Karen Stobbe and Mondy Carter are IN THE MOMENT
What a pleasure it was to chat with Karen Stobbe and Mondy Carter of In the Moment about their groundbreaking work with improv and transforming relationships with those living with dementia. Check out this interview to learn how it all came to be. On May 4, Karen and Mondy will take the stage with “Improv’ing Life” at the 2018 Eden Alternative International Conference.
LB: So when did it strike you that improv could help transform dementia care?
KS: Mondy and I met doing improv and theatre. During that time, my dad was diagnosed with dementia, but the parallels didn’t hit us right away, in spite of how obvious they are. I threw myself into learning whatever I could to help dad and found myself sitting through an incredibly boring workshop about the brain and dementia. I knew there had to be a better way. While I was sitting there, I began making a list of improv exercises and games that would convey the same concepts the trainer was teaching that day. By the end of the class, I had this huge list. This got me thinking, “what if I developed a program that used creativity and used theatre and improv to teach?” From here, a grant was written and awarded, and I began to bring the work to life in Milwaukee.
MC: During a time when we were doing a lot of improv, it just started to bleed into other areas of life. You are practicing and thinking about the guidelines all the time … “Don’t deny, be open, listen, be clear, say ‘yes, and…’” Karen’s mom was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease too, and as that progressed, she moved in with us. One day we realized we were using these improv techniques with her all day long. Over time, we noticed she was just happier overall. And we saw that when she was with us, her cognition was stronger than it was when she was away from us for long periods of time.
LB: What is In the Moment?
KS: In the Moment is the title for our training program. We wanted a name that would reflect both the creative nature of improv and the experience of living with dementia. What we’ve found, though, is that In the Moment speaks to even more than this. We’ve found in our performances for culture change coalitions around the country that the guidelines for performing improv reach even further. The beauty of improv is that it naturally encourages people to accept different points of view. So, it helps deepen your leadership skills and support the implementation of culture change, it can support any change process in our lives really. In fact, there is this whole subculture developing around the use of improv to improve different systems. We were recently interviewed by this podcast about improv called Getting to “Yes And.” Going forward, our dream is to create a free resource for family and friends based on improv for anyone seeking information about dementia. Part of this will be a series of short videos called Life Clips that highlight a new way to approach daily life together.
LB: What has surprised you as you’ve grown this work?
MC: How desperate people are for this kind of learning! What has really struck me is that people are usually really bummed out when they learn about the mistakes they are making. But with improv as a frame, something different happens. They light up! They see how they can really connect with their loved one, and improv helps them work smarter, not harder. It’s just gratifying to entertain people AND actually offer them something that will make their lives better. Not all actors get to experience that on a regular basis!
LB: What are you rising up for?
KS: I’d say we are rising up for hope. No matter what your situation is, you gotta have hope. Improv offers hope.
We would like to extend our warm thanks to Schlegel Villages in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada for sponsoring Karen Stobbe and Mondy Carter’s General Session at the 2018 Eden Alternative International Conference.