By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some Minnesota actors are using the stage to help end the stigma of memory loss. When the pandemic set in last year, the production’s future became unclear. But, as WCCO found, its second act has been seen states away.

They are meaningful plays once performed in-person, now with the help of technology playing to a larger audience. Danette McCarthy is The Remember Project’s Founder.

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“We are using theater to try to raise awareness about dementia all around Minnesota and Wisconsin and beyond,” McCarthy said.

From churches, schools, and other community stages, The Remember Project hopes to reduce the fear and isolation of memory loss, in part by a group conversation that happens after the performance.

“We saw that when you combine a strong piece of short theater with community conversation really powerful things happen,” McCarthy said. “I’m almost embarrassed to say it took a pandemic for me to think out of the box on how to deliver the project.”

Like the rest of our lives, the project has gone virtual — a 40-minute video followed now by a group Zoom call.

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Jim Pounds is the program director and one of the lead actors in their latest “In The Garden” production.

“We were just trying to say, if we can’t gather together what’s the next best thing? I don’t think any of us thought, ‘Gosh, we’ll have people on the call from Washington, Austin, from other parts of the country.’ That was a wonderful discovery,” Pounds said. “There was a gentleman the other night that had two of his children on the call from other places. We never had that sort of fellowship in a live performance.”

In Minnesota alone, more than 100,000 people are living with a dementia diagnosis, with 250,000 caregivers tasked with navigating the course.

“Our greatest goal is to have communities to work together toward a dementia-friendly Minnesota,” McCarthy said.

So far thousands of people have been able to watch a play with a purpose: to better plan and prepare for what’s ahead.

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“To know we can always reach people who may not be able to come to a live event for the rest of the time doing this project is a beautiful thing. When we can tour live again we will. We’ll be both,” McCarthy said.

Liz Collin