On September 23, 2015 at the Lower Denton Theatre, Acadia University, Wolfville Nova Scotia, 60 people attended a 50 min. preview performance of an ethnodrama (currently in development) titled “Who Cares?” about aging, caregiving, feeding family and survival. In the audience were faculty members, physicians, spiritual care workers, dietitians, caregivers, students and community members.
Producer and researcher, Catherine Morley, Assistant Professor of Nutritional Science at Acadia opened the evening providing insight into her research about the meanings of eating and feeding family with changed health status. A number of the stories and characters featured in the ethnodrama were inspired by accounts from actual interview transcripts from interviews conducted with caregivers by Morley.
The ethnodrama was created and written by Cheryl McLean, visiting scholar at Acadia and editor of several research texts on the creative arts in interdisciplinary research. She is also an ethnodramatist and actor. McLean opened the performance as narrator answering the question, “What is an ethnodrama? She explained that this type of research performance is an art form that brings together the two worlds of ethnography and drama. It is a written research based play script made up of performances consisting of selections of narrative created and adapted from actual interview transcripts, memories, oral histories, facts, news and personal stories.
The ethnodrama “Who Cares?” addressed challenges unpaid caregivers face each day to care for their family members, from assisting and feeding a spouse with Alzheimer’s Disease, advocating for food choice at end of life, providing for those in need balanced with the dynamics of the personal relationship and attending to a family member who is dying at home.
“Who Cares?” cast member, vocal instructor, soloist and recording artist Paula Rockwell felt deeply inspired by the topic of caregiving and explains why she jumped on board to participate in this project. “Because of my personal experiences and because we need to get information to future caregivers which by the look of the demographics will largely be family members.”
Robert Seale, Associate Professor, Department of English and Theatre at Acadia joined the cast because, he says, “I have dealt with these issues, and by dealt with I mean barely coped, and not very well. I lost both parents to Alzheimer’s. “Thankfully,” says Seale, “at least, they died in their children’s arms. I felt very alone. I’m doing this because it is worthwhile, topical and needs to be dealt with now, in a proactive way.”