How Often Do I Dream… at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

How Often Do I Dream… by Katie Dorian
Acacia Hall (10433 – 83 avenue) August 13, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23


Image credit: Colleen MacIsaac

Image credit: Colleen MacIsaac

An interview with Katie Dorian.

Describe your show in 5 words.

Multi-sensory exploration of memory through story-telling.

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

How Often Do I Dream… is a multisensory performance experience, exploring how memory functions, how it collapses, and what we become when our memory begins to fade. As a story telling guide, I take the audience through some of my personal memories, and stories of death, age-ing and dementia, while also looking at my family’s stories and inviting the audience to remember their own experiences too. It is free form story telling, non-scripted and open to change depending on how the audience responds. It lives and breathes in the interaction and conversation I have with the audience as I move through the piece.

What made you decide that a multidisciplinary piece was the way you wanted to explore Alzheimers’ Disease?

Memory is so strongly connected to the senses, in particular olfactory sense memory is extremely strong. Scents seem to transport one to a place or time, the image of a person, an experience. Explicit memory. I was inspired by Andy Worhol’s thoughts on a ‘permanent smell collection’ of his perfumes, which he would wear for several months and then retire – he acknowledged that by never wearing a certain perfume again he could kind of stop time and go back to that particular age/period of time whenever he wanted, transported by the smell. So the show starts off with a Memory Museum, where the audience has an opportunity to explore my personal memories (furs, scents in jars, photos, etc) and allow those things to inspire their own memories to come back.

I wanted to explore the 5 senses in that exact way – to be transported through time to a memory, or the essence of a moment in time. Really the show is an exploration of memory itself, and what I want to do is get inside the experience of someone who is losing their memories, to navigate the thoughts that surround “losing” ones memory – what does it mean to forget? What does it mean to remember?

You say in your press release for How Often Do I Dream... that when your Opi developed dementia, you realized your identity was interwoven with his. Can you talk a bit more about what you mean by this?

As I realized that my Opi (my Dad’s Dad) was in cognitive decline, I realized there were parts of my family’s history which he alone had the keys to – he was a Hungarian Jew, and once he left Eastern Europe he stopped talking about his life in the past – he wouldn’t share much with me. I wanted to know where he was from, what his life was like, how he managed to make it through the war (and with my Omi, Dad’s Mum, too). I had all these questions I wanted answered. As a first generation Canadian (both of my parents immigrated here in the 60s) I wanted to know more about where I came from. Opi was a huge part of being able to trace my Dad’s side of the family.

Alzheimers’ is a deeply personal disease – what have audience reactions been to How Often Do I Dream…?

After every show I get a handful of people or more coming up to me wanting to share more of their stories. Due to the very personal and intimate nature of the show I also find many audience members wanting to give me hugs afterward – which I am always happy to receive! These are universal stories – and everyone as a personal connection to the content, in each story, in some way. The most moving experiences have been when someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s comes to the show and expresses to me that they think I’ve got it right – I’m successfully sharing their points of view. I also have many medical care professionals who see these kinds of stories every day and they often want to share their appreciation for their experiences being exposed, seen and talked about. It’s a hard subject, but we don’t need to be so afraid of it. I want to instigate conversation.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

I want audiences to know that while there is “audience participation” it is not scary! I meet everyone who comes in, right at the door, so its all very intimate, but trusting. We are one big family by the end. And despite some of the stories touching on themes of death and dementia, it’s light! I don’t want people to feel sad – I want us to have a shared experience, explore, chat, and story tell. There are lots of laughs to be had. You just have to show up.

Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?

I have a cracker jack team from Nova Scotia backing me up to who I want to give credit. First:

Gina Thornhill, my stage manager, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to do this national tour (Edmonton is stop number 4 of 5: Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg are done now, just Victoria left after this!)

Matthew Amyotte composed the original music which underscores the movement section of the show.

Alexis Milligan, my director, helped me craft the show and without her guidance and collaboration it would not be the shape it is.

Colleen MacIsaac designed the gorgeous poster image, she is a visual and theatre artist from Halifax.

I had the opportunity to workshop this show while the Emerging Artist in Residence at 2b theatre, in Halifax last year, which is when and where this show was first born. So thanks to them as well!

The 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 13 – 23. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.

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