My hope for my musical "Hope For All" is a hope only, because I have already placed the musical libretto into the public domain for others to do as they will with it.

Anyway my hope is that it be usually performed by people in the Health Services sector, broadly defined, for an audience of people from the health services sector.

Not just the usual medical and nursing staff either.

Rather all in that very broad field : people like hospital cleaners, kitchen staff and executive office administrators. And retirees from the same. And people who were once in this area of employment but are no more.

Students from all these areas, above all.

All the sort of people who have worked in front line medical settings and been patients and been the anxious family and friends of others who were patients, and finally, if they have not exactly been medical administrators, have at least all been taxpayers, wondering if their health tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Why ?

Partly to help raise the collective consciousness in the overall health sector about the serious ethical issues created whenever medical authorities define a new medical lifesaver as 'scarce' and then go on to define who is or is not 'worthy' to receive it.

But partly in the hope that such performances might raise a little money (and a lot of awareness) towards ongoing efforts to reduce Rheumatic Fever (and the subsequent risk of SBE) among poorer populations around the world.

My hope is to create a health sector equivalent of the situation created by wartime amateur revues put on for front line service personnel, by other front line service personnel.

Musical Dumbells

In my native Canada, the best known example is WWI's Dumbells, but such groups numbered in the dozens in both wars for this relatively small country.

There is a rich and circular complexity throw up whenever an audience sees its world reflected back at them from the stage, performed by actors who have been 'there' with them --- just as the on-stage actors know for sure whenever their material works or not by how this audience of 'experts' receives it.

The Images

The set can basically be any sized or shaped bare stage.

But three (large-as-possible) flatscreen video screens along the back wall are essential.

All through the musical's scenes, they will silently fade in and out various still images of events surrounding the saga of wartime penicillin.

Scenes from the war frontlines, home front activities etc.

These will act as a visual counterpoint, sometimes sympathetic and sometimes ironic, to the actions going on on the stage itself.

The intent is to hint at as many contributing events as possible (given that penicillin happened literally over a whole world and over six long years of war) even if in an brief and oblique form, in the mere two or so hours of stage time allotted to an average musical.

Importantly, the screens will also subtly indicate (via things like a newspaper headline) the basic date of each new scene. Basic as in 'October 1940' , rather than '8am, October 16th 1940'. Each scene (made up of a few vignettes) will cover the actual historic events that occurred within this  30 day period - time passages indicated by things like moving to a separate room and to a different mood.

The Sounds

A large 1940s  style radio, sitting on top of a small table, seemingly glowing from the tubes inside (but in reality mute), dominates the back centre.

Soon seemingly coming from it, the sound material will be fed, through a mixer, to all three speakers but usually only one of three hidden speakers (one in each room) will have its fader up.

So from this lone speaker will come a constant mixture of instrumental music, singing, news - as if all sorts of fragments of  various wartime radio shows are drifting up and down in volume.

Crucially the sound --- during the majority of the scene time, when the actors are not singing- will be 'bandpass filtered' to give the classic cinematic radio/telephone sound - think a very thin mid range sound, deprived of both rich bass and bright treble.

In addition the sound will come from a room and speaker that is as far as possible from the currently lit room where the stage action is happening - literally "sounds off".

But as the scene moves to its singing climax, the sound will now come from all three speakers and the bandpass filter effect will be gradually removed in time with the drama of the sung lyrics - becoming richer and louder in the process, to match the rising volume and intensity of the singing actors.

The Lights

Similarly, the rear of the stage will be lit in the 'on-singing' period with low wattage lights at blue end of the spectrum.

The light will be visually acute enough, but dim, so the miming actors there will have to use bold gestures to be visible to the audience.

In the stage front, the actors (while not singing) will be lit by moderate  wattage lights at the red (diffused) spectrum end of the spectrum, but being closer to the audience will still be visible.

As the actors move gradually from talking to speak-singing to full throated singing, the rear will become barely lit by low watt lights at the red diffused end of the light spectrum, while the front actors are now harshly lit under bright and intensely acute light from the blue end of the spectrum.

The voices and songs heard on the radio will be an audio counterpoint to the action on stage - and again they will be voiced or sung by the actors themselves, in character, and recognizable as such.

