Ryan Clark directs SU Theatre student Maddie Howard ’22 and Chris Roberts, retired coordinator of Stevenson’s Theatre and Media Performance program, during a rehearsal of Finding Florence.

Oftentimes, the extraordinary academic and cocurricular experiences that shape the lives and aspirations of Stevenson students are achieved through collaboration. The collaboration that has grown between Stevenson’s Nursing and Theatre and Media Performance programs exemplifies the power of this approach. Together, faculty and students this spring created something for stage that had never been done before—the history and drama of nursing.

Beginning in fall 2017, SU Theatre students portrayed patients and families in end-of-life care simulations to help train Nursing students. From those beginnings, Ryan Clark, M.F.A., Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Theatre, and Laurel Moody, RN, Assistant Professor of Nursing, began a collaboration on a larger project.

Clark created Finding Florence, a play that took the audience through the history of nursing from the time of Florence Nightingale, through the World Wars, and even to today’s various nursing units. Stevenson student actors gathered information, researched, and interviewed nurses for real-life accounts and histories.

“Our students were on the ground with this,” Clark said, adding that he and Laura Holland, Assistant to the Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, who served as dramaturge, created the narrative from there. “We served as editors, collaging together all this material.”

Student Scarlet Dare ’20 chose to research nurses during the HIV/AIDS crisis. The production had special meaning for Dare, who is majoring in Nursing with a minor in Theatre.

“I didn’t think that the two worlds would collide,” she said. “Last spring, when the show was announced, my jaw dropped.”

Dare played multiple roles, including a nurse caring for HIV/AIDS patients, a World War II cadet nurse, and a student nurse. She also performed a monologue based on an interview with Moody.

“It wasn’t so much acting because I connected so easily with the roles,” said Dare, who at the time of production had some clinical nursing experience under her belt. “It really just felt like me, even though they were stories of other people.”

She was not the only Nursing student to have a hand in the production.

Moody asked her senior Nursing students to write down phrases they often heard or said while working. Those phrases—such as “What is your pain level?” or “I will be your nurse today.”—served as transitions between the play’s vignettes from the history of nursing.

Moody arranged a trip for the Theatre students to the University of Maryland’s Living History Museum, dedicated to nursing. She appreciated the opportunity to work with the Theatre students in another capacity and attended rehearsals to give practical suggestions to help them develop their roles.

“They were outstanding in their portrayals, not only of the struggles of nursing, but also the joys,” Moody said.

It was a great opportunity, also, for her Nursing students to attend the play, especially the seniors who were part of the 25th graduating class of Stevenson’s Baccalaureate Nursing program in May.

“We exceeded all of our box office expectations,” Clark said, assessing the impact of the play. “I think our audience and our students left with a much deeper and fuller appreciation for what nurses experience and the impact that they have on people’s lives.”