In the last post, I made a fairly bold statement. “I believe strongly that theatre is THE key to shifting the stigma of aging and dementia. Instead of a lecture or a one-hour training workshop, if we use theatre, we can show others (and ourselves) how to transform the field.” I would like to expand on the WHY of what I said.
In order for us to give our best, we must first understand. So we research, ask questions, and seek professional assistance to help us learn about a specific type of dementia. This frequently never seems to be enough. Our doctors are often under-educated themselves, and our community organizations (even our care communities) struggle to understand and serve those living with dementia. The traditional forms of education via training videos, books, flyers, and workshops may work and do help in providing us with some of the information we need. But how much do we really retain from that 1-hour webinar? The article half-written in medical terms? That lecture hosted by the local community center? A workshop at least gets us up on our feet, allowing us to start to engage muscle memory, in addition to the knowledge we hope to find. What can we do? We must do something? This is where theatre can step in.
Think of that quote, song, or even facial expression that sticks in your head, refusing to leave despite crying out for it to do so. Where do most of these songs or quotes come from? A play? Musical? Movie? Maybe even a really good story someone read to you as a child? There was something about seeing a story played out in beautiful ways that welcomes moments to weave into our being. That moment was absorbed by your attention and spirit helping you to remember it, even years later. Then, what happens when we write these stories ourselves or play a role in developing a story or play? We are asked to look at things in new ways, to learn, to engage, and to create. Storytelling is where we intentionally or unintentionally go to learn new things. It is then by enacting what we wish to understand, by physically engaging in it, that causes the knowledge these moments bring to become a part of us.
By using storytelling we not only learn, but live the information we need to become the best version of ourself for each other. In this case, theatre is not about high or low art, about a cultural pillar, or a political statment, but as a powerful and beautiful educational tool. May we learn to take this tool and explore it to its full capacity.