As a possible example, pioneering penicillin patient Aaron Alston has just died, and as Dawson silently writes up his death certificate, Aaron's voice comes on the radio, as if from beyond the grave, singing a pop blues that also subtly comments on the social forces that led indirectly to his too-early death.

The radio sounds  and the screen images represent external forces that the musical's characters unconsciously react against --- as the actors representing them mime mute, engage in dialogue, declaim, sing or dance.

Important to repeat that the actors are totally unaware of  this radio's  output of singing/talk/music/sfx --- or of the images fading gently in and out above them.

They are unaware of the radio at their worksite  because in fact, a radio on low was always on, during the war years, at most places of work filled with people intensely worried about relatives in war zones overseas, whether as servicemen or as citizens there - and that worried group grew to include most Americans.

Begin the Show !

The musical begins when the entire cast and crew, made up exclusively of heath workers (broadly defined) dressed in street clothes (pants, socks, shoes in mat black together with a short sleeved shirt/blouse in pale color), silent and expressionless, marching up the centre aisle from the back and onto the barely lit stage.

The cast silently and openly pull on hospital tops over their street clothing that are light and vividly colour coded.

This is to instantly indicate to the audience what role their wearer is about to evoke.

 (A) a patient in bright yellow top (yellow johnny shirt if actually hospitalized and not just a day patient), (B) family/friend of patient in bright green outwear, (C) frontline staffer in an ultra bright white lab coat or (D), hospital administrator/visiting bureaucratic VIP/ taxpayer in a bright (over the top) boldly striped blue and white seersucker jacket (yes, they were all men !).

In the dim light, with their mat black pants and shoes almost invisible, the actors will reduced to living symbols of one of four social roles they are now playing, at least until they open their mouths and assume a more individualized role.

About half the cast speak rarely and briefly and so are able to play the roles of many different individuals as as well as any of these four different social roles.

The key characters, like that of the main protagonist Dr Henry Dawson, are played by one actor throughout.

But in real life, as in the musical, Dawson assumed all four social roles from time to time --- just as will all these medical workers in their own lives.

For while History records Dawson as a frontline medical worker, he was also an administrator, running a big arthritis day clinic and chairing a major military medical advisory committee.

He earned a good enough income to be a taxpayer worrying about how society pays  for treating those unable to fully pay their medical bills.

And, as someone constantly suffering life-threatening respiratory 'crisis' from his severe (ultimately terminal) case of Myasthenia Gravis, he actually was often a priority patient in his own hospital.

At other times, as when his pregnant wife and newborn baby came in for a checkup and was proudly shown around his worksite, he acted as a family member of a patient.

So for each of these different social roles, the same actor always playing Dawson puts on a different top.

L.O.W. : Lab - Office -Ward : our whole world changes for the better, for ever, in just these three small rooms

Props will have to do, to indicate one of the three rooms the new vignette of each scene is set in : Erlenmeyer flasks on a narrow table says lab, a patient on a bed (in fact a similar narrow table) says ward, a faux X-Ray machine says arthritis clinic, chairs around the same narrow table says office-seminar room.

(The entire five year period of the play is entirely played out in one of these three rooms.)

They were, in reality, all indeed located inside the massive Columbia-Presbytery Medical Centre ---- but were nowhere as close as they appear on my stage - where the actors move from one into another in a second.

On the left, Drs Meyer's and Hobby's Lab: indicated by a kitty-cornered small Lab Bench with various lab equipment and two stools. A free standing white projection surface - perhaps made of wood and white masonite - stands between the bench and the back stage wall.

A typical 1940s 4x5 slide projector (really a modern small video projector) is on the lab bench.

In the middle : Dawson's Office - a multi-purpose place in the musical --- as in real life. Again a white projection surface and projector is essential.

A quiet place he could work on his published papers and answer correspondence.

 A  private place to meet ambulatory patients and family members, to discuss test results and physical assessments.

 A lively seminar room for his senior students from the clinic etc.

 A tense place whenever he had to meet his bosses, as they attempt to march this wayward (but dying) tenured professor to their's and Washington's beat.

A place to quietly meet his wife and child.

