Fading Away sheds light on Alzheimer’s disease

Marie, with her two eldest daughters, hears the results from her doctor that she is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. The play, Fading Away, traces the story of an Alzheimer’s patient and shows how the disease affects her family and friends. Maureen Coulter photo.
Marie, with her two eldest daughters, hears the results from her doctor that she is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. The play, Fading Away, traces the story of an Alzheimer’s patient and shows how the disease affects her family and friends. Maureen Coulter photo.
By Maureen Coulter
Nov. 19, 2014

The play Fading Away means a lot to Ellen Carol.
The 45-minute play traces the story of an Alzheimer patient as the woman progresses from early signs to diagnosis. It also shows how the disease affects her family and friends.
Carol’s father is at the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and her character, Kate, is going through the same thing, but with her mother.
Playing that role was intense, trying to balance her emotions and the play, she said.
“It’s really been a rollercoaster for me, but a good one.”
The role of Kate was very helpful and she learned a lot in the process, she said.
“It has given me hope.”
In the play, Kate is the primary caregiver to her mother, Marie, and it has offered Carol a glimpse into what her own mother is going through.
“It’s helping me sort of figure out what she needs.”
There are also a couple of scenes that really hit close to home, she said.
“A couple of scenes actually make me laugh because I’ve been going through it.”
Opening day a near full house at the Victoria Playhouse in Victoria-by-the-Sea on Sept. 21. and tissues were handed out with the programs.
That was the first of three performances with the others at the Souris Show Hall on Sept. 27 and in Charlottetown at Carrefour Oct. 3.
“It’s a very moving story. It’s one that I think a lot of people will identify with because it is the journey of a lot of individuals and families,” said Rosemary Nantes Vigeant.
She wrote the play in 2007 with her drama students in Churchill Falls Labrador and after moving back to P.E.I. in 2009, brought the script to the Alzheimer’s Society, which loved the idea.
There are currently 2,346 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s on P.E.I. and those numbers are growing, said Vigeant.
“The statistics are a bit frightening, so awareness is a very important thing. That is what this play does, it raises the awareness and it has an educational message too.”
Barbara Rhodenhizer plays Marie, the mother with Alzheimers. Stepping into that role was a challenge, she said.
“I think the biggest thing is trying to be very honest about it. You don’t want to be maudlin or to under value the severity of what this means to people.”
The play has been enlightening for Rhodenhizer since no one close to her has had the disease.
Along with Carol, there are two others in the cast who are dealing it in real life.
Those people brought their own personal experience and understanding to the play, said Rhodenhizer.
“There is a lot of information dispersed within the text of the play and that was very intentional, that is the whole purpose of it.”

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