We are our stories.Memory is a protein.
Who are you?
Familial. Genetic. Early Onset. Alzheimer’s.
“What phrases stuck out for you tonight?” asked Jenni Werner, Geva’s Dramaturg and facilitator of the onstage Talkback discussion. A couple dozen audience members stayed behind after a performance of “Informed Consent” to chat with the Production Team. I have watched the show twice now, and as a Geva Cohort, I have attended rehearsals once a week and seen the show take shape. Above are the phrases which stuck out for me, after Sunday’s show. They are different from the phrases that came to mind other times throughout the process. Early on, these phrases resonated strongly:We are from the Canyon.
The Genetic Scientist.
Not if you don’t have permission.
It’s a Princess Party...
But, when I watched the Sunday matinee, the morning after Opening night, I sat front row center in the balcony to see the full, final run of the play, as it is set to run for the next few weeks. All changes are made, the kinks worked out, the unnecessary script lines cut, the intermission put in and taken out, the pacing and light cues settled on, all the fine-tuning done. I watched the matinee and felt as if I had not seen the play in that way before.
The pieces came together and struck me in a new way. Jack Warner conceded in his recent review that, despite the overuse of the term, this play truly is “thought-provoking”. It is a play about an awful lot of things. Native rights. Scientific research. Genetics. Identity. Alzheimer’s. Family stories. Cultural History.I walked out of the theatre this time moved by Deb Laufer’s words, and Jessie Wortman’s portrayal of Gillian in particular, and the issues about identity and memory in people affected by dementia. The chorus echoes the question “Who are you?” and I could not shake those voices. My mother developed Lewy’s Bodies Dementia in her late seventies. Its symptoms are similar to Alzheimer’s, but include Parkinson-like tremors and shuffling, and a much faster rate of progression than Alzheimer’s. My mother died three years after her diagnosis. Any individual or family member afflicted with dementia knows all too well the quandary of “who are you?” As dementia progresses, this question is answered in many different ways. A person’s identity becomes smaller, perhaps simpler. As a family member, I asked myself corollary questions like “Who do you think I am?” or “who am I to you?” This play touches on the idea that identity is interrelated to connection, and complicated just like belief and truth are.
My mother would have loved this play. She loved provocative theatre and stark sets. Sure, she loved musicals too, and remembered the Broadway songs well up to the end, but for drama, she preferred shows that wrestled with big issues and pushed you a little out of your comfort zone. When I was in high school, she took me to see Equus and acted in The Lottery. She’d have liked this set of brown corrugated walls and alternating colored light boxes. She loved the Southwest too and took several trips to learn about Navajo and Hopi cultures. And the humor she would have appreciated; it’s not good drama if you can’t laugh along the way, and she loved to laugh heartily.Another cohort wrote about her own personal connections to this play, regarding the issues of genetic testing. She also observed that it sometimes takes time for connections to rise to the surface. As I mull over various scenes of “Informed Consent,” I have no doubt that I will be struck by some other phrases, some other connection. There is an awful lot in this play.