Finally, on the right is a semi-private Ward. A small bed, kitty cornered to audience, and two chairs. Again a white projection surface and a projector on a small corner table.

 The effect of the small but very white project surface, so close to the lab bench,office table or ward bed, is to reduce the speaking part of stage action down to a close-up mode, in the terminology of film and TV. Because only this very small part of the overall stage is brightly lit. (Overlit in fact !)

The back of this room is dimly lit and the actors there mime their activities. The other two rooms are in black, but above them their TV screens are active, as are their radio speakers. It is the lit (active) room that had a dark TV screen and a silent radio speaker.

So in a sense, the silent TV slide images, as well as the radio voices,sfx and music, are 'noises off'.

Moving from room to room

The actors quietly put a room's light on, at a light switch one of two central free standing posts that are the only markers dividing the stage into three rooms, to begin the scene - and start up the radio/ music and TV images in the other (currently dark) rooms.

The electrical wires from each post to the actual lighting are openly taped down to the stage floor.

At the back in each scene and barely lit, some actors mime realistically being lab techs, nurses, students, patients and their family --- with the help of a few appropriate props.

In the front, stronger lit, the key actors declaim and sing (project !) in a vaguely theatrical cum realistic manner.

No 'good' singing or acting voices please - I want them to come across as real doctors and patients, so barely holding a tune and singing weakly into their body mikes is exactly as what this play doctor ordered.

I don't want dying patients singing with the volume and physical intensity of some musical athlete -- this isn't Grand Opera - make the 'real' actors and the 'real' singers paint up display cards or take photographs instead.

Sort of kidding - they will have real musical and acting roles but only by singing backgrounds  to the radio songs from the 'radio' and by voguing up  the photographic stills on the screens above the stage.

Furia's 'Silent Song'

We won't always have someone like Dawson singing out his deepest thoughts - a scene might conclude with him working at his desk composing the angry letter to the Washington Beltway bureaucrats he promised the others he'd write.

The words and tone of the song  we hear on the radio says what he is really thinking.

Or it might be the angry words exchanged in a realistic playlet heard on that same radio.

Now key actors will frequently and briskly move from room to room to room and back within each scene and when they do, they will openly shut of one room's main lighting on one side of the central columns and turn the new room's lights at the switch on the other side of the column.

The other actors are left miming in dim room until even that light goes slowly down and they can silently and invisibly leave that room to re-appear in the next room if needed.

Each scene itself will be marked off by an emotional climax and a slow fade to total stage black for a moment or two before fading up to a jump in time of usually at least a month or two.

To hue to current tradition, the musical will be in two acts, with intermission in between, both acts a little over than a hour long.

The songs will move from talking into declaiming into singing, interrupted  with speaking asides --- and will be traded around the key actors.

The melodies and formal structures of the each songs' verse, chorus, bridge etc will be the same on each go round but the words will not.

So while each chorus rendition will share words and concepts from earlier rounds, it will also advance the tale or offer a differing point of view - musically they will be still be fully song like, but intellectually they will seem more prose like as the song proceeds.

Dawson's mostly absent opponents

Because the musical matches closely the historical record, the high level opponents of Dawson's efforts will rarely appear in person in the hospital in this musical. In real life the indicated their opposition to him by phoning, telegraphing and sending letters, or when they put out public statements or made crucial decisions affecting the whole penicillin effort. Just as often they used his hospital bosses to try to restrain him.

Dawson's real life bosses were actually members of his main opponent's all-powerful CMR committee or were senior consultants to it, so they indeed did act as the 'horse' mouth' for his top opponent and his cohorts.

These top level opponents, in places like London & Oxford UK, Washington DC, Rahway NJ and in Boston, must be evoked through the photograph stills and their voice over a speaker phone for from someone in Dawson's team angrily matching their tone, by reading a letter or telegram from them aloud.

But again reflecting the historical facts, Dawson got plenty of mostly silent but visible disapproval and dismissal from his fellow colleagues , which spread among the support staff and the medical & nursing students.

This silent disapproval will be mimed in the play.

The Final Scene

The final scene is a few weeks after Dawson's death in his hospital (which is not staged).

