Using Theater and Deliberation to Explore End of Life Issues - State University of New York at Broome

Blog Category: 

  • forum participants
  • scene from Bridge Club of Death play
  • SUNY Broome video screen



Students at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Broome joined with community residents to deliberate on three different approaches to the death and dying issue, much as participants in other National Issues Forums (NIF) do. But the evening was special. It opened with a performance of The Bridge Club of Death, a 50-minute play by Rochester, NY, writer Mark Jabaut. It’s a play that uses humor and grief to explore end-of-life decisions.

In this NIF forum, people went to the theater, and then got together to talk. The event was organized by SUNY Broome’s Departments of Psychology and Human Services, Student Activities, and Civic Engagement this past April. You can read a report on the project and see a video (click on the screen below) that describes the development of the project and participant responses to it.


Here are some responses to the theater + forum experience:

  • “Talking is the most important thing—we all need to talk more.”
  • "Generally I take the same stand, but [now] I have things to reevaluate”
  • ". . . No one of the three options is an absolute solution.”
  • “Educate, educate, educate—these forum discussions are fantastic.”

You can read a 20-page report about the April 11, 2016 forum, End of Life: What Should Do for Those Who are Dying? The report was created by Laura Letson and Lisa Strahley.          


                                                    Laura Letson

SUNY Broome's Laura Letson, who teaches a course on death and dying, initiated and coordinated the project: “While the intention of the program was to create a safe, open and neutral environment for students and community members to discuss a much-avoided topic--end-of-life issues, and, in particular, right-to-die legislation--the use of the theatrical performance served as a thought provoking segue to the conversation." She called the project "both successful and memorable.”

Please contact NIFI’s Jean Johnson at if you'd like to get in touch with playwright Mark Jabaut, who specializes in writing short plays that spur deliberation or the SUNY Broome project leader Laura Letson.