Project Reprise: Searching for New Intersections Between Musical Theater and Dementia

By ORLANDO MORALES, Director of Education and Outreach and JEN KULIK, Project Reprise Artist Project Manager

UW students after their recent performance of an original music revue created for people with dementia.

How can musical theater play a role in enhancing the quality of life for people with dementia?

This past season, The 5th Avenue Theatre partnered with the University of Washington’s Musical Theater Program and Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine to answer this question. This joint effort came to be known as “Project Reprise” and culminated in a unique opportunity for UW undergraduate students.

Over the course of the 10-week quarter, students explored current research in the field of arts and dementia, visited a memory care facility and regularly met with a group of people with dementia and their care partners. Based on the experiences and academic research of the class, students then created Just a Moment, a 45-minute musical theater revue which they performed at the UW School of Drama and at the Mirabella Continuing Care Retirement Community.

The “Project Reprise” course was designed to help students develop an understanding of how musical theater performances can engage, entertain and improve the quality of life for people with early and mid-stage dementia. The course was designed and facilitated by Jennifer Kulik, founder of Silver Kite Community Arts, an organization dedicated to theater and intergenerational arts experiences. The interactive piece created by the “Project Reprise” cohort was composed of original scenes, performances of beloved Broadway songs, and even included an opportunity for the audience to join in on a dance party.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million people are living with dementia in the United States, and this number is expected to triple by 2050. As researchers continue to develop pharmacological treatments for people with dementia, in recent years non-pharmacological approaches, primarily in the arts, have begun to be implemented with the intent of improving the quality of life for people living with the disease.

More stories and images from “Project Reprise” will be posted in the coming weeks. For more information about this unique initiative, you can email educationprograms@5thavenue.org.

Author: The 5th Avenue Theatre

The Nation's Leading Musical Theater

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