Tomorrow Night Dot opens at the Vineyard Theatre. Colman Domingo, has us watch as Dot as she struggles to hold onto her memory, as her three grown children fight to balance care for their mother and care for themselves.
Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living. Most people with this disease show symptoms in their mid-60s. Estimates vary, but experts suggest that more than 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.
T2C talked with Marjorie Johnson who plays Dot.
T2C: You’ve work on several TV shows in New York. Is their more or less work?
Marjorie Johnson: More work because there are more shows. There are 30 shows, right now filming. I have appeared on “The Leftovers, ““Law and Order SVU” and “Nurse Jackie.”
T2C: Tell me a little about what drew you to this play?
Marjorie Johnson: Colman Domingo and I worked together in 2006 at The Guthrie with The People’s Temple. I was the understudy, but Colman also helped cast this play. From that Colman kept me in mind and in 2014 there was a workshop at Dartmouth with The New York Theater Workshop.
T2C: Have you been with Dot since it’s conception?
Marjorie Johnson: Yes, after Dartmouth we did the show with The Actors Theatre and the Humana Festival in Louisville in 2015. A lot of the industry comes to the Humana and from there they decided to produce Dot at the Vineyard
T2C: What kind of research did you do for this role?
Marjorie Johnson: A lot of the research has came form the people I knew. Several of my friend’s parents have had this disease. One of my friend’s situations was just like the daughter in this play. My girlfriend, Marlene Moses had to retire from her job to take care of her mother. When she saw the show last week, she stated if he had watched the play a year ago it would have hit her differently. She felt like she was looking in a mirror. Another friend had her mother in a nursing physicality. This disease affects so many people. I did a lot of reading, plus I was in the presence of people who are dealing with this kind of pain. People who see Dot, come back to tell me about their situations. I would say about half or more tell me of somebody they know who has Alzheimer’s. It’s like it’s in the water, it’s everywhere.
T2C: There is a part in the play where you have your son feel what it is like to be you. Have you gone through that process?
Marjorie Johnson: As we developed the play, we all had the opportunity to do that test. It’s surreal and you have to stay so concentrated on the task. Everyone had a different experience. It’s very effective and factual.
T2C: What do you hope audiences take away from Dot?
Marjorie Johnson: That they will know that they are not alone. That the audience gains insight into how the disease affects people and their families. To learn to be more patient and to help understand what the patient is going through. That the family caregivers realize they have done nothing wrong. Hopefully research will be given more time and funding. Dr Howard Fillet who is with ADDF said this play is truthful and real.
T2C: What other kinds of roles would you like to take on?
Marjorie Johnson: I play a lot of character roles, mothers, grandmothers, but I would love to play a hip, sexy, sassy attorney. I would like to take on Martha in Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf.
T2C: What would you like our readers to know about you?
Marjorie Johnson: That I care about people. I care about people being touched and moved like they have never been before I like to help out in my community. I am a warm individual who loves life and giving.
Dot: The Vineyard Theatre, 108 East 15th until March 20th.