Arkaim: Play and Dementia Social Awareness Project

Arkaim: Play and Dementia Social Awareness Project

From Ksenia Adamovitch

I am raising funds to produce my play about dementia, largerly based on verbatims. The play will be produced in Moscow and used to raise awareness for dementia in a country where the correct diagnosis rate is at 5%.

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WHAT IS THE ARKAIM PROJECT? 

The ARKAIM project is play about dementia, that uses texts from interviews and recordings of real-life people (verbatims technique), including the dementia patients themselves. The play will be staged in Moscow, Russia in 2020 and will be a part of a campaign to raise awareness about dementia. 

WAIT, BUT WHY RUSSIA? 

After graduating with an MA in Cinema/Media studies in 2008, I moved from the US to Moscow, where I've been working in documentary film and theater. There is much more info about me on my website. Today, the diagnosis rate for dementia in Russia is at 5%. That means that only 5% of patients get the correct diagnosis and have a chance to get help. 

WHY ARE YOU SO INVOLVED WITH DEMENTIA? 

Because my grandpa has it! Check out the images on this page for photos of him. He is 94 now and was diagnosed when he was 88. We lucked out - my dad is a professor at NJIT and knows about brains. In the last few years I've seen it all - doctors who don't know what dementia is, nurses who refuse to draw blood, family members feeling like it's the end of the world. I got three things out of this experience:

* There are much more people with dementia than I realized, but their relatives are too ashamed/confused to talk about it - not just publicly, but often to friends and family. 

*No one in Russia knows anything about this disease. Seriously. I've had to explain it to actual doctors in actual clinics. And I have an MA in Cinema and Media studies, for crying out loud, I'm not a doctor!*I'm in a unique position of having one leg in Russia, and the other in the US. I have access to all sorts of information and the latest research in the States. I have access to the best actors and theater spaces in Russia. And I know a lot of people who care about what's going on in Russia even if they may not go there as often as they'd like. Oh, and one more important thing. For a lot of people, the diagnosis of dementia carries a stigma. They're ashamed, like their mom or dad or grandma or grandpa suddenly let everyone down and stopped living how they're supposed to. 

And I get that. 

Dementia patients openly hit on their children and grandchildren as they lose impulse control. They talk nonsense. They get violent. They can get fiercely independent while having no idea where or who they are. 

They're difficult, no argument there. Exhausting, time-consuming, and often obnoxious.But you know what?My grandpa is a colonel of the tank forces and a World War II veteran. He quite literally took down a wall of a concentration camp when he was 19 years old. 

I've never been ashamed of the man in my entire life and I'm certainly not going to start now, even if he has no idea who I am and thinks he's five.

OKAY, OKAY. SO, WHERE DID THAT SUM OF MONEY COME FROM? HOW WILL IT BE USED? 

I can send you a detailed budget should you be interested. But here's a short breakdown. Depending on the premiere location (I am talking to a few theaters and spaces), the premiere will either be in late May or late September. 

Chances are it will be in September with a long sketch done in May (that's when we take a part of the play, with set design, costumes, everything that goes into the production, but shorter). 

The overall breakdown of the funds I seek is as follows:

 1. $17000 covers people, April through September. That includes a line producer, an assistant, a set designer, a costume designer, a makeup artist, a composer, a sound guy, a lights guy, a print designer, and 10 to 12 actors.

2. $2000 covers rental costs for rehearsals and the premiere.

3. $2500 covers marketing and printing costs. This includes educational materials on dementia that we will be distributing. 

4. $3500 covers set design and costumes.

 5. $1000 will cover a site where we will collect all useful information about dementia, creating a sort of "hub" that people can refer to. Ideally, the idea will take off and we'll be able to hire a full-time administrator to run and update the site.

6. $1000 for everything else. 

7 months is a long time, and costs are bound to arise. This is the standard amount I usually set aside for "We forgot half of our actors are vegans and ordered a dead cow" sort of situations. So, considering the scope of the project, we may end up looking for additional funds later on - but the amount I seek is enough to get us started. 

CAN I READ THE PLAY? 

Only sponsors of $500 and up will have a chance to read the play. This is done purely because we don't want too much info to get out there before we're ready to present ourselves in the best way we can.

