Plays for Community Outreach
A Trilogy of Plays Focusing on the End of Life
As part of its mission to promote dialogue on end-of-life issues, ICEOL offered production packets for three Bryan Harnetiaux plays. Vesta, Dusk, and Holding On ~ Letting Go (abridged version) provide a rich opportunity for self-examination and community dialogue on fundamental questions surrounding death and dying.
Each play features families struggling to deal with the everyday problems and mysteries of mortality. The stories are told with humor and a keen understanding of the human condition, and involve simple staging in the tradition of Thornton Wilder's Our Town.
The plays work well as staged readings or full productions, and can serve as a springboard for moderated audience talk-back sessions on end-of-life issues. Harnetiaux’s plays have been performed in communities around the country, sponsored by hospices, health systems, medical and nursing schools, coalitions, and faith communities.
Licensing and production agreements are now available through Hospice Foundation of America. HFA offers complete production packets for each of the plays in this trilogy, including scripts, templates for promotional materials, director’s notes, and guidelines for talk-back sessions.
Vesta is a 90-minute full-length play that examines the last five years of the life of the title character, and the impact of her illness and death on her family, particularly her daughter and granddaughter. It is a 7-character, non-naturalistic drama that examines aging and death in this country. Vesta focuses upon the personal and cultural conflicts that impair understanding and acceptance of death, in the context of three generations of women seeking to act courageously in the face of the inevitable.
Actors: 7 actors; either 4 men, 3 women, or 3 men, 4 women (title character 75-80 years old)
Set: Various chairs, including a rocking chair, and perhaps a table
Approximate Running Time: Staged reading – 75 minutes; full production – 85 minutes
Read “Vesta is Everyone’s Story” in DIVINITY magazine.
Vesta excerpt (PDF)
Listen to what experts have to say about Vesta:
Visit Hospice Foundation of America to request a perusal packet or licensing agreement and learn about how to present one of these plays in your community.
Sixty-five year-old Boomer, Gil Everette, has had a heart attack, and now has congestive heart failure. His daughter, Nan, has arranged for a medical social worker to come to Gil’s home to discuss what his wishes are when another health care crisis occurs. What follows is an intimate family dialogue between Gil and his three adult children about his choices, guided by the medical social worker. Dusk explores with humor and humanity the medical, ethical, and spiritual facets of this difficult but necessary conversation.
The focus for exploring Gil’s wishes is a physician's orders form regarding life-sustaining treatment options, a POLST form.
Actors: 3 men, 2 women
Set: A family table, and chairs
Approximate Running Time: Staged reading – 1 hour; full production – 65-70 minutes
Bobby Alexander, at 51 years old, has lost his extended medical battle with colon cancer and is now in end-stage liver failure. Throughout this struggle Bobby's wife, Lee, has been at his side. However, Bobby wants to accept a referral for in-home hospice care, and Lee is not ready to give up the fight. Ultimately, hospice becomes involved, and helps the family navigate through a host of issues that confront them in Bobby's final days. Holding On ~ Letting Go is an honest, often humorous, yet heartrending look at a family forced to come to terms with the end of a life, and saying good-bye.