‘Take Care, Take Care’

January 6, 2022

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Forty years ago, 1199’s Bread and Roses Program revived its wildly successful musical revue. Whereas the original production in 1980 was titled “Take Care,” the 1982 version was named “Take Care, Take Care.”

Although artists Ossie Davis, Micki Grant, Lewis Cole, Alan Menken, Barbara Garson and Michael Posnick were given credit for the lyrics and sketches, the indispensable creators of "Take Care, Take Care" were a group of 17 hospital workers, including housekeepers, social workers, technicians, nurses, maintenance and dietary workers who participated in a series of oral history workshops. They talked about their frustrations, aspirations and the daily hassles of modern healthcare work. The result was a rich oral history that formed the lyrics and dialogue of the songs and skits.

"There's not a word in it that didn't come out of the mouths of the workers themselves," said B&R director Moe Foner. ''They captured everything that goes on in hospital jobs, good and bad,'' a nurse's aide said at a New York lunchtime performance. She cited an actress’ line, in her role as a nurse's aide from Barbados: ''They used to call us maids. But we got them to drop the 'M.' '' In the tune ''Hello, Florence Nightingale!'' a union nurse sang that “Nurses, finding allies in the laundry and the cafeteria,'' quit being ''dainty saints'' and joined the picket line - where, ''Florence, you would have marched with us.''

The musical’s appeal extended beyond the hospital audience. Working-class audiences from other industries also applauded and cheered enthusiastically. The Union worked hard to book the musical into hospitals it was attempting to organize. When unorganized workers saw that the material so accurately reflected their experiences, they generally tended to vote yes.