The Memory Ensemble: An Improvisational Theater Experience for Persons with Memory Loss
The Northwestern Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center (CNADC) and the Lookingglass Theatre together developed The Memory Ensemble to provide an improvisational theater intervention designed to improve the quality of life for persons with early stage Alzheimer's disease and related disorders (ADRD).
The Northwestern Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center
CNADC is one of the 30 research institutions in the Alzheimer's Disease Centers Program of the National Institute on Aging (National Institutes of Health). The CNADC is a multidisciplinary organization dedicated to: conducting research to discover how the brain coordinates mental functions such as memory, language, attention, and emotion, transferring the benefits of this research to patients with brain diseases that impair cognitive function, and training researchers and clinicians who want to work within this field.
Lookingglass Theatre Company is a nationally acclaimed, 22-year old, ensemble-based company dedicated to new works that "change, charge and empower" audiences. Lookingglass's mission is to redefine the limits of theatrical experience and to make theatre exhilarating, inspirational, and accessible to all. Lookingglass' Education and Community Programs bring the company's core values of collaboration, transformation and invention to thousands annually.
How does it work?
The Memory Ensemble uses improvisational theater to provide a unique therapeutic intervention for people in the early stages of ADRD. Improvisation focuses on bringing one's personal awareness into the moment, which fosters new ways of thinking, and emphasizes self-awareness, imagination, and spontaneity. This theater program sees persons with dementia for their creative potential, rather than for their loss, and has the potential to improve quality of life, provide physical and mental stimulation, offer emotional support, alleviate stress, and educate others about ADRD.
Why is it successful?
The CNADC and Lookingglass Theatre partnered to offer this unique program. The collaboration brought together the CNADC's expertise of ADRD and Quality of Life Enrichment programs, and the Lookingglass Theatre's expertise of ensemble theater, improvisation and education programs to targeted populations.
Research shows that in the early stages of dementia, persons who are aware of their condition, can often become isolated and withdrawn, resulting in hastened progression of dementia, depression, and increased loss of functional abilities and skills. Inspired by an innovative collaboration between Northwestern's Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Center and Lookingglass Theatre, The Memory Ensemble was created to address this common experience of persons in the early stages of dementia and provide them with the opportunity for an enriched quality of life.
For more information: www.brain.northwestern.edu