Improv for Alzheimer’s, dementia patients

Five of the six members of the Memory Ensemble were gathered in a nondescript conference room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, ready to begin their weekly improvisational acting workshop.

“Where’s Irv? We need Irv,” one said.“Oh, he’s always late,” said another. “He’s very dependable that way.”

At first glance, they could have been any group of energetic older Americans dipping their toes into amateur theater. But it was soon evident that this was not a social event: Ensemble members exhibited pronounced physical and verbal tics, abrupt lapses in conversation and other telltale signs of the cognitive disorders that characterize dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A collaboration between the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and the Lookingglass Theater Company, the Memory Ensemble is what organizers believe is a first-of-its-kind program that seeks to improve the quality of life for people dealing with the early stages of memory loss.

The seven-week pilot session is designed to give newly diagnosed participants a “safe and supportive environment where they can challenge themselves but still feel secure,” said Christine Mary Dunford, an ensemble member at Lookingglass Theater.

via Chicago News Cooperative – Trying Improv as Therapy for Those With Memory Loss – NYTimes.com.

Play deals with challenges of autism

“Love and Communication,” a  new play about a family dealing with a child’s autism diagnosis will get a staged reading in Philadelphia after winning a national competition. One of playwright James Christy Jr.’s three children is autistic.

This Saturday afternoon, a new play by Main Line native James Christy Jr. will receive a staged reading in Center City.

“Love and Communication” has an ambitious theme: it focuses on the struggles of a husband and wife after their son is diagnosed with autism.

Christy, who now lives in Princeton, is one of the six winners of the annual competition sponsored by PlayPenn, an organization for new play development. Each year, PlayPenn holds a national competition to select the most promising works in progress.

The playwrights are then given the unusual opportunity for two weeks of intensive work on their plays, culminating in a staged reading.

The theme of Christy’s play has deep personal meaning for him. Of his three children, the oldest, Jimmy, who is now 7, was diagnosed with autism at age 3.

via Main Line Media News.