In a natural setting, where people are interacting, it is possible to observe drama being played out. The stage is not usually set by a keen observer who can see the performance taking place. What is important is the interpretation that an onlooker attaches to the actions that take place in a social setting. This can be viewed well when approached from a dramatistic and interpretive perspective. The dramaturgical approach required can assist to infer the actions as they take place on stage. This paper offers an interpretative analysis of a situation I observed in a hospital waiting room to explore how drama is evidenced in the otherwise undramatic event.
Key words: drama, audience, setting, performance, action
Setting: A hospital room
- Patient 1
- Patient 2
A parent with a sick child
The Main Stage: The action took place in a hospital room where a doctor and a nurse were about to examine patients before they receive treatment. When I entered the room, I saw a group of people sitting on benches waiting to see the doctor. Most of them looked anxious and disturbed. The patient in front was almost collapsing while the next in line was a woman with a sick child crying at the top of her voice. The nurse was busy arranging the equipment required by the doctor to do the examination on the patient while the doctor was flipping through a book of records. It is important to mention that the timeframe for the whole action was one hour. I am going to make an interpretive analysis of the first two patients; the one in front and the parent with a sick child.
The Second Stage: This was the chemist dispensing unit in the hospital. After the doctors examination, the patients were sent to the dispensing unit to collect their prescribed medicines, where I followed them. They were all tired and worried of something even though Patient 1 had now calmed down while the child was still crying. The woman carrying the child looked like she wanted to jump the queue, having found other patients already waiting to get their medicines. From the argument caused by the woman with the sick child, I discovered that she expected other patients to sympathize with her and let her take the medicine first. Patient 1 also seemed to be in a hurry although the rest of the people in the queue had also left their homes early to obtain their medicines, having missed out the previous day. The observation lasted for 20 minutes and, after that, these patients waited for their turn to receive medications.
The Front Space: Patient 1 was the first in the queue waiting to see the doctor. When the physician took a little more time, delaying the patients attendance, he became furious and started to demand to be served immediately. He seemed totally in a hurry, not willing to wait for any longer and kept on glancing and shouting in all directions. When the second person with a sick child joined him, he became restless and especially annoyed with the childs crying. The doctor asked the nurse to bring thermometer to measure body temperature and asked Patient 1 to wait a bit longer.
The woman with the sick child seemed particularly disturbed with the cries of her baby as well as the stares of the Patient 1. The doctor assured that each of them was going to be attended to appropriately, but they needed to be a little more patient because an important instrument had not been brought by the nurse. The nurse had been sent to take the instrument from where it was kept. You all need to give us time to prepare to serve you. Were as anxious as you to give the services that you require, the doctor told them in a soft voice.
The Back Space: When the patients had been attended to, they were sent to chemist dispensing unit located on the other side of the hospital. They walked briskly looking at each other in a way suggesting that they wanted to say something. The unease was broken when Patient 1 almost ran into an oncoming person because she was staring at the woman with the child. The woman interjected this mishap by holding the hand of Patient 1, urging her to look in the direction she was going not to cause accident. After profusely apologizing to the person she almost collided with, Patient 1 stroke up a conversation with the woman with the child, albeit in an unfriendly manner, warning her to mind her own business.
She looked very serious, being determined to reach the dispensing unit before the woman with the sick child. This made me believe that she really had an urgent issue to attend to, maybe more important than being courteous to the woman with her sick child. After this encounter, I concluded that Patient 1 was not only hostile to physicians at the hospital, but also to fellow patients, some of whom needed more urgent attention than her.
I would like to begin by analyzing the context of examining patients in a hospital room and the potential results, which may come from this exercise. Since I am a witness of this event, I really believe that my analysis will contribute to solving social predicaments facing patients in hospitals. Patient examination could be viewed in the perspective of drama and may often be considered as self-fulfilling. To illustrate this point, it is common for patients to show drama in a waiting room. It occurs due to their desperation for treatment. The intention is normally to attract sympathy of the doctors, nurses, and fellow patients to get first priority. This was exactly how Patient 1 acted during the event that I witnessed.
On the contrary, the doctor and the nurse have witnessed such cases before and may seem unperturbed with the theatrics of the particular patient. Other patients waiting to be served may also disapprove the actions of the self-seeking patient and become restless to act just like the said patient. It is important to note that although Patient 1 was the first one in line, and all indications were that she would be served first, her examination was not in an urgent need for the doctor. Her situation did not meet the emergency needs threshold. Thus, the physicians and the patients in the waiting room could clearly see that Patient 1 was feigning emergency in a dramatic manner to attract attention of the rest of the people in the room.
Brighenti (2007) has argued that dramaturgical approach should be characterized by conceptual systems to allow dialectical development in various social forms. To this end, dramaturgical analysis consists in the scrutiny of the situation that defines the performance or acting of the persons involved in the event. Notably, the individual or group activities are always directed at a definite course. As for the case I witnessed, the performance was directed at the physicians and the patients in the waiting room as the audience of the theatrics of Patient 1. Hecht and Choi (2012) noted that performance by the main actor was inclined towards forcing the audience to submit to the wishes of the actors. However, representation of performance that is reflected through the communication cues highlights the most effective way of expressing ones wishes without attracting the attention of the rest of the people in the room.
