New plays to spark conversations around end-of-life care

Dramatic EngagementsBobby Alexander and his family confront his end-stage liver failure and the murky line between living fully and accepting death.

Gil Everette and his adult children explore Gil’s end-of-life wishes in light of his recent heart attack on the eve of 65th birthday.

Both stories, the subjects of new dramas by playwright Bryan Harnetiaux, are now helping the Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life with its education and outreach efforts.

The Institute has been promoting another Harnetiaux play, Vesta, as a tool for education since 2006. Now, through an exclusive licensing agreement with the playwright, the Institute is making all three plays available to community and educational groups at minimal cost.

“These new plays, Dusk and Holding On ~ Letting Go, join Vesta as key elements in our efforts to provide strategies and resources for community outreach and engagement,” said ICEOL Director Richard Payne. “The three works, in markedly different contexts, spark non-threatening conversation about issues of vital concern. Each of the plays provides a rich opportunity for self-examination and community dialogue on fundamental questions surrounding death and dying.”

Holding On ~ Letting Go, uses 51-year-old Bobby Alexander’s liver disease as a springboard to discuss hospice care in the wilderness of a terminal illness and impending death.This intimate, six-character play lasts 70 minutes.

Dusk, a five-character, 70-minute drama, deepens the conversation about end-of-life care through character Gil Everette’s congestive heart failure. Gil and his adult children, with a medical social worker on hand, explore Gil’s wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment options as well as a physician’s orders form.

Vesta is a 90-minute, seven-character play about the last five years of the title character’s life and her death at the age of 80.The play focuses on how Vesta Pierson and her daughter and granddaughter encounter the many obstacles to embracing the end of life and saying goodbye.

The plays are written for a general audience and are meant to be used by congregations, hospices, divinity schools, medical schools, and other organizations to raise awareness and initiate conversations around end-of-life care. Each story is told with humor and a keen understanding of the human condition as the characters struggle to deal with the everyday problems and mysteries of mortality.

The plays are crafted to be presented with equal success as staged readings or as full scale productions. Under the licensing agreement, the Institute on Care at the End of Life provides the full script as well as a production package complete with director’s notes and templates for playbills, programs, and advertising.

To learn more about the plays and how you can stage them in your community, contact Whitney Yadav at (919) 660-3553.