 OKAY, FINE. THEN TELL ME HOW IT DEALS WITH DEMENTIA? 

Of course! I will post detailed character and plot on my site within the next couple of days (www.kseniada.com), but here is the long and short of it. In most dementias, when the disease first hits, the patient knows something is wrong. As they lose touch with our reality and get more and more drawn in into their own world, they go into a closed off state, where what they see is as real to them as the device you're reading this on is to you. I call that state Arkaim - after an archeological dig in Southern Russia. Researchers found a number of cities incredibly well equipped to withstand a siege. No one knows who built them, why they were so into withstanding sieges (outer walls measure up to 7 meters, that's over 20 feet) and where did they go. All we know is, they came, built the most ideal defense cities, and 200-300 years later, burned them inside out and left. It's the same with dementia. The patient puts up defenses and doesn't let anyone into his own world, as it slowly burns from the inside out. In the play, the characters are waiting at the train station for a train to Arkaim - a place where they will no longer be able to communicate with their loved ones. The entire play takes place at the train station. 

OKAY. SO WHAT'S THE MAIN IDEA HERE? 

The main idea is that instead of feeling ashamed about our elderly, or miserable that they don't recognize us, we need to man up and see this disease for what it is. It is truly horrible when someone you love forgets who you are. But it's horrible for us, the forgotten. We actually have no idea what it's like for those suffering from the disease. We get upset when someone we're used to relying on starts acting inappropriate, but we forget - social constructs come and go, but you only get two parents and four grandparents (and that's if you're lucky). There is no shame in getting this disease, just like there is none in getting cancer. All we can do is love them and help them.

 And remember that they're still adults.You'd be surprised, but most dementia patients actively try to pursue sex. Just because we don't really want to think about that, doesn't make their desires any less real to them. And getting mad at grandma solves nothing. 

I want to present both the fact (statistics, verbatims, clinical evidence) and talk about the philosophical aspect of the disease that makes people quite literally time travel. 

One of the aspects I deal with in the play is age. A lot of dementia patients forget their age and act according to whatever age they decide they are. Which is why there won't be any actors over 50 in the production. Kostia will be played by Ruslan Malikov (47). Many of the characters are dual, like sides of the same coin - an older and younger version of the same person.  

But here, let me tell you about the characters.

Characters:

Kostia, retired colonel, dementia patient (based on my grandfather)

 Dusia, his granddaughter

Snezhana Petrovna - live-in nurse 

Medical workers:

Luda - live-in nurse

Claudia - pharmacist

Helen - nurse 

Armen - private clinic doctor 

Philip - private old people's home psychiatrist

Maria - psychiatrist

Dementia patients: 

Gunia - grandma with the menu

Serafima - World War II evacuee 

Irina - fashionable old lady

Nikolai - Victor's father, a musician

Tamara/Toma - a retired psychiatrist/Tamara in her youth

Ekaterina - grandma with the towels

Patient relatives: 

Yana - Irina's granddaughter 

Victor - Nikolai' son

Evgeniy - Tamara's grandson

Dmitry - Ekaterina's son

I wanted to include a wide scope of real-life stories and give the patients a voice - so the play includes quite a lot of their own words. I envision a number of actors will be playing multiple characters. I will be posting more character details here and on my site in the next few days, and of course, actor bios when casting takes off. Right now I have cast Kostia and Snezhana and should be confirming the role of Dusia during the next week. If you have actor friends in Moscow, they're welcome to apply by emailing me. The roles are only open to professional actors with acting experience. 

IT SEEMS LIKE PEOPLE HERE KNOW YOU PERSONALLY, BUT I DON'T. WHO ARE YOU? I am a writer/producer/director, currently working in Moscow, Russia. I have a BA in French Literature and Film Studies, and an MA in Cinema/Media studies. I worked in documentary film for over a decade and have recently made the switch to theater, where I worked largely as a producer. I've recently began to concentrate more on writing. I'll be posting more info on myself here and on my site, so check back and thanks for stopping by!

I DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY, BUT I REALLY WANT TO HELP. IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO? If you can't tell from the page so far, I've got more ideas on this subject that I know what to do with. Drop me a line at adamovitchk@gmail.com and we'll come up with something! And thanks! 

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