Jill Daum, at the Belfry theatre in Victoria. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Alzheimer’s story from wife of Spirit of the West singer takes stage

Jill Daum, wife of musician John Mann, writes ‘Forget About Tomorrow’, playing now in Victoria

Jill Daum says writing a play about a family’s struggles with Alzheimer’s helped her get out of bed some days as she fought to accept her husband’s diagnosis of the cruel disease.

Daum is married to musician John Mann, the driving force behind the Canadian band Spirit of the West, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s almost six years ago and now, at age 55, lives in a care home.

“Forget About Tomorrow” opened Jan. 25 at Victoria’s Belfry Theatre and is scheduled to run until Feb. 18. It is also scheduled to start March 1 at Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre.

“The story is fictional but it was certainly inspired by what I learned from living with John. What I learned as a caregiver and what I’ve had to watch him go through,” said Daum in an interview hours before the opening night performance.

READ MORE: Making music, with John Mann

READ MORE: John Mann shows indomitable spirit in new documentary

She said Alzheimer’s takes its toll on more than just the individual with the disease. It ransacks families and the play explores the decline of a family and couple as the disease slowly gnaws at long-standing bonds, she said.

“It’s about the wife who’s married to the person who gets the diagnosis and how it affects her and her family, and her path to accepting what her life will be,” Daum said. “She goes down a few rabbit holes … and eventually comes to a place of acceptance.”

Daum, who was rewriting lines right up until opening night, said the play evolved during sessions at a women’s writing workshop in Vancouver. She said she didn’t tell anybody about her husband’s diagnosis and the foundation of the play emerged during those gatherings.

“I started to write scenes about a woman whose husband had early-onset and nobody in the group knew John had it,” said Daum. “They were really impressed with my knowledge about the disease. I got to talk about what it was like for a caregiver. I got to do all of that without anybody knowing it was actually about me.”

“Forget About Tomorrow” is Daum’s first solo project, though she has collaborated on other plays.

She said Mann is not able to attend the Victoria performances.

“We’ve just gone through a really rough patch with him. But he’s still beautiful Johnny. He’s still snapping his fingers. There’s a lot of love for John in this show.”

She said Mann often helped her read lines in the scenes and he contributed two songs to the play.

The songs, “Forget to Forget,” and “Tom’s Song,” are the last songs Mann has written. The play opens and closes with the songs.

Daum said the play is an emotional roller-coaster, humorous and moving, as the family attempts to cope with upheaval in their lives. The performance arrives at a crossroad, where actor Jennifer Lines, who portrays the wife and caregiver, meets a new man and confronts a difficult decision.

“The dilemma is should Jane take it or stay with her husband when we all know in two years he won’t remember her name,” she said.

Daum said her personal road to acceptance of Alzheimer’s has been difficult, especially since the journey is continuing to its ultimate end.

“I will have a life past Alzheimer’s and John won’t. It’s hard for everybody,” Daum said.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Man who stole millions from Seabird Island band sentenced to 4.5 years jail

Stephen MacKinnon sentenced in Chilliwack court for stealing $2.3 million over eight years

Freezing temperatures expected in Lower Mainland

Snowfall warning ends, but surge or icy air to continue

Chilliwack Chiefs take gut punch from Merritt in 5-2 loss

Trying to hold off Langley and Surrey for the Mainland division’s second seed, Chilliwack faltered.

Chilliwack’s history celebrated during Heritage Week

Heritage Chilliwack partnering with Atchelitz and more for open house

Park and trails consultation sessions kick off on Feb. 24

City staff will be talking about some current parks projects like green gyms for example

VIDEO: Sphero programmable robot rolled out at Chilliwack Library

With kids already learning coding skills at school, local libraries offer access to fun practice

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Update: Multiple vehicle incident closes eastbound Okanagan Connector

Highway 97C is closed to eastbound traffic near Pennask Summit following an incident Sunday afternon

#Metoo movement causing confusion in many men, fear of missteps with women: experts

Being painted by the same sweeping brush as those alleged to have mistreated women has angered men

Liberals to dig deeper, aim higher on gender equality in 2018 federal budget

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the budget would include measures to boost women in the workforce

Late-winter snow storm blankets Lower Mainland

Some areas got up to half a foot of snow

Body of missing skier found

Man’s truck found in Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s parking lot covered in ‘several days’ snow’

Most Read