Previous research involving dramatic performances about Alzheimer's disease and dementia perception have targeted health care workers or caretakers. We examined the influence of a theater performance on the emotional affect of a general audience to determine the utility of this type of theater in large-scale public health education efforts. Our study included 147 participants that attended a self-revelatory theater performance based on the social/relationship experiences of those with dementia and those who care for them. This type of theater engages the audience and actors in a dual transformative process, supporting the emotional growth of all involved. Participants completed pre- and post-performance questionnaires regarding their beliefs and feelings surrounding the topic of dementia and the importance of the Arts for educating on issues surrounding dementia care. We tested for change in emotional affect pre- and post-performance using sensitivity and center of gravity statistical analyses. We found a significant change in emotional affect from an initial strong negative affect to slightly more positive/relaxed view after viewing the performance. Findings support self-revelatory theater as a resource to destigmatize preconceived notions of dementia. Large-scale community health education efforts could benefit from using this style of theater to elicit a change in audience perception of disease realities.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; art therapy; awareness; dementia; neurodegenerative diseases; social stigma.