People With Dementia as ‘spect-actors’ in a Musical Theatre Group With Performing Arts Students from the Community


The Arts in Psychotherapy




A collaborative music and drama therapy initiative with performing arts students and people with dementia yielded an innovative framework. Twelve people with dementia residing in a nursing home and twelve students from a performing arts school took part in two consecutive groups (6 residents and 6 students in each group). Each group was 10 sessions long. The groups were co-facilitated by a music therapist and a drama therapist. A qualitative research embracing action research ideas was used, and content analysis of all written documents revealed three major categories: (1) Combining music and drama expanded the emotional and creative modes of expression for people with dementia, (2) The supporting engagement of performing arts students helped people with dementia to play an active role in the musical-dramatic space, and (3) The joint framework enabled people with dementia to participate as actors in the final performance of an auto-biographical therapeutic theatre. Promoting modes of creative self-expression for people with dementia is important when autonomy is gradually lost with the progression of the disease. A new perspective of viewing people with dementia as ‘spect-actors’, moving from spectators to actors, contributes to various aspects of autonomy, such as mastery, dignity and independence. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

Music and Health Institute Terms

Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Emotional Functioning; Expressive Arts Therapy; Long-Term Care Facility; Music in Combination with Other Techniques; Music Therapy; Neurodegenerative Disorders

Indexed Terms

Drama therapy; Dementia; Alzheimer’ s disease; Auto-biographical theatre; ‘ Spect-actors’; Alzheimer's Disease; Psychodrama; Arts; Drama; Nursing Students; Theatre

Study Type

Case Study; Qualitative Methods

Document Type