By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.
It’s hard to imagine a place filled with more of life’s drama than a hospital, and when it comes to hospitals it’s nearly impossible to imagine one more filled with history’s drama than New York City’s shuttered, St Vincent’s Hospital. Such is the point of departure for Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s Novenas for a Lost Hospital, an intimate theatrical experience taking audiences on a literal journey through the West Village, September 5 – October 13, 2019.
Opening Rattlestick’s 25th anniversary season, the world premiere of Cusi Cram’s Novenas for a Lost Hospital stars Tony Award nominee (Angels in America), four-time Obie winner, Kathleen Chalfant as Saint Elizabeth Seton. The production and cast of thirteen is under the direction of Rattlestick Artistic Director, Daniella Topol. This unique walking theatrical production is presented in partnership with Village Preservation, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center, NYC AIDS Memorial Board, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, St. John’s in the Village, and Visual AIDS.
For the LGBT+ Community, especially gay men, the connection to St Vincent’s Hospital runs deep and very personal. Located on the border of The Village and Chelsea, it was the community’s “go to” hospital for decades. Injured protesters from the Stonewall Uprising fifty years ago were brought to St. Vincent’s Emergency Room for first aid. When AIDS grew into an epidemic twenty-five years later, far too many men were brought there one last time and their chosen families gathered there bearing witness endless times. The one saving grace was the staff of doctors and nurses of a hospital borne out of one plague having compassion on a community facing another.
This is but one story in the 161-year legacy that was St Vincent’s Hospital. It’s ties to some of history’s most iconic moments are so much more. As Dramaturg, Guy Lancaster writes,
“St. Vincent’s Hospital was started inside a rented house on East 13th Street in 1849 during a cholera epidemic by four nuns from the Sisters of Charity. It was the first Catholic hospital in Manhattan. Survivors of disasters such as the sinking of the Titanic, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and September 11th were treated at St. Vincent’s after it moved to its eventual site on 7th Avenue in 1856. A devastating new plague, HIV/AIDS, would profoundly affect the institution and the surrounding neighborhood from the 1980s onwards as the hospital became a center for AIDS research and treatment. By the time St. Vincent’s closed its doors on April 30, 2010, 3,500 employees had lost their jobs. The last Catholic hospital in Manhattan was replaced by a luxury condo development.”
Times Square is called as the “Crossroads of the World,” but just a mile south of it, on the same avenue, St Vincent’s Hospital could be called the “crossroads of humanity.” For five weeks, Novenas for a Lost Hospital will allow audiences to traverse time and tale, walking with compassion through the history of this storied house of healing.
More information about Novenas for a Lost Hospital HERE
Previews: September 5–9, 11–16, 18, 6:30pm & 7pm staggered entrance times
Opening: Thursday, September 19, 6:30pm & 7pm staggered entrance times
Performances through October 13: Wednesday–Monday, 6:30pm & 7pm staggered entrance times $45–$60 ($20 student, $35 senior tix)
* Guests arriving at the 6:30 time will experience an extended prologue, and audiences at both check-in times will unite for the majority of the event. Due to its traveling nature, audiences are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes and to leave heavy bags at home. Coat check is not available.
Purchase tickets HERE
More information about Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, their 25th anniversary season, and subscriptions HERE
(Main photo by Mark Abrahams)