Tragedy and Hope: Monroe Writer Shares Personal Tale with New Play About Alzheimer’s

. August 14, 2018.
(L-R) Bill McCloskey acts the part of Walter Adams and Mary Kurtz plays Alexandra Stevens.
(L-R) Bill McCloskey acts the part of Walter Adams and Mary Kurtz plays Alexandra Stevens.

More than three million people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease every year, the vast majority of them over the age of 60. Though treatments can help manage symptoms for a time, there is no cure for the disease. Beyond the effects it has on the individual suffering from the malady, it has a powerful effect on their loved ones—seeing someone so dear to them slowly ebb away, memory by memory.

It is that effect—on both the individual who has the disease and the people surrounding them—that is the focus of Sleeping Peacefully, a new play at the River Raisin Centre for the Arts in Monroe, MI, opening Friday, August 17. Written and directed by Monroe writer and performer Vicki Maxwell, the show focuses on a woman dealing with her father’s Alzheimer’s Disease.

Write what you know

“It is a story about a woman and a family who are dealing with Alzheimer’s, but in a warm, tender story—how they deal with it with laughter and tears. They try to remember the good things,” Maxwell said.

The story Sleeping Peacefully tells is a very personal one for Maxwell, as her own father had Alzheimer’s. “I was in a writing group at the theater,” she said. “They were working mostly on screenplays. I have a background in theater, so I thought, ‘Well, I know about plays, I’ll write a play.’

“Then, of course, the next thing is, ‘What do you know?’ Because you want to write about something that you know. So, I know how we were trying to deal with Alzheimer’s. It’s not our story, but there’s a lot of our family in the story.”

A moving process

After completing the script, Maxwell showed it to the executive director of River Raisin, who became very interested in adding the show to the Centre’s theatrical season. From there, Maxwell said, it was just kind of natural for her to direct the show, seeing that her story made it to the stage.

“I’m much more involved, I suppose, because it’s been a long process from the beginning to the end—and, of course, we’re not to the end yet. But in this process of coming up with the idea, and working on it, and working on the characters, and refining that, and coming to the point where we’re actually working on the script and hearing these words that I’ve written come to life with these actors—it’s a moving process.”

Maxwell noted that all of her actors have been responding very well to the material in rehearsals. Of Bill McCloskey, who is playing the challenging role of Walter, the father, Maxwell says, “He’s not been around anyone who has had the disease, so it was a new experience for him that he felt challenged by, and wanted to take on, to figure this character out.”

Maxwell said she hopes her audience doesn’t come away from the show merely with a sense of the sadness and tragedy that comes with Alzheimer’s, but also with a sense of hope. “Even though this is a very serious thing that we don’t have a cure for at this point— it can be a real serious, ‘down’ issue. But I hope the audience sees that there is life within all of these people that are affected by it, and they have hope.”

$15 | August 17-19
7:30pm | Friday-Saturday — 3pm | Sunday

River Raisin Centre for the Arts | 114 S Monroe St, Monroe, MI
734-242-7722 | riverraisincentre.org