Life and Art Collide as Actress Playing Nurse in Bway's Cat Responds to Ailing Theatregoer

News   Life and Art Collide as Actress Playing Nurse in Bway's Cat Responds to Ailing Theatregoer Instead of "Is there a doctor in the house?," house management at Broadway's Music Box the night of Nov. 5 asked, "Is there a nurse backstage?"
Actress Jo Twiss, nurse on and offstage on Nov. 5.
Actress Jo Twiss, nurse on and offstage on Nov. 5.

Following the collapse of a theatregoer during the first intermission of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Wednesday night, a house manager called security and EMS, and sent a message backstage. This was a surprise cue for actress Jo Twiss, who has been a registered nurse for 29 years and happened to be playing (in a bizarre coincidence) the role of the Nursemaid in the Tennessee Williams classic. From a side door, Twiss appeared in the house in full costume (a period all-white uniform with traditional nurse's cap, designed by Tony Award nominee Jane Greenwood) and attended to the collapsed woman until a doctor in the house weighed in.

Firefighters of Battalion 9, who handle the theatre district, were first on the scene as EMS was delayed due to another fainting incident at another theatre. The woman, who had fainted twice in the orchestra midsection, row K, was given oxygen and assisted out of the theatre, with her companion.

The show was delayed by 10 or 15 minutes. The curtain came down about 11:15 PM. Few seemed to question the sudden appearance of a woman in white at intermission, and it was unclear if the connection was made that the Florence Nightingale of the aisle was the same nurse who took a bow alongside Ned Beatty, Ashley Judd and Jason Patric at curtain call.

Twiss also understudies Big Mama in the show.This is her Broadway debut. The actress is no stranger to Tennessee Williams: She's appeared in The Rose Tattoo, The Glass Menagerie and The Seven Descents of Myrtle. She has been a company member of the New York troupe Circle East for 18 years.