Every once in a while, patients peers at Westport EMT Marc Hartog strangely.
“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” they ask.
Usually they do — and it has nothing to do with an ambulance gurney. They recognize Hartog from his community theater work. The veteran medic is also a talented actor. It’s an incongruous pairing — but he’s passionate about both parts of his life.
Hartog — a certified paramedic — has a master’s degree in public administration. He’s directed St. Clare’s Hospital’s EMS department, and its emergency room.
He got married in 1990, moved to Connecticut, and commuted to New York. But when a job opened up with Westport Emergency Medical Service he leaped at the chance to spend more time with his family. He became a paramedic crew chief, and now serves as coordinator.
All along, Hartog was a theater buff. In high school he worked the back end — tech, lighting, running crew — and occasionally acted. He continued his involvement in college.
“In New York there’s not a lot of work if you’re not a professional,” he notes. His wife is an actress too, but not until they moved to Connecticut did they discover local theater.
Hartog has performed often with the Westport Community Theater. He’s also worked in Wilton, New Canaan, Darien, Stamford and Milford. He’s taken on many roles, in everything from murder mysteries and dramas to comedies.
He appreciates “the great bunch of people” who comprise the community theater world. And, he admits, getting a response from an audience is “a huge boost.”
Despite vast differences, Hartog sees similarities between theater and emergency medicine. “You find yourself in a lot of different situations in EMS,” he says. “You have to improvise, and really think on your feet.”
In community theater as in EMS, Hartog interacts with people he doesn’t know. Developing quick rapport and trust with patients is akin to meeting a new cast, and learning to work together.
Hartog also does plenty of public speaking and teaching for EMS. His ease in front of a crowd comes from his experience on stage.
Over the next 3 weekends Hartog performs in the Darien Arts Center’s “Almost, Maine.” The romantic comedy is a series of vignettes, with 9 actors playing 19 roles.
As usual, a few fellow EMTs may see the show.
Then there are the theatergoers who watch Hartog perform, not knowing they’ll see him again in his white EMS uniform.
“It’s nice to be recognized,” he says. “And if they’re able to remember me from a show, then I know it’s not the most serious medical call.”
(“Almost, Maine” will be performed on Friday and Saturday, March 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 and 26, at 8 p.m.; there are Sunday matinees March 13 and 20 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.arts.darien.org, or by phone at 203-655-5414.)