Dementia Man, An Existential Journey is performing at the DCJCC until July 23rd as part of the Washington DC Capital Fringe Festival.

By: Jul. 16, 2023
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Dementia Man, An Existential Journey, written and performed by Samuel A Simon with support from Gabrielle Maisels (Dramaturge) and directed by Thadd McQuade is a one-man theatrical performance during which Sam navigates life upon learning he has early-stage Alzheimer’s Disease. This true story transports the audience into the heart and mind of Sam as he encounters new cognitive obstacles and comes to terms with a looming reality.  

Sam brings us along his journey as he grapples with his fear of losing his sense of self as a lifelong “trouble maker,” a successful lawyer, and a prominent activist. As he learns more about the impact of his cognitive disease, he’s confronted with a choice of accepting a future marked by decline, or taking control by pursuing a peaceful, deliberate death. While he considers these possibilities, his story comes to life so vividly that one almost forgets there is one man on stage with a script. Sam’s story offers a raw, unfiltered view into the challenges one faces when beginning to lose cognition, including the fear of the unknown; the urgency of the decisions that have to be made; and the tribulations of navigating a broken healthcare system all while balancing the desire to live a full life, a comfortable life, and a life of service to others.

The themes unearthed are painful and heavy, but this play is not a tragedy. The performance offers a hopeful, uplifting, and heartening vision about living with cognitive impairment, loving those with cognitive impairment, and embracing accommodations to ensure those who are touched by it can maintain a sense of acceptance, control, and purpose.  Since this performance starts and ends with Sam’s advocacy-oriented trouble-making tendencies, I believe it is worth noting that Sam’s tendencies remain strong. Through this performance, he counters the societal narrative that death is better than having a neurocognitive disease and is leading a movement to reconsider how we understand, view, and treat those with neurocognitive disorders.  

Although a running theme throughout this performance is the fear of vanishing to nothingness, the standing ovation that this performance has already received demonstrates that Sam’s story will leave a lasting impact on those who see it.

Dementia Man, An Existential Journey, is an The Actual Dance, LLC production. It is performing at the DCJCC until July 23rd as part of the Washington DC Capital Fringe Festival.


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