Break a Leg

Operating theater takes center stage at the university’s annual Heart of the Harvey dramatic arts festival.

The concept of a theater-in-the-round isn’t new, but performing short plays, dances, and spoken poetry in a medical school’s operating theater seems uniquely Georgetown.

The idea was born from a conversation between Bill Rebeck, a neuroscience professor, and Susan Lynskey, MFA, a performing arts professor, when the W. Proctor Harvey Amphitheatre was renovated. Both agreed the space seemed like the perfect spot for a dramatic event hosted by the School of Medicine and the university’s Center for Social Justice.

“It’s not that surprising,” explains Rebeck, who earned his MFA in playwriting a couple of years ago. “A big part of the medical field is creative problem-solving. You need to ask questions and use your imagination. That’s what we’re doing at Heart of the Harvey. It’s an unusual space and we work with what we’ve got.”

Now in its third year, the event features artistic endeavors that are in some way related to health and medicine. Beyond that unifying principle, the Heart of the Harvey is very open: participants come from all areas of the university, from the business school to the development office, and include staff members as well as students.

Dean Stephen Ray Mitchell loved the idea from the start, especially in light of the fact that the late W. Proctor Harvey was an avid theatergoer.

“In the Buddhist tradition, a gentle bow and a ‘Namaste’ indicate that the light in one’s heart recognizes the light in another,” shares Mitchell. “Over the last two and a half years, this wonderful event unites the light in the heart of the remarkable Proctor Harvey with the light in others from across the university community.”

Last year’s event, with the theme of “heart,” evoked both laughter and tears. One student play, “Over the Rainbow,” starred the Wizard of Oz as a cynical attending physician. In contrast, a faculty member’s monologue explored the psychological strain of recurring cardiac episodes.

“Going through medical school you grow an extraordinary amount through situations that push your emotional, intellectual, and physical boundaries,” says Jameson Holloman (M’17). “The Heart of the Harvey allowed me to explore issues within medicine that I’ve been thinking about for a while.”

This year’s event will focus on “Soul” with more participants utilizing the nontraditional space. In addition to plays that range from love to limbo, the event will feature soul music and soul food.

“It’s a pleasure to bring the joys and challenges of science to a larger audience, and I’m certain that everyone involved learns more about empathy and humanity,” Rebeck says. “But we are also having fun—and that’s just as important.”