A herculean performance
UF College of Medicine students present Disney’s “Hercules” for pediatric patients and families at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.
Hermes sits near the nurses’ station at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital Feb. 13, tying the laces on his rollerblades adorned with gold wings. Pain and Panic sport neon-colored wigs, horns and onesies and wave at a child passing by.
“These characters are the comic relief, which is what we were born to be,” says Panic — also known as Erika Wert — of she and fellow first-year medical student Emily Welch. “We want to make kids happy.”
When the play begins, the students recreate Mount Olympus in their rendition of “Hercules,” a tale about strength of heart — a fitting story for an audience of about 20 patients and families.
From moments of sorrow to moments of laughter — when Pain and Panic enter the stage, one child in the front row turns to another and says, “This is funny, right?” — the 90-minute performance allowed the students to flex their acting muscles.
These actors were part of the UF College of Medicine’s White Coat Company, an organization that hosts an annual production for patients and the community. About 100 students were involved with this year’s production in some regard, from performing and playing music to coordinating props and handling the lights between scenes.
Aside from the production at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, the students performed two shows for friends and family on the UF campus and took their act on the road to Sidney Lanier Center, a public school for students with disabilities, and Tacachale, a residential community for people with developmental disabilities.
Since its creation in 2005, the White Coat Company has performed plays such as “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Lion King.” Aside from providing a creative outlet for students, it also gives them an opportunity to interact with the community on a different level.
“It’s important to take yourself away from the desk,” says Daniel Buchen, a first-year medical student who dedicated about 50 hours to perfecting his role as Hercules while balancing classwork, such as two exams the day before the performance at the children’s hospital. “You can lose sight of the forest through the trees. The White Coat Company is a great reminder of who we’re working so hard for.”