written by Acting Apprentice Adriana Bordea
THE OTHER PLACE by Sharr White focuses on its main character, Juliana Smithton, a leading researcher of dementia who begins to (possibly) show signs of the illness she has long been studying. This puzzle play cuts together moments of her life which lead the audience through a tangled maze of memories (some fact, some fiction) and help Juliana make sense of her past and present.
Dementia can be absolutely devastating for anyone personally facing the daily struggles that come along with it, whether you are going through it yourself or as a friend or family member. I can't help but ask, what is out there to help individuals facing dementia? Are there support groups available for friends and family? How can I as an individual help in this cause?
To my surprise while researching, I found that there are various unique and beneficial forms of therapy proven to benefit the lives of dementia patients. Some include making a "Fidget Blanket" which helps patients discover and interact with the blanket while using various senses. There is also a chance for a family member or caregiver to create a memory book for their loved one which could include past experiences, family/friends, and where they currently live. But what stuck out to me was art therapy, and the numerous benefits accounted through various sources.
According to Mark Huntsman, author of the article "How Art Therapy Enhances the Quality of Life for Dementia Patients," he closely follows the work Dr. Daniel C. Potts, creator of the organization Cognitive Dynamics after his father's battle with Alzheimer's Disease. The main mission of Cognitive Dynamics is "to improve quality of life for those with cognitive impairment and their caregivers through the expressive arts and storytelling." This includes offering art therapy, which helps the individual feel in tune once again with who they are. Through this, they discover their own story and a way to beautifully portray it whatever they see fit within their artwork. Multiple accounts have shown just how much art therapy truly changes peoples lives. Not only do caregivers and doctors notice it, but most importantly loved ones see a change such as lost relationships with one another become closer, anxiety/depression are lowered, better focus during activities, and most importantly a change in the fulfillment of what life brings for the patient.
Through this we can see just how much each individual has a story that needs to be told. By simply creating art, their entire selves are forever expressed on those pages that show so much to the world of who they truly are.
To learn more about dementia and these therapies, check out the following articles and videos:
Alzheimer's/Dementia Fidget Lap Blanket
How Art Therapy Enhances the Quality of Life for Dementia Patients
Memory and Orientation Books
Trailer of new documentary "I Remember Better When I Paint" Directed by Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner
Artwork from "I'm Still Here Exhibit: Alzheimer's & Creative Expression"
The Other Place
By Sharr White
Directed by Brian Weaver
When: March 18th – April 12th, Opening Night: March 21st
Where: Portland Playhouse 602 NE Prescott St, Portland, OR 97211
Box office: (503) 488-5822 or http://www.portlandplayhouse.org/the-other-place