the next time they’re going to be able to hug their kids. It’s a very helpless feeling.”
“Thank you for this event and for choosing a wide range of perspectives for your panel. It was both devastating and liberating to attend.”
“In a nutshell, Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers’ current approach during the pandemic is this: harness the power and messaging of Greek Tragedy, and use it as a medium to explore moral dilemmas that frontline care providers confront on a daily basis via Zoom Webinars, followed by a de-brief that explores real-life issues which mirror the themes that are displayed during the actual production. After the performance, the actors are replaced by four panelists—a diverse group of front-line medical providers—who then respond to what they heard in the plays that melds with their own experiences of caring for patients during the pandemic.”
Robert Glatter, MD