Talking Matters: A Knowledge Mobilization Project

These stories are from Bishop’s Alumni Magazine, edition No. 58 Fall 2022.

Everyone, at some point in their life, will be touched by the diseases of dementia and Alzheimer’s. They shall either fall victim to the disease, or find themself as caregiver and witness to the slow decline of cognitive functions with someone they love.

It is this decline in cognitive function that is the basis for a groundbreaking play, or knowledge mobilization project, which had its world premiere at the Turner Studio Theatre in May 2022.

Sterling Mawhinney and Sophie Kaplan during rehearsal (photo credit Justine Trempe)

Differing from other movies and plays that have dealt with this topic, Talking Matters sets out to teach and inform audiences in the new treatment called languaging. The central premise is that patients with early onset dementia have the ability to recall “lost” vocabulary. The technique requires patience and a willingness to spend time with the patient. The play strives to enable caregivers to practice this technique which has been shown to empower patients with their rediscovered vocabulary.

The project was the result of a collaboration between the Bishop’s Drama and Psychology departments, and the two playwrights, Marina Engelking and Merrill Swain. Ms. Engelking is a published author who has turned her sights towards playwriting, and Ms. Swain in a professor emeritus from the University of Toronto whose specialty is second language acquisition and more recently, language as a tool to combat mild cognitive deficiencies.

The play was directed by Wade Lynch, a professor in the Drama Department, who collaborated with Dr. Heather Lawford from the Psychology Department, to present this new knowledge mobilization project.

Mary Harvey and Sterling Mawhinney during rehearsal (photo credit Justine Trempe)

Performing in the play were Bishop’s drama students Sophie Kaplan and Alessia Hatch ’22, along with Professor Mary Harvey from the Drama Department and Sterling Mawhinney ‘88 from the Advancement Office.

The play was performed twice at the Turner Studio Theatre and again at the Grace Village, a retirement home located in Huntingville, QC. The Grace Village performance was particularly inspiring as the audience was made up of care workers, volunteers, and the families of patients in the “memory ward”, many of whom commented they preferred the information presented in play form rather than in written documentation.

The hope is, this project will gain notice from other municipalities and organizations who would benefit from the information and techniques presented in this production.

Click here to read the full Alumni Magazine from Fall 2022.

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