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‘Who Knows Where or When’ by Brooke Schooley

Cabaret show seeks to provide connection amongst those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia
Brooke Schooley performs a solo cabaret in Who Knows Where or When, a show inspired by her experience organizing her parents’ care for more than a decade.

How did Who Knows Where or When come to be? 

Who Knows Where or When is a solo cabaret show. I share songs and poignant stories about losing one’s bearings, inspired by having organized my parents’ care over the past decade. Standards and art songs get new interpretations when framed by a well-meaning daughter frantically trying to preserve her increasingly fragile parents’ independence from 700 miles away. These aren’t stories that one often sees represented in musical performance, and I am hoping that families and caregivers will see themselves in this material and feel less overwhelmed and alone.

Brooke Schooley’s Who Knows Where or When is based on her experience supporting her father, diagnosed with vascular dementia, and mother, who had Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Brooke Schooley’s Who Knows Where or When is based on her experience supporting her father, diagnosed with vascular dementia, and mother, who had Parkinson’s disease dementia.

Who initially inspired you to grapple with dementia? 

My father was diagnosed with vascular dementia after a series of mini-strokes, and my mother had Parkinson’s disease dementia. Their symptoms began roughly at the same time, while both lived in my rural Ohio childhood home and I lived in New York City. A decade of spending one week a month in Ohio, making last-minute trips, coordinating medical care, overseeing caregivers, and generally managing my parent’s lives ensued. Now that they are gone, trying to process this heartbreaking experience through music has been therapeutic for me, and I hope for my audiences.

Well, it certainly makes the prospect of aging more terrifying! And I suppose that’s why people don’t talk about it, particularly in the creative arts.

Brooke Schooley

How has working on dementia-related art changed you?

Well, it certainly makes the prospect of aging more terrifying! And I suppose that’s why people don’t talk about it, particularly in the creative arts. Most of my artistic experience has been as an opera singer performing classical works in either opera or art song form. Exploring the cabaret form to tell a story has been very fulfilling, and telling this particular story has been a great way to appeal to audiences who would not normally be drawn to classical or cabaret shows.

How has the work been received? 

I performed the precursor to this piece (Maddened by the Stars) at the Delaware Valley Opera in upstate New York in September. It was half classical art song in their mainstage space, and half cabaret in their cabaret space. (I have now incorporated pieces of the first half into the cabaret for a shorter show (Who Knows Where or When) that can be done in a cabaret space alone.) The show was marketed by Delaware Valley Opera as well as the Sullivan County Office of the Aging and local caregiver groups. Several people came solely due to the subject matter (mostly family members/caregivers of those with dementia), and they all shared their experiences with me following the performance. They were really uplifted. 

The stories contained in this work are thanks to:  my wonderful parents, Jan and Bob Schooley. I think they would approve of the show.

Find more on Who Knows Where or When 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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