Our Thanks This World Health Day - Western Canada Theatre

Our Thanks This World Health Day

by James MacDonald, WCT Artistic Director

This year, it seems more appropriate than ever to mark “World Health Day”, in tribute to the health care workers who are at the front lines of the current battle and to thank them for their tireless work, now and always. Here’s a look at some health workers who have inspired us on our stages or featured prominently in theatre history:

Clare Lewis – Vimy
Based on real-life Canadian nurse named Clare Gass. Clare was one of 2,800 Canadian women who became “Bluebirds” (Nursing Sisters) during the First World War. At least 58 were killed while on duty.

Dr. Van Helsing/Dr. Seward – Dracula: The Bloody Truth
Seward runs the asylum where Dracula’s minion Renfield is housed, and is the person who brings in the famous vampire hunter Van Helsing to confront Dracula. They combine forces to put the bite on the evil Count.

Sir Colenso Ridgeon – The Doctor’s Dilemma
This Bernard Shaw play tells the story of a doctor who develops a rare cure for tuberculosis that can be delivered to very few patients. He must decide whether to save the life of a poor but hard working slum doctor or a dissolute but brilliant painter – with whose wife Dr. Ridgeon has fallen in love. About medical ethics and personal choice.

Myra Bennett – Tempting Providence
Robert Chafe’s well-known Canadian play is based on the true story of a nurse who came from England in 1921 to serve the people who lived on the rugged Newfoundland coast. In real-life, nurse Bennett once stitched a severed foot back on after a sawmill accident and transported the patient for three days to the nearest hospital. The doctors decided her handiwork was perfect, and the patient eventually walked normally.

The Doctor – Macbeth
Undoubtedly the theatre’s most confounded health care professional, The Doctor is called upon to observe Lady Macbeth’s futile washing of her imaginary bloodied hands (“Out, damned spot!”). As he observes by the end of the scene, “more needs she the divine the physician!”.

Dr. Thomas Stockmann – An Enemy of the People
Ibsen’s play is perhaps better known as the inspiration for the movie Jaws. Stockmann is a highly-ethical public health doctor in a Norwegian spa town who blows the whistle on the town's waters that are making the guests sick, putting health above profit. A great reminder of the role played by our public health officials – we salute you, Dr. Bonnie Henry!

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