Reflecting on The (Alzheimer’s) Remember Project

The Remember ProjectIn late November The Remember Project, a series of three one-acts touring through the St. Croix Valley, came to end.

At the table-read in early August I was excited, but terribly afraid of this project! Combine a lack of understanding about Alzheimer’s disease, the general fear of communicating with people suffering from memory issues and you have a pretty good picture of where I was coming from.

However, I knew that by using theatre to educate audiences about memory loss we could reduce the stigma associated with Alzheimer’s disease and help communities be more dementia friendly. In short: make the world a better place.

The Remember Project was a transformative experience, unlike any other show I’d ever been involved. Not only were these one-acts relevant to the communities we toured through, but after every performance the cast and audience engaged in a facilitated conversation to more deeply understand dementia.

The audience — otherwise complete strangers — shared beautifully heartbreaking stories about caregiving for loved ones and the struggles accompanying this terrible disease.

Conversations weren’t always easy because society sees vulnerability as weakness. The stoic men in the audience experienced the toughest time. We did our best to create a safe space to share openly. Soon big tough guys started talking about their fathers/brothers/mothers/sisters/wives — perhaps for the first time — and cried. This project offered some catharsis.

I think the project also shifted the audience’s preconceived notions about what theatre is.

We performed on chancels in churches, nursing homes, libraries, a barn, and hospitals. We didn’t have a stage, curtains, light cues, or any other kind of barrier separating the audience from actors. Everyone shared the space.

Denise & Jim
Denise & Jim

Each venue offered a new set of challenges for the business of entering, exiting, and blocking. I think this helped add spontaneity and upped the risk factor or raised the stakes, somehow.

There’s immediacy with theatre. Somehow The Remember Project carried more. It was gritty and answered questions in ways the audience hadn’t seen before. These shows affected them. And me.

Participating in The Remember Project was an honor.

Of course, the amazing thing about live theatre is that things go wrong! The Remember Project wasn’t without it’s hiccups…




I do have three wishes.

  1. Younger* audience members. Because those are the future caregivers for a society which is seeing exponential increases in new Alzheimer’s diagnoses.
  2. More social media involvement to further engage with audience members to direct them toward resources and support groups.
  3. To keep doing this work.

The Remember Project — and all the people it touched — spoke to my heart, lifted me up, and took away the fear I had about dementia and for that I am so very grateful.

Kris, Jim, Andrew, Heidi, & Michael
Kris, Jim, Andrew, Heidi, & Michael

Our director, Matt, helped bring the best out of each actor in every show. Our tour manager, Kris, kept everyone sane even as the schedule became more insane. The acting company — Jim, Andrew, Heidi, Denise, and Charles — were patient and fun and kept things light when they were heavy. Everyone listened to me vent about the wacky goings-on in my personal life and without their love or support the project wouldn’t have worked. I’m so grateful to have worked with these kind, talented individuals. I’m grateful they’re now part of my stage family.

The Remember Project had a bittersweet end. The day after the last performance I accompanied my ex-wife and her family to the internment and memorial service for her aunt, Mary, who suffered with Alzheimer’s and died because of Alzheimer’s.

There is no medical cure for Alzheimer’s, but I learned compassionate caregiving comes close.

Thank you for the experience, St. Croix Valley Foundation!

* = During the entire run of the show I’d been praying for younger audience members. Suddenly — as often happens with prayer — it was answered!



I’m Not A Food Critic, Parlour

ParlourI’m not a food critic, Parlour.

However, the one thing my taste buds have goin’ for ’em is for the last three years they’ve been shielded from beef patties between buns.

You know, because cheeseburgers aren’t traditionally Chinese food stuffs.

Burgers are particularly special. I appreciate them. I know what it’s like to live in a place where they are not a thing. In that world it is very difficult exist.

Happy Birthday, Niki

Honestly Parlour, it wasn’t my intention to visit and review a burger. Hell, I didn’t even know you were a place! (You certainly weren’t in 2012 when I left the states.)

All I wanted to do was celebrate with Chris and Niki. To rejoice having made it once more around the sun and say goodbye to the previous year.

Standing out front smoking before entering they said Parlour slings the best burger in town. That’s what they heard here here here here here here here

Expectations? Yeah. Challenge: accepted.

I had no choice but to order the $13 meaty award winner, plate of $5 fries, and offer this unsolicited* feedback.

So what follows is the stream of consciousness I experienced three drinks into my night when the food arrived.

Parlour Burger. Photo by Joy Summers.
Parlour Burger. Photo by Joy Summers.

Mmmm. Smells charred a bit. Perfect backyard barbecue burger scent. I’m glad they don’t call it that. Backyard BBQ burger? Dumb. Good heft, though. Too much bun? Must. Absorb. Alcohol. It’s fine. Taste? Open wide and…salt. Aggressively seasoned. Too much? Wait…

I’ve had this before! Culver’s Double Butter Burger but…drier?

Wish I had both for the blind taste test! Culver’s does have the cheaper, dirtier burger… Sometimes I want nasty guilty pleasures. Feeling food naughty — wait! — Cheese! Go back. More. Again! Cheese! Parlour gets cheese. Culver’s don’t.

Damn, cheese! Burger elevated!

Parlour’s burger is probably healthier too. No dripping melted butter. But no calorie info. Hmm. It’s fancy though. Fancy means healthy now, right?

Ooo! There’s pickles on the plate!

Why aren’t the pickles on the burger? Am I supposed to dress the burger? The bun and patties are glued together with Heaven’s cheese. How am I supposed to get in there? Are these here for garnish? A palate cleanser?

Fuck it. Trying ’em.

No! Culver’s pickles are better. This ain’t right!

I will not apologize!

These pickles are too fancy! I wasn’t raised on pretentious pickles! I’m a working class nobody! Now I feel bad. I don’t understand the many nuances of these pickles.

…they’re mocking me. Shut it, pickles. You’re only on the plate separated from the industrial-sized jar of your brothers and sisters to be thrown away and die alone. Because you suck, pickles!

Oh, but these fries are WAY BETTER! No question. Parlour fries taste like actual potatoes. Fresh. Welled seasoned. Hot, good hot, damn! Culver’s fries taste like warm cardboard jigsaw pieces. Yuck. Who goes to Culver’s for fries? Not anyone with an ability to taste!

One more burger bite left.

So this is the best the MPLS food scene offers? I hope not. It’s good, but I’m not about to stop searching for the best. Feeling a bit let down… This is the problem with expectations —

And I’m joined at the bar by a well-informed lady. She asks the bartender, Scott Weller of psychedelia band Magic Castles, for something special. I ask for the same. Scott leaves and returns with two new concoctions.

“What’s it called,” she asks.

“I don’t know. I just made it up,” Scott laughs.

The well-informed lady christens it, “The Scott Weller Send Off!”

That drink, the staff, and the many other stupid-awesome drinks at Parlour are reason enough to visit.

Oh, and they sell burgers too.

* = click here to solicit food feedback for your establishment

Best Buy – Help Center – 7 Spots

These spots were a follow up to the #WinTheHolidays spots shot in mid-October 2015.

Another cool fact about them?

All of these spots were improvised. No script!

Then the clips were edited and uploaded same-day to Best Buy’s Twitter account for their #WinTheHolidays campaign.

Pretty sweet… It’s like living in the future!

Thanks for watching!