Emory Psychiatry partners with Alliance Theatre

By Robin Reese | Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Sept. 7, 2015

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Cast of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

Photo credit: Greg Mooney

The Emory Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences is partnering with the Alliance Theatre’s production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest". The play is based on the novel by Ken Kesey and runs September 2-20.

Faculty members will host free post-show discussions for ticket holders after most performances. The "Creative Conversations" will focus on a variety of topics covered in the play and address how care and treatment have changed since the 1960s when the story was written.

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest", made famous by the film starring Jack Nicholson, tells the story of Randle McMurphy, who opts to serve his time in a psychiatric hospital rather than prison. Emory faculty consulted with the director and actors to help refine portrayals of psychiatric illness. 

"We enjoyed being able to share our expertise and provide guidance about various disorders, symptoms and medications," says Mark H. Rapaport, MD, Reunette W. Harris professor and chair of Emory’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

In the story, McMurphy is forced to undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a procedure in which electric currents are passed through the brain. Often referred to as shock therapy, the portrayal in the film version led to a tarnished view of the treatment. However modern use of ECT is highly effective for people with persistent mood disorders or manias, particularly those who do not respond to traditional medications. 

"The safety and effectiveness of ECT has improved greatly over the last 30 years and is now considered quite safe," says Rapaport. "Our hope with the post-show discussions is to provide accurate information that helps the audience better understand psychiatric illness and reduce the distrust and stigma associated with treatment."