HartBeat Ensemble will team up with the Universal Health Care Foundation this month to present a series of six outdoor plays highlighting the plight of the uninsured and the underinsured.

The plays are based on a series of interviews HartBeat Ensemble did with about 30 to 40 Connecticut residents dealing with a badly broken health care system.

“It’s important that we give voice to this issue in a way that speaks to the concerns of our communities,” Juan Figueroa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said last week. “These plays give people a chance to come together to talk, to laugh and to know that as a community they can be part of a larger movement for change.”

As the theater group was conducting its interviews with residents struggling to find their way through the health care system one of the things that surprised HartBeat Ensemble co-founder Julia Rosenblatt the most was the stories she heard from the underinsured.

“We’re hearing story upon story about people that have insurance and are not getting the health care they need because they’ve maxed out their benefits,” Rosenblatt said. She said there were also a number of people who found flying home to places like South America for health care services, was cheaper than getting it here.

While on its face health care is a serious subject matter, “it can lend itself to some pretty funny stuff,” Rosenblatt said. For example, they heard the story about someone who continued to ignore a lump they had because they knew it was not going to be covered by their insurance, so during the performance the lump grows a head and starts talking.

She said the health care stories HartBeat Ensemble heard were translated into several theatrical styles including musicals, sci-fi, horror, documentary and melodrama.

“Outdoor theater must be provocative, relevant and broadly entertaining or else people will just wander away,” Rosenblatt said

“We believe great humor comes with great truth,” HartBeat’s Steve Ginsburg said. “Our park shows are family friendly and offer a wide range of theatrical styles.”

Each show will consist of three to four short plays interspersed with live music from Hartford musicians. The pre-shows activities will start around 4 p.m. and picnicking is encouraged. The plays begin at 5 p.m.

In Hartford, performances will be held in Pope Park on Saturday July, 12; Goodwin Park on Sunday, July 13; Keney Park on Saturday, July 19; Sigourney Square Park on Sunday, July 20; and Elizabeth Park on Sunday, July 27.  In West Hartford, HartBeat will be in Blue Back Square on Saturday, July 26. 

For more information about the plays call 860.548.9144 or download this flyer. In the event of rain all performances will be moved to the Hartford Children’s Theater, 360 Farmington Ave., Hartford.