Campus News News

The Sandglass Theater Tackles Dementia

Joints deteriorate, muscles weaken, eyes go bad, but perhaps one of the worst things that could happen as someone progresses through time is memory loss. Memories are what keep people going and smiling even through the rough day and without them individuals lose track of who they were. Perhaps one of the hardest memory swiping diseases to cope with is Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Pat Kenney
Campus News Editor

Growing older can be tough.

Photo Courtesy: Sandglass Theater
Photo Courtesy: Sandglass Theater

Joints deteriorate, muscles weaken, eyes go bad, but perhaps one of the worst things that could happen as someone progresses through time is memory loss. Memories are what keep people going and smiling even through the rough day and without them individuals lose track of who they were. Perhaps one of the hardest memory swiping diseases to cope with is Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Affecting judgment, thinking, as well as memory, patients with Alzheimer’s worsen as it progresses, eventually leading to their death, making Alzheimer’s and dementia sensitive topics. The Sandglass Theater has decided to bring this sensitive topic to the forefront. Exploring the lives of individuals with late-stage dementia through the use of puppets, the Sandglass Theater performers help to ease the sensitivity of the topic.

“It’s not a comfortable topic, but because of the style and the puppets the audience can get past the discomfort,” stated professor of Theater Arts Martin Shell. “Then there is just the astonishment of what is human even with a painful topic.”

With the actors animating the life of the puppets, the audience is able to play along with the puppeteers and use their imaginations to separate real life from the play.

This tactic gives the performers free range to explore the depths of dementia without worrying about sensitivity and discomfort.

The play, “D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks,” has the three puppeteers as the caregivers and five puppets as the residents of the care facility.

The puppets are so vividly and sensitively drawn that by the end of the show the audience will feel as if they’ve known them their entire life.

However, the performers are not improvising their skits. Each puppeteer visited care facilities around the Northeast and helped guide dementia patients through a storymaking process called Timeslips.

“Inevitably, storytelling is about memories, but it opens the rules to include imagination and to create something new that accepts who they are and where they are in the moment,” noted Anne Basting, founder of the Milwaukee-based National Timeslips Project.

Memories are important in helping patients find what they have lost and fight the onsets of dementia. Since 1982, Sandglass Theater has performed all kinds of shows, from sensitive adult topics to childhood comedies, throughout 24 separate countries. Along with the puppets, the directors use music and visuals to stimulate the audience’s imagery.

“Along with the puppetry, the musical score and projected visuals give audiences a full scale performance,” continued Shell.

Sandglass Theater, who are no strangers to the Springfield campus, will be performing their piece, “D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks,” on Tuesday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Fuller Arts Center.

General admission is $5, while student and senior admission will be $2 apiece. It’s one thing to read about a powerful performance, but to watch and experience sensitive topics with the rest of the audience is something else.

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