It comes about because Dawson's close colleague Dr Thomas Hunter, as part of his effort to carry on Dawson's working with curing SBE with penicillin, has Dawson's (and history's) first penicillin-the-antibiotic patient, Charlie Aronson, conveyed from his now permanent home at the Goldwater Hospital for Chronic Care to Dawson's old office/lab/ward.

Supposedly, Aronson is there for blood tests (to confirm to doubters among Hunter's colleagues) that Charlie is still blood bacteria free almost five years since he first received penicillin from Dawson.

After blood is drawn to be tested, Hunter leaves Charlie alone in his wheelchair  for a half hour - with something to read - while the central lab confirms that the blood drawn is a suitable sample.

In reality, Hunter wants to gently tell Charlie in person that his savior has died and also to give young Dr Hunter a chance to actually see this historical patient, who was first in Columbia Presbyterian before Hunter himself arrived as a young resident in early 1941.

Dawson treated and cured Charlie of a second separate bout of SBE in April 1944 but as usually happens with SBE, a clot of material from his damaged heart valve's vegetations (biofilm mass) broke free and caused a massive stroke in one side of Charlie' brain.

He should have died but Charlie had already survived a lifetime of serious medical incidents that should have killed him, so he survived this one too - albeit with permanent paralysis on one side, affecting limb movement and speech etc.

Very slowly and  very painfully and awkwardly, Charlie makes his way from the office into Dawson's now unused lab, a place that Charlie has never seen but heard much about.

He peers about reflectively and sadly, as above him on the screen we see silent stills of the now departed Dr Dawson in action, from earlier scenes in the musical.

 'just doin' the dance they call life'

Charlie starts singing the song "Just Doin' The Dance They Call Life" in his broken and physically-impeded voice, while trying awkwardly to swirl around his wheel chair while also trying to wave his one good arm about - all in an weak but sincere imitation of the song's performance style as part of a soft shoe act.

A soft shoe act made up of a half dozen still wounded Returned Men, still visibly bandaged up, doing something between true soft shoe and an re-enactment of the famous and very poignant WWI images of  lines of gas-blinded men holding onto each other's shoulder as they move backwards from the trenches to the First Aid treatment post.

This song, the musical's theme song, is crucial to the whole musical.

This is awkward, because I am not sure the song actually exists, at least as I remember it.

It's sheet music cover image certainly exists, just as I described it above, seen in a library somewhere , seen in one of many such books collecting and displaying such bygone popular commercial art for the insights they bring to the mental atmosphere of earlier ages.

Below, the book either displayed the key phrase from the actual song chorus or explained its hook in the book author's own words.

The gist was this : "We're (I'm) not stumbling or falling or frightening your wive, We're (I'm) Just Doin' the Dance They Call Life."

And in an instant, I got it, I got it all.

Like Arthur Murray himself, like many - maybe even most - people, I was a wallflower when in High School  --  loved music but felt too awkward to feel like dancing, even though I badly wanted to.

My parents were of the Forties generation when knowing how to dance well was still key to finding the perfect mate in life, as it wasn't in my own Sixties and Seventies generation.

So my dad had an Arthur Murray book with the footprint diagrams explaining all the dances one needed to learn.

I was even put onto it, but with no success - I only learned to dance (freeform) by accident, while taking mentally challenged patients out on the floor at a mental hospital as part of my job.

But as an adult interested in all history, I fully knew about the dance craze began by Irene Castle pre WWI and turning into a full flood in the 1920s Jazz Era.

wounded Returned Men, Crips - and forbidden 'Murmurs of the Heart'

This sudden need to dance fast and fluid to find a soul mate clashed awkwardly with all the thousands of young Returned Men whose barely healed wounds would make them forever physically awkward.

As well civilians of all sorts with existing physical handicaps never experienced them poignantly more than while watching all the fast dancing from the sidelines.

One of the saddest things about the huge number of people who had Rheumatic Fever in the years before the 1960s and who were left with any type of heart murmur no matter how minor, was how the best medical advice they were given clashed so intensely with this mania for using of vigorous dancing to win mates.

Murmurs in recovered RF patient meant some level of permanent heart damage and each return bout with RF ( as often happened) made it only worse.

