A big Brechtian theatre piece that dramatizes the trajectory of Florence Nightingale from her highborn English childhood to international fame and power. Florence was a passionate, charismatic and often ruthless force who used her connections with powerful men to change the practice of medicine. She infuriated her very rich family by refusing many suitors, and finally rejected the man she loved to pursue her destiny. During the Crimean War, the vast, disease-infested military hospitals became a public scandal. When Florence, at 36, was chosen to lead a group of nurses to manage the hospitals, she accepted only nurses with experience (often retired prostitutes), and infuriated the aristocratic ladies of her own class who wanted to share her glory. She accomplished a miracle in the Crimea, but realized too late that she would have to pay a tragic personal price.

The production uses sound, smoke, music, and stylized effects in fast-paced sequences that show the sweep of Nightingale’s experience from her country estate to battle scenes in the Crimea. There are confrontations with doctors, generals, nuns and reporters, as well as battlefield amputations and her tender comfort of dying soldiers.

The play requires a minimum of 16 actors. Nightingale was supported by a Guggenheim Playwriting Grant. It was awarded a CBS/Kennedy Center New American Plays grant, and was runner-up for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. It was first produced at Capital Rep in Albany, directed by Jules Aaron. The New York production at the Vineyard Theatre was directed by John Rubinstein with underwriting support from legendary producer Roger Stevens.

“It is this very human – and very heroic – Florence Nightingale who is the subject of Elizabeth Diggs’s bold new play, ‘Nightingale.’ By defeating the storybook image, Ms. Diggs sheds a clear intense light on a true pioneer for women’s rights and medical reform.” — The New York Times October 15, 1988

“One of the many strengths of Ms. Diggs’s script is that it is never overtly feminist...Florence was clearly an independent-minded and enormously capable woman, but rather than being doctrinaire about it, Ms. Diggs lets Florence’s actions speak for themselves.” — The Wall Street Journal November 1, 1988.

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