Who: V (formerly Eve Ensler), Ed Blunt, Connie Britton, Rosario Dawson, Stephanie Hsu, LaChanze, Liz Mikel, Rosie O’Donnell, Billy Porter, Dale Soules, Marisa Tomei, Monique Wilson
What: New streaming play
Where: BAM YouTube
When: October 15 - November 3, free (donations encouraged)
Why: Ten years ago, playwright and activist V, formerly known as Eve Ensler, went public with her diagnosis of uterine cancer. “I am lucky. I have been blessed with a positive prognosis that has made me hyper-aware of what keeps a person alive,” she wrote in the Guardian while relating it to the work she was doing with City of Joy in Democratic Republic of Congo to help young survivors of gender violence. “How does one survive cancer? Of course — good doctors, good insurance, good luck. But the real healing comes from not being forgotten. From attention, from care, from love, from being surrounded by a community of those who demand information on your behalf, who advocate and stand up for you when you are in a weakened state, who sleep by your side, who refuse to let you give up, who bring you meals, who see you not as a patient or victim but as a precious human being, who create metaphors where you can imagine your survival. This is my medicine, and nothing less will suffice for the people, for the women, for the children of Congo.”
V, in collaboration with James Lecense, is now paying tribute to the purveyors of such care, nurses, whom she calls “radical angels of the heart,” in the new virtual play That Kindness: Nurses in their Own Words. The seventy-five-minute piece, streaming on BAM’s YouTube channel, features Ed Blunt, Connie Britton, Rosario Dawson, Stephanie Hsu, LaChanze, Liz Mikel, Rosie O’Donnell, Billy Porter, Dale Soules, Marisa Tomei, and Monique Wilson portraying real-life nurses sharing stories about who they are, what they do, and why they are in their profession; the dialogue is based on conversations and interviews V, whose previous work includes The Vagina Monologues, The Treatment, and her 2018 one-woman show, In the Body of the World, did with these front-line health care workers. Divided into such sections as “What Is a Nurse?,” “Things I Am Most Proud Of,” “Morally Wounded,” and “‘We Are Not Expendable,’” the narrative shifts from nursing in general to the more specific situation of the Covid-19 crisis as the nurses dig deeper into themselves and the importance of genuine care, especially at a time when so many hospitals are going private, being run like corporations, even during a pandemic. The show, reminiscent of the Public Theater’s The Line, which consisted of the words of doctors, nurses, EMTs, and other brave heroes during the coronavirus crisis, was produced in partnership with National Nurses United and California Nurses Association; BAM’s presentation is free to watch through November 3, but donations are requested for the Brooklyn Hospital Foundation’s Covid-19 Fund. Be sure to stick around for Morley’s closing song.