The Alzheimer’s Tennessee of South Central Tennessee presents “Beyond the Rain,” a play written by local author Weldon Payne that discusses the struggles caregivers face when a loved one faces memory loss. It will run March 1-3 at the Manchester Arts Center.
The play, originally staged at South Jackson Civic Center 10 years ago, will be presented with most of the original cast. The goal is to bring awareness of the disease and to share information about Alzheimer’s Tennessee.
Local Alzheimer’s Tennessee Director Fran Gray said the group works to support Tennesseans with Alzheimer’s and their families.
“Everything we raise, all our donations, stays in Tennessee. We want have a presence and welcome people to come to us for information,” she said.
Alzheimer’s TN’s mission is to serve those facing the disease, related dementia, to promote brain health through education, additional research and treatment. It’s a nonprofit committed to help families understand and cope with the ravaging effects of Alzheimer’s.
The ravages of Alzheimer’s and how that effects caregivers is central to Payne’s two-act drama.
“This show deals with the subject, the caretakers and what they go through,” said director Noel Clements.
The play is set in the 1970s when the disease was seldom diagnosed. It centers on the King Family. Edna King, played by local actor Jessica Jernigan is the primary caregiver of Mama King (Carolyn Bradford). The older sister is largely absent, but has returned to check on Mama King.
“There’s good times and not so good times,” Clements said.
Local actor Jessica Jernigan, who plays Edna King, said she has personal experience as a caregiver and feels a connection to families of Alzheimer’s patients.
“Edna is someone who everybody can relate to. We’ve all had someone who’s been ill or sick somehow. As Edna (Mama King) is my life and I would change anything about taking care of her, and that’s important,” Jernigan said.
“It it’s also very isolating to try to navigate though that chaos.”
She said hopes to portray in her character the humanity Edna, her hope drive to make a normal life.
Bradford said she too draws from personal experience for her character.
“My mother had dementia that was going into Alzheimer’s and my sister had full blown Alzheimer’s. My step-dad had it, so I remember the things they did and the way they acted, but I bring my own feisty personality to it,” she said.
“It brings back memories,” she added.
Shelia Cagle (who plays the selfish older sister) said it is a blessing to be invited to reprise her role and to be part of a play written by a local playwright.
“This is the second time I’ve done this play and I’ve done a lot of things in theater…this is the proudest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “I was honored…to tell the story that might have otherwise never been heard.”
Following each performance will be a short question-and-answer session between the audience, performers and organization representatives.
Also in the cast are Bradley Ramsey, Joel Longstreth, Terry Bradford, Sean Amidon and Zuri Jernigan.
Gray said the play is made possible by Manchester sponsors Peoples Bank and Trust, Al White Motors and Coffee County Farm Bureau.