Staged Reading Provides Insights into Health Care Issues

Posted: April 5, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

Nursing professor Jeanne Sorrell has found an innovative way to give a voice to those grappling with the challenges of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

On Thursday, April 6, Theater of the First Amendment (TFA) will perform a staged reading of “Six Characters in Search of an Answer.” Written by Sorrell and directed by Rick Davis, artistic director for TFA, the play features a poignant dramatization of the ethical issues people living with Alzheimer’s face.

“I was surprised by the findings in my research, in that participants I interviewed about living with Alzheimer’s did not talk about ‘suffering’ and ‘victims,’ which is the terminology often used by health care professionals,” says Sorrell, who wrote the initial draft of the play last spring. “I was amazed that the participants’ perceived quality of life was much greater than I had anticipated.”

An associate dean for academic programs and research in the College of Nursing and Health Science (CNHS), Sorrell had written about her findings in professional journals and presented them at conferences, but she still thought she could do more.

“I felt that the stories from the participants should also reach laypersons,” she says. “I wanted to synthesize the research findings in a dramatic format that would engage an audience in reflecting on questions related to Alzheimer’s that our society should be asking.”

In her research, Sorrell interviewed persons with Alzheimer’s, as well as family and professional caregivers, to identify important issues that they encounter in the process of living with Alzheimer’s. Dialogue from the interviews provided content for the play.

The staged reading will conclude the College of Nursing and Health Science’s annual research event titled “Innovative Evidence: Health Care Research for Health Care Consumers.” The half-day program begins at 9 a.m. in Student Union Building II on the Fairfax Campus.

The keynote speaker is Lynn Gerber, director of the new Center for Chronic Illness and Disability, who will discuss “Living with and Beyond Cancer: What Evidence Teaches.” In addition, there will be a faculty and student research poster session and several other speakers.

Before the staged reading begins at 2 p.m., a pre-performance discussion will be held at 1:30 p.m. featuring a panel of representatives from ethics, health policy, and theater. A reception will follow the performance. This event was made possible by a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

There is no charge for the event and the public is invited to attend. For further information, call Edna Hertsch at 703-993-1947.

Write to at