What is your role in this production? I play Emily, an old woman facing dementia after having lost her husband to it. She relives moments from her past and expresses her longings, frustration and anger in the face of losing herself in the “childlike place that dementia provides.” She is a woman of great mettle and courage, but the disease begins to take its toll on her as it progresses.
What is your background in theatre? At Walterdale? My B.Ed. minor is in drama. I taught Junior High Drama for 4 years in my first teaching position and I also taught drama to ESL students in High School. When I retired, I enrolled in Musical Theatre and Acting classes at the Foote School at the Citadel. I was fortunate to be chosen to perform as an extra in the annual production of A Christmas Carol, and have done that for 12 seasons. Many years ago I volunteered to help with costume in a Walterdale play—the name of which escapes me. It was a historical drama based on the life of a politician. I was so busy helping with lightning-fast changes and repairing ripped pant seams that I didn’t really get into the story!
What brought you out for this show? Catherine Wenschlag and I worked together in a play called, Death Comes to Auntie Norma which was presented at the ADFA festival three years ago. Catherine wanted to present it at the Fringe last year, and asked if I would reprise the role of Norma. I was happy to do so, and thoroughly enjoyed my first Fringe experience. When she suggested that I audition for The Sunset Syndrome, I agreed and was pleased to be chosen. The first reading of the play was quite emotional for me, as I had been witness to my grandfather’s decline into dementia and what my grandmother lovingly and patiently endured. The playwright seemed to have close connections with the disease and I was really impressed with the intimate look into the workings of the mind of someone who is trapped in that unknowable state. The prose is poetic a lot of the time, and it offers beautiful challenges to me.
What do you think audiences will take away from this production? Why should they come see it? I’m not familiar with any works dealing specifically with this subject, but I feel that this is an important play because of its “realness.” There is nothing sugar-coated in it and, because many people either have had someone in their family or have known of someone who has lived with dementia, it will be very true-to-life for them. This is the story of an ordinary family dealing with extraordinary loss and anguish. Because dementia is on the increase–partly due to extended life expectancy*—more and more people will have to face the possibility of caring for a family member with the condition. Perhaps this little gem will offer insight and information, but mostly it will demonstrate the strength and grace of the human spirit in the face of horrific circumstances.
*In 2008, an estimated 400,000 senior Canadians were living with dementia and it is estimated that this number will more than double within 30 years—from The Public Health Agency of Canada website: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cphorsphc-respcacsp/2010/fr-rc/cphorsphc-respcacsp-06-eng.php
The Sunset Syndrome runs May 16 – 21 at 8 p.m. as part of From Cradle to Stage 2016. Tickets are available from Tix on the Square or at the Box Office 1 hour prior to show start!