Acting out

For the last four months of his life, 16-year-old Ed used a diary to document his battle with bone cancer. In the hope that it would help others, Ed and his family gave us permission to use the diary for teaching purposes.

After Ed died in 2004, we used his diary, along with information collected from interviews with Ed’s friends, family and members of his health care team, to create a play that illustrated the experience of a strong-minded teen struggling with an overwhelming medical challenge. The play, called Ed’s Story: The Dragon Chronicles, is now used as a teaching tool for all second-year medical students.

A study by Dalhousie medical alumnus Dr. Paul D'Alessandro examined the effects of the play and confirmed that the arts and humanities are not only a welcome addition to the education of health professionals, they also result in a deeper appreciation of the patient’s experience. Paul also performed in the play throughout three of his years at Dalhousie Medical School.

Our projects

Every year we host at least one theatre event. We have collaborated with King’s College, award-winning 2b Theatre, and Ottawa’s Bear & Co. A few of our projects have included:

4:48 Psychosis

This started with Simon Bloom’s production of “4:48 Psychosis”, a profound exploration of significant depression written and experienced by playwright, Sarah Kane. View the 4:48 Psychosis book cover [PDF - 16 kB].

Ed’s Story: The Dragon Chronicles

“Ed’s Story: The Dragon Chronicles”, now a core component of our Med II curriculum, premiered at the 2010 Atlantic Fringe Festival. The seven performances all sold out; the play was voted as “Fringe Hit”. During the Fringe Festival performances, a DVD of the play was created and is being used in education around the world. View the Ed's Story poster [PDF - 4.3 MB].

We took Ed’s Story on tour to various venues and medical schools across Canada including:

  • University of Toronto
  • Queen’s University
  • University of Ottawa
  • Dalhousie University (both the Halifax and Saint John campuses)

In addition to several public performances in Halifax, Ed’s Story was featured at Montreal’s International Congress on Palliative Care to an enthusiastic audience of 600 plus. The Canadian Association of Pediatric Health Centres (CAPHC) had a live performance for their motivational session in 2011.

The Story of Mr. Wright

“The Story of Mr. Wright” brought numerous health care issues to the forefront including truth, faith, hope and truth-telling. This play was a collaboration with the Dalhousie Department of Bioethics and 2b Theatre. View The Story of Mr. Wright poster [PDF - 934 kB].

The Medical Humanities-HEALS program funded medical students, health professional trainees and faculty to attend a performance, followed by a panel discussion. Students from the Artist-in-Residence program created works of art with “Hope” as the theme, which were exhibited in the lobby of the theatre throughout the run of the play.

How to Disappear Completely

We collaborated with 2b theatre who performed “How to Disappear Completely”. This profoundly moving play explored illness, euthanasia and assisted suicide through the lens of playwright Itai Erdal. The play was followed by a panel discussion. View the How to Disappear Completely poster [PDF - 2.6 MB].

Read an article by Dr. Frager published in the doctorsNS magazine in May 2014 [PDF - 77 kB] in which she explores and reflects on the issues raised in the play.

Momma’s Boy

A balanced perspective on the contentious topic of reproductive choices was sensitively explored in “Momma’s Boy”. The Medical Humanities-HEALS program supported two performances of this play at the Saint John and Halifax campuses of the medical school. It was followed by a talk-back discussion with the audience, actors and additional stakeholders. View the Momma's Boy poster [PDF - 929 kB].