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Half Life by Standing People Together

Standing People Together seeks to engage in conversations around issues of dementia, memory loss, and others
Featured Image: Standing People Together is a production of Half Life, a play about love among two elderly residents, that facilitates conversations among the community about aging.
Half Life is a play by the Canadian playwright, John Mighton. It takes place in a nursing home and tells the story of two elderly residents, Clara and Patrick, who meet and fall in love, rekindling what may have been a wartime romance that neither can quite remember.

What is Half Life and how did the production come to be? 

Half Life is a play by the Canadian playwright, John Mighton. It takes place in a nursing home and tells the story of two elderly residents, Clara and Patrick, who meet and fall in love, rekindling what may have been a wartime romance that neither can quite remember. Half Life is a story about joy, suffering, and memory that addresses themes of freedom, friendship, and loss.

Standing People Together—the local programming arm of the organization, Waste for Life—co-produced Half Life along with the Hurleyville Performing Arts Centre. The production was directed by myself, Eric Feinblatt, and Caroline Baillie to facilitate conversations and awareness in our community—diverse in age, background, and class—around issues relating to our older citizens. Their values, ideas, life experiences, professional skills, and deep local/rural knowledge can slip away leaving barely a trace. 

Who initially inspired you to grapple with dementia? 

Caroline Baillie, co-director, lost her mother to complications arising from vascular dementia. She discovered the play and wanted to honor her mother’s memory by helping to raise awareness around issues of memory and memory loss for individuals, families, caregivers, and communities.

How has Standing People Together been received? 

Using Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed/Forum Theatre semi-directed improvisational techniques, we facilitated two preproduction workshops and a postproduction conversation around the private and public issues surrounding dementia. The two audiences were comprised of about 200 people with dementia, their caregivers, family members, and friends, most of whom were open and eager to share their experiences. 

“Memory” as a theme, touched a surprisingly deep nerve in most of the attendees who were explicit about the need for additional public engagement around issues of individual memory loss; the consequences of communal memory loss; the opportunities to share experiences and ramifications of both of the above; and the exploration of policy initiatives that focus on enhanced care for our elders.

Future opportunities for performance and talk are being explored and are welcome.

Find more from Standing People Together, a Waste for Life program, on Instagram.

What is a Spotlight?

The Dementia Arts Spotlight promotes visual and performing artists who are grappling with dementia through original work or innovative arts programs. The Spotlight—in a Q&A format where artists describe the details and significance of their work or program—connects each artist to the Dementia Spring community. Find examples of prior Dementia Arts Spotlights here. Know of an artist whose work should be Spotlighted? Send them this link!

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