Hancher and Working Group engage Alzheimer's patients with TimeSlips program

Hancher and Working Group engage Alzheimer's patients with TimeSlips program

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Effort is part of The Broken Chord project
Martin Andrews
Martin Andrews

The University of Iowa’s Hancher is collaborating with Iowa City’s Working Group Theatre on an ambitious community engagement project that will culminate in the presentation of The Broken Chord, a new play that explores issues of memory.

As part of the project, Working Group Theatre company members undertook a year-long project working with Alzheimer's patients and caregivers, working to find a way to get patients and caregivers telling stories, laughing, and improvising. TimeSlips was a perfect fit. TimeSlips is a nationally recognized storytelling program for people with dementia that encourages participants to use their imaginations to create short stories as a group.

According to Martin Andrews, producing director of Working Group Theatre, company members soon realized they should expect the unexpected.

"During one of our first sessions," Andrews says, "several of the participants broke out in song, so we ended up creating a spontaneous musical on the spot."

Rather than relying on factual recall, TimeSlips participants respond verbally to humorous images presented by facilitators who record the responses and read narratives to further develop or end the stories. The members of Working Group Theatre saw this kind of work as essential to informing their larger project, the development of The Broken Chord. The effort is one of several activities the company is undertaking as work on the full-length play continues.

"As we gather stories and engage with the community, we are learning a lot and meeting some amazing people," Andrews says.

Other project activities include a memory saving Postcard Project, a volunteer relationship with Iowa City Hospice, an intergenerational writing program called The Senior Project, and a series of benefits for area non-profits as part of Was the Word, a monthly storytelling series.

Hancher and Working Group Theatre will present The Broken Chord Friday through Sunday, April 12-14 at the Englert Theatre.

The Broken Chord project is made possible in part by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and MetLife Foundation All-In: Re-imagining Community Participation Program and a grant from the Iowa Arts Council. The performances are supported by the Englert Theatre, Oaknoll Retirement Residence, and the F. Wendell Miller Fund.

The project has involved activities in classes and across the University of Iowa campus including work with the College of Public Health, College of Nursing, Center for Human Rights, School of Social Work in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), Department of Rhetoric in CLAS, and The Examined Life Conference. Additionally, project activities have engaged the Iowa City community including collaborations and activities with The Alzheimer's Association Eastern Iowa Chapter, Iowa City Hospice, The Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center, City High School, Oaknoll Retirement Residence, and other elder care facilities in and around Johnson County.

How to get tickets

Tickets for The Broken Chord are $35 and $25 for nonstudents, $31.50 and $22.50 for senior citizens, and $10 for college students and youth. Tickets are available from the Hancher Box Office, located on the first floor of the south end of the Old Capitol Mall near the parking ramp. The Hancher Box Office is open for phone (319-335-1160 or 800-HANCHER) or walk-up business from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Tickets may be ordered online at www.hancher.uiowa.edu. Any remaining tickets will be available for sale one hour before show time at the Englert Theatre.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, contact Hancher in advance at 319-335-1158.

To read a related story, see Hancher to present world premiere of The Broken Chord by Working Group Theatre.


Rob Cline, Hancher, 319-335-3827
Steve Parrott, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0037


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