Naturally, people who think that they should be given first priority in a social context normally tend to act with the view of attracting the attention of the audience (Jackson, 2010). This is done irrespective of impact that their actions are going to have on the audience. To this end, they resort to acts, drama, and theatrics to force the audience to pay attention to them. The outcome is that each actor faces a contradictory situation because they want to represent the reality of the matter without paying regard to the reality of the environment in which they are acting.
The act of performing is well investigated in social studies by such researchers as Kivisto and Pittman (2007), who try to explore the dramaturgical culture in human behavior. Analyzed through theatrical metaphor, it is easy to see that normal setting of a stage for actions and performance automatically takes toll of the audience. The findings of studies exploring human behavior in a theatrical setting reveal that the audience must make sense of the events taking place in their surroundings in order to react appropriately.
Thus, audience interpretation of a situation will go a long way in defining how they view that particular situation. Acting can be viewed in terms of sequential activities like collection of the instruments required to examine the patient and eventual provision of the service by the doctor. These actions follow a certain framework that defines the culture and setting of the environment in which the actions are taking place (Koenig, 2005). In the case presented in the hospital waiting room, the framework consisted of the hospital protocol that patients must form a queue while waiting for service. In addition, while waiting, they must be patient and respectful towards the people serving them as well as fellow patients in the queue.
To continue with the dramaturgical performance, it is important that the audience have an idea how the situation is going to unfold. Snarrenberg (2005) observes in his work that the scenery and setting of performance must be maintained in the minds of the audience. In the backstage, where a real performance can be seen, Patient 1 reaches the chemist dispensing unit and calms down. I use the stage-setting approach as provided by Creswell (2012) to provide the interpretive analysis of the performance. Snarrenberg also introduces the concept of a team in place of social group to present the cultural context in which the performance takes place. Teams normally work in consensus; otherwise, there will be no team. The task is to observe the acts of performance to ensure that the audience reacts in accordance with the wishes of the main actor. Smith, Moriarty and Barbatsiss (2004) approach to dramaturgical analysis is vested in the ability of the audience to form teams and react to events in accordance with the ongoing performance.
Doctor as the Stage in Patient Treatment Process
In line with the situation presented herein, Hare and Blumbergs (1998) metaphor can be used to describe the formation of performance inside a hospital waiting room. First, the patients moved between pre-ambulatory and post-ambulatory stages during the entire process. In the process, they changed their identities on stage, being forced to act differently to suit the environment that they found themselves in. A hospital setting is not a pleasant or welcoming environment, and those who come there are likely to lose their rational being in an attempt to seek sympathy from the people in the audience. Subsequently, one may not argue that such an environment does not have an impact on the eventual performance in which actors engage (Young, 2010).
As expected, a hospital environment presents a setting where actors have to interact and socialize with people who can be said to be abnormal. Patients who come to hospitals are in a hurry to get the attention of the doctor, and any delay means that they are going to display unbalanced behavior. At this point, it is notable that patients come to hospitals only to be served, not involving in the problems of other patients. When they are served, they get the treatment that they need and leave the room for the rest of the patients waiting in line. Any activity that disrupts the sequence of events can result into irrational acting of one or two patients, chagrining fellow patients in the room.
This situation was represented by the woman with a sick child who was painfully trying to cope with the sufferings of her child when she noticed the impatience of Patient 1. Patience, respect, and understanding are characteristics important for successful and efficient actions of the doctor. The protocols and procedures to follow are normally provided at the entrance to the room. Thus, most people, who have been in the waiting room, know that patients are called in according to the order in which they have arrived. However, in very rare cases, a patient may be given priority owing to the emergency nature of their case. By observing Patient 1, it is evident that she was not in a situation warranting special attention, and she ought to have given priority to the child who seemed to be in pain (Proehl, 2008).
Rehearsing for Performance
Most performances are preceded by a rehearsal of the actual actions. In this process, the actors select the words and actions that are acceptable to the community. However, in the case noted, there was no rehearsal, which gave preeminence to the role of social and cultural formations in the performance. Performing in a natural setting allows the actors to target a specific group as the audience by acting spontaneously and in response to the prevailing conditions. For a hospital setting, patients who act out the existing conditions are able to ensure that they get what they want in the form of being given priority over others (Koenig, 2005).
A consideration of the contextual characteristics is important if the patient is going to come again. Such was the case when the patients went to the dispensing unit and found other patients already waiting in the queue. The possibility of them being given first priority is limited by the fact that those already in the queue have prior experiences in the waiting room. The official behavior of the patients at this level is set due to the hospitals policies and procedures that control the disposal of medicines to patients at the unit. A closer analysis of the situation can reveal a special dramaturgical foundation concealed in exchange of words between patients and the doctor on the front stage. The patients are left with only one option when they go to the dispensing unit; that is to abide by existing policies, which they must follow to the latter (Scolnicov & Holland, 1999).
It is obvious from the analysis that people are always acting in most of the situations. They are always aware of the influence that they exert on the people in the audience. Thus, through performance, they can manipulate the situation to satisfy their needs. People are also able to behave irrationally on occasions if such behavior is going to serve their interests ahead of others. In this case, patients must understand the circumstances in which they find themselves, such as a hospital waiting room, in order to conform to the script that is being played by the rest of the people.