Unveiling the Heart of Healthcare: ESSPY World Premiere at NJ Rep
Tim Liu and Lipica Shah in Nandita Shenoy’s ESSPY. Photo Courtesy: Andrea Phox Photography

Unveiling the Heart of Healthcare: ESSPY World Premiere at NJ Rep

The New Jersey Repertory Company (NJRep) is set to captivate audiences with the world premiere of “ESSPY,” a compelling comic-drama written by the talented Nandita Shenoy. This thought-provoking play explores the intricate balance between clinical expertise and emotional connections in the medical field, providing a unique lens through which audiences can ponder the teachability of empathy and compassion.

“ESSPY” follows the story of William, a young medical student excelling in academics but struggling when it comes to understanding the nuanced world of human interactions. Despite his prowess in clinical diagnoses, William finds himself perplexed by the intricacies of empathetic engagement. The narrative takes an unexpected turn when he encounters Anu, a young woman involved in the Patient Simulation program. As their sessions unfold over several years, the play delves into a profound exploration of empathy and compassion, ultimately questioning whether these essential human qualities can be taught.

Playwright Nandita Shenoy shares her inspiration for delving into this unique intersection of clinical expertise and emotional connections. As a standardized patient herself, Shenoy has witnessed firsthand the impact of empathy in medical communication. Growing up in a family of medical professionals, she has always pondered what defines a “good doctor.” Her experiences as an actor and standardized patient provided her with valuable insights into how the skills developed in the acting realm could impact medical training.

Unveiling the Heart of Healthcare: ESSPY World Premiere at NJ Rep

ESSPY playwright Shenoy Nandita. Photo Courtesy: Deborah Lopez

One of the unique aspects of “ESSPY” is the evolving relationship between William and Anu over several years. Shenoy acknowledges the fictional nature of this ongoing connection, as real-life medical students rarely encounter the same standardized patient multiple times during their training. However, she intentionally portrays a friendship between the characters to highlight the personal elements they bring to their medical simulations.

Navigating the dual role of writer and actor, Shenoy brings a unique perspective to the creative process. Drawing on her background as an actor, she aims to make her plays enjoyable for fellow performers. In rehearsals, she values input from actors, making adjustments based on their insights. This collaborative approach ensures that the play resonates not only with the audience but also with the individuals bringing the characters to life on stage.

In a world where empathy often feels in short supply, “ESSPY” emerges as a beacon of hope. Shenoy believes the play offers a positive vision of nurturing empathy by valuing it, encouraging audiences to reflect on the intangible aspects of humanity amid a data-driven society.

The play, infused with both humor and drama, strikes a delicate balance between addressing serious themes and providing moments of levity. Shenoy believes that humor opens hearts and allows audiences to absorb seriousness without succumbing to a sense of hopelessness.

As the artistic director of NJRep, SuzAnne Barabas sheds light on the significance of supporting and showcasing new works like “ESSPY.” NJRep’s mission revolves around developing and producing new plays, aligning seamlessly with the goal of bringing fresh voices and narratives to the stage.

Unveiling the Heart of Healthcare: ESSPY World Premiere at NJ Rep

Tim Liu, Ching Valdés-Aran and Lipica Shah in Nandita Shenoy’s ESSPY. Photo courtesy: Andrea Phox Photography

For NJRep, the production of original plays contributes significantly to its artistic identity and the broader theatrical landscape. By championing new voices, NJRep ensures that its audiences are continually treated to innovative and thought-provoking works that challenge conventional perspectives.

“ESSPY” promises to be a compelling addition to NJ Rep’s theatrical landscape, offering audiences an exploration of empathy and compassion through and great way to kick off their newest season.


Published By: Aize Perez

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