The Art of Losing: AUC Students Raise Awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease Through Educational Musical

By Daria van Duren

– AUC’s latest musical, The Art of Losing, is an entertaining, and at the same time educational, story about the forgetfulness that comes with Alzheimer’s disease and the impact that this has on both the patients and the people close to them.

The Art of Losing is the fourth original musical produced by the committee OnStage, and will be performed on May 10, 11 and 12 in CREA.

The musical tells the story of 66 years old jazz singer Olivia Streicher, a colorful, happy lady in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, who is realizing that she is forgetting things and that people are forgetting her. Olivia’s granddaughter Harper is making a documentary about her, whilst Olivia is planning a comeback performance to show her fans that she is still singing. The three intertwining storylines of the documentary, the performance and Alzheimer’s disease tell the story of Olivia’s forgetfulness and how this affects both her and her family.

The musical is mainly written and directed by Rebecca Scarratt, third-year Science major at AUC. The idea of the story came together by both Scarratt’s personal interest in Alzheimer’s and her desire to show the educational capability of musicals. The story is inspired by Scarratt’s personal life. Her own grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease for ten years, and Scarratt experienced how everything changed and the impact that it had on her family. “That had affected me quite a lot, so it was something that I wanted to talk about,” she says.

The musical is part of her capstone, for which Scarratt is doing an experiment on the effectiveness of different educational methods. Her experiment consists of a group of people who read a scientific paper, a second group of people who read a fictional story and of a third group of people who are going to watch the musical. She is going to assess which group learned the most about Alzheimer’s disease out of these three settings.

“When you have an actual story, you can show more,” Scarratt says. She explains that you can show things, such as emotional side effects, better in a musical than for instance in a scientific paper. According to Scarratt, the audience will probably already know basic things about Alzheimer’s disease, but because there are characters with different relations to the disease, the audience can learn about how it affects both the patients and their family. “I think that it is important that everyone knows about the patient and the family and everything that goes [on] around it” she says.

There are also hidden pieces of scientific information in the musical in order to make people more familiar with the disease and its scientific terms. This information is not lectured, but part of the narrative, as to make people remember it better. “You can just go and watch this and be like ‘ah, I think I learned something today’, which is what I want to show people,” Scarratt says.

The tickets for the musical cost 6 euro, with the option of an additional 1,50 euro donation to the non-profit organization Alzheimer Nederland. “If our musical is trying to raise awareness about the fact that Alzheimer’s exists and how it affects people, we would like to make people realize that there are organizations who are helping out for this disease and what they are trying to do,” Scarratt says on the musical’s collaboration with Alzheimer Nederland. “If we are doing something we might as well put it to even better use,” she says.

“The main message of the show is that people are remembered even if they don’t remember all their memories themselves,” Scarratt says. In her opinion, this is a message of hope. She explains that this really stood out to her at her own grandmother’s funeral. “My mom wrote a piece about her and all the crazy weird things that she used to do […] and everybody was just laughing and enjoying the fact that we remembered how she was. I think that that is something very important that is nice to remember, that when you do go, people will remember you.”

Photo by OnStage

Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.

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