Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dementia and Comedy: "Live in their World"

As a drama teacher, I know the cardinal rule of improvisation, "Never say 'no.'"  Another way of saying it is, "Live in their world."   That is, if you walk on stage and your partner says, "Doctor, we must operate immediately on this orangutan," then you must immediately become a surgeon in an unusual situation.

According to tonight's broadcast of This American Life (Public Radio International, heard on WABE Atlanta) this trick of comedy improv is an effective way to keep a loved one happy in spite of dementia.   So, the mother-in-law doesn't remember who her daughter is, and she thinks monkeys are overrunning the yard?  The son-in-law, an actor, says, "It sure is late in the season for monkeys.  Can you catch one so we can have it in the house?"

We hear tape from the actual interaction.  The mother-in-law keeps the conversation going, clearly enjoying the playfulness of it.  She started serious, but she now knows she's playing a game.

It's not a panacea.  The daughter is upset that her mother doesn't recognize her.  But it's better than constantly saying, "No, you're wrong." 

Here's a link to the site mentioned in the piece:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Smoot,

I think you have a great blog. I did not know you were a cyclist.

You are one of my favorite teachers.

Your anonymous drama student.