‘In Our Time / Stories from the Front Lines of the Medical Fields’ a script-in-hand play workshop on Friday, June 17th

Following months of interviewing female ICU physicians from around the country about their experiences during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Anya Martin, Hiawatha Project’s Founding Artistic Director and playwright, created a script that weaves transcripts from these interviews with excerpts from Hemingway‘s groundbreaking novel  In Our Time. The book is based on Hemingway’s time at the front during WW1 and the 1918 flu pandemic. 

Hemingway’s first work of fiction, initially published in 1924, has been said to possess an “ironically fragmentary unity, in which dissonance is an integral part of structure and theme. In other words, the fragments contribute to a peculiar unity.” This style, according to Martin, mirrors the stories of the women physicians she interviewed because their experiences during the past two years of COVID were “spectacularly specific and personal, and yet heartbreakingly similar.”

When asked if they saw comparisons to Hemingway’s work about his time during World War I and their own experiences, one of the doctors said, “Yes. We are also at war. Only our enemy can not be seen with the naked eye. People outside of the hospital and outside of a COVID floor cannot understand the devastation because these things are not transparent. Our house was on fire, yet everyone was getting on with their daily lives as if this war didn’t exist. It was all being downplayed, but we saw the bodies piling up.” The identities of the doctors who participated in Hiawatha’s interview process will be kept secret as these accomplished physicians still fear backlash from their workplaces and their personal lives for sharing their stories.

Hemingway’s works have often been associated with ultra masculinity if not outright misogyny, so why pair his words specifically with those of women physicians? “I wanted to make a direct comparison to soldiers on the field of battle to these women generals at the front lines of the pandemic,” says Martin. “More contemporary scholars believe that In Our Time, when taken as a whole, is actually deeply empathetic to the experiences of women. I also personally believe that much of Hemingway’s language which has been attributed to “masculinity” is actually just the language of trauma or even PTSD. In writing this work, I wanted to validate and lift up the voices and experiences of these women who have witnessed so much death these past few years, – to amplify their sacrifices, their fortitude, their courage.”

The result is a moving and poetic account of two eras echoing parallel themes of loss, grief, and alienation. Theatrically adventurous and surprising, characters and stories layer through time and stage space as they reach for meaning and connection in the spaces between words and worlds. 

Heather Irwin, Artistic Associate Producer with Hiawatha Project says that “It’s exciting to create a work which provides a lens to view such recent life-changing events. Through the lens of Hemingway and the experimental style of this new play, the audience is able to have enough distance to gain perspective on the past 2 years of COVID, and yet the work feels so relevant, urgent, and engaging.”

One physician, when asked what she hoped audience members would leave thinking about or feeling after the show said, “That physician moms were being pulled in thousands of directions – in the hospitals, in our children’s schools and camps, our elderly parents, our religious institutions and in our communities.” 

Another physician said, “How we all considered our own mortality. We did not volunteer for this. We were enlisted and felt torn between our chosen oath and being able to keep our family safe at all cost. We chose to fight and hoped our family would be proud.”

In Our Time / Stories from the Front Lines of the Medical Fields will be presented as a script-in-hand play reading on Friday, June 17th at 6:30 pm at the Trust Arts Education Center at 805 Liberty Avenue. The cast and creative team will have an artistic discussion following the reading. The presentation is free and open to the public. However, space is limited, and pre-reservations are strongly encouraged. You can make your reservations at: https://hiawathaproject.org/shows/in-our-time/ 

Creative Team: Anya Martin (playwright, director, Artistic Director) Heather Irwin (Associate Producer, actor) Shani Banerjee (actor) Kyle Bostian (actor) Todd Griffin (actor) Delana Flowers (actor) Heidi Nagle (actor, stage directions) and Matt Zierden (actor).

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