Dorothy: a mother daughter memoir is a production by Little Onion Puppet Co. and the work of Kamloops puppeteer Randi Edmundson and her mother, Susan Dixon.
The play explores ideas around Alzheimer’s through the story of Dorothy, a woman whose final days with the disease were meticulously documented in a journal.
Edmundson is an actor and award-winning puppeteer who has performed on Kamloops stages with Project X Theatre, while Dixon works as a costume designer, has spent 20 years volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society of B.C. and has lent her perspective to the play.
But the experience both lend to the play is a familial one. Dorothy, the subject of the play, is Edmundson’s grandmother and Dixon’s mother.
Dixon, along with her sister, cared for Dorothy in her final days and documented what her mother went through in her final days with the disease.
“My mom and aunt decided to take care of her and in doing so, learned about how far it had progressed,” Edmundson said.
“They were really yearning for permission to put her into a nursing home, but of course with Alzheimer’s, it was hard to have those kinds of conversations with her.”
The memoir play features two parallel storylines. One is of her mother experiencing loss and grief and trying to convince Dorothy that going to a home is the best thing to do. Another is Edmundson’s story, knowing that as her mother ages, she, too, might have to make those kinds of decisions one day.
“When do I start making those decisions for her? They’re these hard conversations that people don’t have, because... it sucks,” Edmundson said.
The story highlights a number of moments in the journal that range from surreal to funny.
The funny stories include things like trying to wash dishes in a sink without water, while the surreal are more transportive and abstract.
“There’s one where she’s transported back to her childhood home in Indian Head (Sask.) and she can see a road in front of her. I think that’s just so magical,” Edmundson said.
The puppets used in the play are “not your average puppet show,” Edmundson said, so don’t expect the Muppets.
“We’re using my grandmother’s actual belongings to do something called found-object puppetry, which is puppetry created from things you wouldn’t think of as puppets,” she said.
One puppet, for example, is created with its face made from actual pages of the journal in which Dorothy’s final days were documented.
Talkback sessions are planned after each performance and Edmundson and her mother, along with facilitators from the Alzheimer’s Society, welcome personal experiences or thoughts brought about by the play.
Dorothy: a mother daughter memoir opens at The Stage House Theatre, 422 Tranquille Rd., on Friday, March 8 at 7 p.m.
Other showtimes include March 9 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and March 10 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $22 for adults and $18 for students, seniors and those with low income, available at the Kamloops Live box office, 1025 Lorne St., 250-374-5483 and online at kamloopslive.ca.