Actors Billy Porter, Rosario Dawson and Rosie O'Donnell play nurses in a virtual play inspired by the testimony of nurses during the pandemic. Photo: Screenshot / That Kindness

There’s the nurse who held your hand. The nurse who helped you fart. The nurse who video-called your family. The nurse who made you laugh when you felt scared. The nurse who spoke up for you.

Almost everyone has a story about “that kindness” nurses have, whether caring for them or a loved one — now even more so amid a pandemic that has claimed over 5,700 lives in Brooklyn this year.

So its fitting that nurses working through the COVID-19 outbreak are being honored in a new virtual play created by writer and artist V (formerly Eve Ensler) and hosted by the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

That Kindness: Nurses in their Own Words is a play drawing on interviews and personal stories with real nurses that reveal their raw testimonies from the front lines of the fight against the virus, and many of their selfless acts of service.

In the online play, nurses are played by actors including Ed Blunt, Connie Britton, Rosario Dawson, Stephanie Hsu, LaChanze, Liz Mikel, Rosie O’Donnell, Billy Porter, Dale Soules, Marisa Tomei and Monique Wilson.

Playwright V in “That Kindness.” Photo: Screenshot/That Kindness

That Kindness opens with a prologue from V, an activist and feminist also known for writing The Vagina Monologues. In it, she speaks of her devotion to the nurses who treated her while she had stage 3-4 uterine cancer.

“It was the humor of nurses, the devotion of nurses, the fierce protection of nurses that ultimately soothed and saved my life,” she said.

To create the piece, V interviewed nurses working through the pandemic to collect their testimonies and to try to understand their “ineffable art of kindness.”

Billy Porter playing a nurse in “That Kindness.” Photo: Screenshot/That Kindness

“My prayer is that their testimonies will remind us all of what it means to be good, that their giving will inspire us to give where giving is not counted, calculated or even seen,” she said.

A point hammered in the piece is that nurses are often fierce advocates for their patients in bureaucratic and impersonal hospitals.

At the same time, the play relates to the 2020 election, with V saying she hoped the nurse’s words got viewers to “vote health over profit.” A New York Times review points out that for V, the body is political, “making nurses frontline combatants in a struggle for fair treatment and access to care.”

Rosario Dawson in “That Kindness.” Photo: Screenshot/That Kindness

The virtual play is also presented in conjunction with BAM’s Get Out the Vote effort.

That Kindness premiered simultaneously with theaters across the country on Oct. 15, and was initially only going to remain live for 96 hours. On Wednesday the run time was extended to Nov. 3.

Viewers are encouraged to support those who risk their lives daily to care for patients during the pandemic by donating to The Brooklyn Hospital Center Covid-19 Fund.


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Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a freelance writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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