Similarly, any strain on a heart could weaken it further - so lots of bed rest and a strong hint to parents to restrict sports and vigorous dancing.

Sex could be stressful and pregnancy was definitely so.

Part of the physical response the body makes to RF and SBE is to produce grains of calcium within the heart tissues themselves, leading - literally - to 'stone heart'.

Discouraging dancing, date, marriage and babies was metaphorically, a double dose of RF-SBE 'stone heart'.

Dawson and Marjorie and the other physically handicapped members of his team and supporters were never RF-SBE patients themselves, but they could share in those patients' memories of being unable to join in the dance era's most distinctive activity.

Like Bill Clinton, they could 'feel your pain'.

The point of the song that the team and the patients all shared was that it wasn't really about dancing - it was saying, 'we may be permanently injured physically and mentally, but we're still fully people, just trying to make our way through life as best as can'.


Often this physical free movement awkwardness from injury etc is put under the umbrella term of arthritis.

Dawson's day job was running a hospital day clinic devoted to treating and researching this then badly neglected disease.

Dawson and his wive Marjorie, together with all the key characters in his team, in the musical anyway, had all been patients or subjects at the clinic
at one time or another : Dr Hunter, Floyd Odlum, Dr Dante Colitti, Charlie and fellow SBE pioneer Miss H.H.

Dawson had an arthritic big toe  from a serious war wound, spent years in hospital or convalescing and after the war he never again played any sport with grace, as he had before the war.

Marjorie had a bad hip from birth and despite many childhood stays in the hospital it only got worse, making work awkward, requiring a special dispensation to drive , and the use of a cane at times.

These arthritic conditions is how the two first met - being fellow wallflowers together at a 1920s student dance at McGill University.

They were - in a minor way - 'crips', as people in the era of modernity was so quick to label anyone at all 'outside the norm', as they put it.

So too the others - but in a more serious way.

Colitti also spent his early life in hospital fighting TB that fused his spine - he was a hunchback but still became a very successful doctor, but only after fighting racial and religious prejudice all the way.

His arthritic spine was checked at Dawson's world class arthritis clinic only a mile or so from Colitti's home in the bronx.

Dr Hunter had to use crutches, braces (and a wheelchair at times) after surviving childhood polio that put him too in hospital for years - despite this, he was a cox for two prize winning varsity rowing teams, at Harvard and at Cambridge !

Floyd Odlum was healthy and America's most successful financier until
his patriotic worrying about American readiness during WWII gave him a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis so bad he was only after comfortable in a heated swimming pool - he too knew of crutches and wheelchairs.

We have already spoken of Charlie - HH also would be in a wheelchair and attached to a IV tower while under penicillin drip treatment - but in addition, she had to have an eye removed as a result of her SBE and so was permanently partially blind -  yet another of Dawson's team of 'crips'.

Survivors all - nay - successful survivors all

All are visibly damaged, visibly unworthy of attention, outside the norm, in modernity's terms.

But all are visibly successful, despite that - survivors.

They physically represent, on stage, the abstract concept that Dawson (and the musical) are trying to espouse : 'all life is worthy of life and all can contribute in their own way to the common good, if but given a

This might seem a trite postmodern inclusion-oriented critique of exclusion-oriented modernity of seventy five years ago and it would be , if first said and practised today.

But it wasn't: Dawson first preached and practised it seventy five years ago, in the teeth of fierce intellectual opposition, at the very apogee of modernity.

So, back to Charlie singing awkwardly alone in the lab as the music and audio and lights slowly ebb down to end the play.

Normally, the actors sing without seeming to be be aware they have moved from talking to heightened speech into song - but not so with "Just Doin' the Dance They Call Life".

They sing it as a song, bits of it anyway, sometimes tongue in cheek, constantly, as their self conscious theme song for the project and themselves in it : successful 'worthy' crips helping to save 'unworthy' crips from eugenically-minded Allied governments that only wanted the SBEs to die silently and patriotically, off stage.

So, no upbeat ending with the entire cast rousingly singing the theme at full guns as the curtain comes down.

Instead, out of the total darkness on stage, the health science students, cast and crew, all leave the stage down the centre aisle as silently and as expressionless as they came in - as if literally ghosts of the long gone dead ....

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