L-R, The Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Dorothy

The Wizard of Oz Presented by OPICA’s Drama Club

Using drama therapeutically allows for adults with dementia to connect with their emotions using tactical moments and interaction with objects and each other.  Group interaction helps individual members to come out of their shell and express themselves more freely. They begin to connect with their feelings in a deeper way, but they are also laughing and having a fabulous time.

Activities use human touch, interaction to create a connection with others and help combat the isolation many adults with dementia experience.  While a drama group is somewhat structured, no one is forced to do anything they don’t feel comfortable with. The focus is on expressing how they feel in the moment, not how they think they should feel. The process of improv or drama therapy supports living in the moment, spontaneous, creative interactions, fun and sense of accomplishment.

OPICA staff member, Anne Galbraith, supervises OPICA Trainees and Associates and worked with Nelson Gary and Belinda Reser to develop a therapeutic drama group for OPICA’s Adult Day Program. Under her direction, Nelson and Belinda learned which members that it would be appropriate to include, ideas for themes and activities, and how to facilitate such a group.  The drama group blossomed under the direction of an OPICA Trainee, Cheryl Beck Benjamin.  Prior to coming to OPICA, Cheryl had 30 years of experience running Creative Kids Youth Theater Project and teaching drama.  When her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s ten years ago, she decided to go back to school to pursue a Marriage and Family Therapist license with the desire to work with the community impacted by dementia.  And fortunate for us, one of her professors recommended OPICA to do her training. 

One of the challenges for adults with dementia is differentiating between reality and fantasy.  Cheryl began exploring the characters’ emotions from the Wizard of Oz because it is such a well-known iconic fantasy story.  As with other therapeutic programs utilizing the arts, it’s more about the experience and not the finished product. The work the drama group engaged in was never intended to be performed before an audience, but because of their enthusiasm and desire to share their work with their OPICA friends, a presentation was prepared.  

Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow, familiar characters we all know and love expressed feelings through words and/or movement about the difficulty to move as they used to, the courage to engage with others and a brain that might not function as it used to.  OPICA members joined in to sing Over the Rainbow and Follow the Yellow Brick Road.  To everyone’s surprise, the positive experience of the performers and the audience alike surpassed all expectations.   The high energy and interactive qualities of the show had some members laughing so hard they were crying.  

For a quick peek at OPICA’s Wizard of Oz, click on the image below.