Still ‘No Room’
Four years ago I watched a family member travel the frustrating journey through dementia. Standing by helplessly as they navigated the confusing, twisting, vexing path made me yearn to understand what the person was experiencing, if only so I could know how to reach them.
David Remschel was the one who let me inside their head. The Fredericksburg resident is not a doctor or a psychologist or a scientist. He is a middle school theater teacher. I was privileged to attend the first-time public showing in 2015 of his brave original play “No Room For A Picture On The Blank Wall.” It is now being staged at The Point Theater in Ingram.
Remschel’s unlikely connection with the disease started while working at an Alzheimer’s clinic as part of his Servant Leadership class at McMurry State University.
“That provided so much insight,” Remschel told me after that first show. “I went every day and was able to talk with the patients. That gave me a lot of inspiration, and as I was taking an advanced playwriting class at the same time, it all came together.”
Indeed. His play won the Texas Education Theater Association Playfest Award, and later was published by Dramatic Publishing. This is its first area production since, and the first time directed by Remschel.
The playwright’s challenge was to find a way for the audience to see through the eyes of the patient, Peter Bunther (played by Ken DeZarn). Remschel came up with the clever device of having two wise-cracking movers methodically carry off pieces of the set while the show is in progress, symbolically taking away markers of Bunther’s life. The pair serves as comic relief even as they personify the devastation of the disease.
“They are the Alzheimer’s,” Remschel said of the duo. “They are taking away his life, basically.”
That contrast of the serious and the humorous, evidenced by giggles and nods from the audience, perfectly reflects the conflicted emotions that surround all tragedy.
And those audience reactions are meaningful to Remschel.
“A lot of people have been telling me about their personal experiences with it,” he said. “People who have been affected by Alzheimer’s in their families have told me they were touched by it, and could relate to the characters in the play.”
For some, too much so. One man whose wife had Alzheimer’s had to step out at intermission. But do not get the impression this play is maudlin or depressing. Quite the opposite.
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