John Putch nailed it when he wrote the script for his most recent indie film, The Father and the Bear. Putch’s story about an aging character actor’s struggle with dementia is both insightful and moving.
He captured the essence of this dementia journey perfectly; both on the part if the victim and a family member who mourns what is lost, worries about the future and tries to protect her loved one from the outside world. Long-time Totem Pole favorite Will Love plays aging character actor Byron, who tries to make a comeback on the stage at Totem Pole Playhouse in spite of his struggle with dementia.
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At times I was moved to tears by Byron’s struggle with the effects of the disease. How familiar that struggle is to those who have lived it, or loved someone experiencing it.
At other times my heart was warmed by Byron’s triumphs and the good times when his memory seemed to clear up and lucidity reigned, even if just for a short time.
Wil Love played the part to perfection. Just as Putch captured the essence of the dementia journey when he wrote the script, Love captured the journey’s struggles and emotions. His interpretation of the character is, as always, right on target.
Living with dementia
My 87-year-old husband is in the late stages of dementia. We, too, have been there. My children and I have felt the heartbreak when we first realized the memory lapses were more than the normal forgetfulness most of us experience when we can’t find our keys or walk into another room and can’t remember why we are there.
I have watched, heartbroken, when he struggled with the standard short-memory tests in doctors offices. We have panicked when he wandered off and was missing for an hour at a time.
John captured those moments in the life of his main character with finesse and a deep understanding of the disease that eventually robs a person of his/her very personality. He drew upon his own experience with his mother, actress Jean Stapleton, who suffered from the same illness before her death in 2013.
Fundraiser for Totem Pole
This month’s showing of The Father and The Bear is a fundraiser for Totem Pole Playhouse. Tickets are a bargain at $10. There are no assigned seats, so get there early. Doors open a half hour before the 8 p.m. showing. The theater seats 387 people, so a sell out crowd would raise $3,870 for the non-profit theater.
Even if you have already seen the film, it is well worth the ticket price to see again. It is a must-see for anyone struggling with dementia, or caring for someone with dementia. My husband commented “that’s me,” several times as we watched the film on our blueray DVD player, including a scene where Byron failed his memory test at the doctor’s office.
Those with no experience with dementia will find it eye-opening. Everyone will be moved by Love’s portrayal of the endearing Byron. Because? Simply put, Putch nailed it with this story about one man’s journey through dementia. He nailed the emotions, the struggles and the occasional triumphs. He nailed the exquisite attempts by friends and complete strangers to help a dementia victim succeed at something he once excelled at, if only for a moment in time.
An extra for this showing includes a live post-show “Talk Back” with Producer, Writer, Director Putch and cast members.