Oh this is one blog post I’ve been looking forward to writing. I had the time of my life, just sitting observing (and singing along to) Sammy Goodrich’s musical theatre session at Chai Point Jewish senior care home.
Stage Right Theatre makes collaborative, intergenerational, theatrical experiences in care facilities. Over the course of three visits, Sammy and her team (a dancer and a pianist) work with older people of all abilities to script, rehearse and perform a 10-20 minute original musical.
It’s original and it works incredibly well. All the participants had a say, all were listened to, all laughed all the way through! (Nice video by Sammy on her Facebook page)
This bunch of brilliant folk created a musical set in Chicago, and involving a fairground and an averted disaster on the big wheel. The star of the show was Shlomo, who sang and danced and made us all laugh throughout the performance.
Sammy is inspiring. She set up Stage Right quite recently, and it’s growing in profile. Seeing it in process was super. Sammy uses the basic TimeSlips techniques – including asking open questions, involving everyone’s responses – to generate story and music ideas, always maintaining a bright and positive tone.
I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next!
Joan and I eat Frozen Custard. Mmm.
Joan & Emma the dog
Anne from Woodland Pattern Bookshop
Oh my, here comes the snow again! We arrived in Milwaukee to several inches of the white stuff on the ground. It might not have been the wisest idea to travel to one of the most northern states before spring had reared its head, but we have!
Turns out, Milwaukee is not just Happy Days and Colin’s storyline from Love Actually. It’s a vibrant and creative place, nestled on the shores of the enormous Lake Michigan.
Joan Williamson hosted us beautifully. She treated us to homecooked food, frozen custard, and drove me to all my meetings and events. Joan is a theatre teacher, TimeSlips Master Trainer and the TimeSlips Coordinator.
Together, we saw the US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera talk at the University, visited a wonderful bookshop called Woodland Pattern, met writers, ate muffins and learned all about TimeSlips, a way of making stories with those experiencing memory loss.
Two experiences stand out for me, and I’ll blog separately about those shortly.
Anne Basting is the founder of TimeSlips. That’s an improvised creative storytelling method used with seniors. She set up this innovative practice in 1998. TimeSlips opens storytelling to everyone by replacing the pressure to remember with the freedom to imagine.
Using images as prompts, a trained TimeSlips practitioner co-creates a story with a group of seniors. They create a safe environment to share ideas and by using open questions. The story is then shared with the wider community, in all kinds of amazing ways. From plays and puppet shows, to poetry slams and exhibitions.
I met with Anne, and asked some questions about the process. I’m focusing my research on writer development, but Anne made some interesting points that allowed me to rethink a little.
I said, What are the best ways to support writers before, during and after working with seniors. Where can they find support? It can be a tough environment to enter…
Anne replied that if the writer or artist is feeling a little isolated or sad or disorientated after leaving a care facility, the older person is probably feeling the same. A lot of the time, actually.
Nothing is ever done alone, artists are part of a ‘community of practice’. Everyone involved in a TimeSlips project is in it together.
The aim for any great project is for everyone leave feeling better. And for them to carry that feeling with them afterwards. Everything should be part of the same system, part of the same a community.
That’s a really helpful viewpoint. Instead of thinking of the artist as a lonely figure wandering through a care home, perhaps it’s better to consider how each person is an island but that a creative project might offer a way to connect everyone.