West News Wire: People have made a lot of noise about nurses throughout the pandemic, cheering them on and banging pots and pans. Have we, on the other hand, truly listened to them?

As part of a theater project that is holding a free Zoom reading of Sophocles’ 2,500-year-old tragedy “Antigone,” rank-and-file nurses are having a chance to chat about how they’ve survived the last few horrific years.

Theater of War Productions, a social-justice organization, hopes that the play, about a young lady who risks everything to achieve what she believes is right, would generate a spirited post-reading online conversation among invited nurses about their profession.

“I’ve been a nurse for decades, and I’ve never seen the kind of suffering of my profession as I’ve seen during COVID,” says Dr. Cynda Rushton, a professor of nursing at Johns Hopkins University and a lead consultant on the project. “One goal is to be able to give voice to the experience of nurses during this time as we try to think about how do we move forward.”

The Nurse Antigone” premieres Thursday with performances by “The Handmaid’s Tale” writer Margaret Atwood, actors Tracie Thoms, Taylor Schilling, Ato Blankson Wood and Bill Camp, and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Nurses will perform the chorus and more nurses and health care professionals have been invited to discuss the play after its conclusion. Audience members are asked to register ahead.

“We’re trying to seed the ground so that the focus of both the performance and the discussion is on really the moral suffering of nurses,” says Bryan Doerries, the artistic director. “Our model isn’t about fixing meaning or interpretation to the play in advance. Our model is about honoring the infinite possibilities and interpretations in each audience each time we do it.”

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“Antigone” is about a teenage girl who wishes to bury her brother, Polyneices, who recently died in a brutal civil war. Creon, the new and untested king, rules that Polyneices must rot where he fell and that anyone who breaks this law be put to death.

Antigone openly and intentionally defies his edict, covering her brother’s body with dirt and publicly declaring her allegiance to a higher law — the law of love. Creon is then forced by his own political rhetoric to make an example of his niece by sentencing her to death. This path leads to Creon losing everything.

“There is something about a young woman speaking out for what she believes to be right in service of the law of love and in service of her family and in service of doing what she feels justified in doing and facing institutional violence,” says Doerries.

Theater of War Productions has performed more than 1,700 readings worldwide, harnessing Greek drama and other classic resonant texts to evoke deeper dialogues about an array of modern issues.


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