by Ed Malin · June 24, 2015
Punk Grandpa by Laura Force Scruggs, directed by Emmi Hilger is an intriguing true story in this year’s Planet Connections Theatre Festivity. This production supports the worthy cause of Alzheimer’s research.
There are so many happy memories of Grandpa Bob Pohlmann, who used to say certain behavior would put hair on your chest. Imagine his young granddaughter’s surprise to wake up in the morning and realize he had taped some of his hair to her chest. What a sense of accomplishment! What a bunch of punks in that family.
Through her wonder years in suburban Illinois, Laura sees her grandpa’s sense of humor is very much in demand. He greets all the ladies in church and calls them all “Miss America”. With the blessing of his wife (with whom he does a ton of swing dancing and who thinks he gives her plenty of attention), he flirts with all 25 lady bank tellers. He drives on the sidewalk and lifts up neighborhood kids to give them airplane rides. When it’s raining, he goes to the lost and found and claims someone else’s umbrella.
Laura is telling all the parts of the story. She is dressed in a rainbow tutu with rainbow tights. She brandishes large, inflatable Crayola ™ crayons. But there are also photos and videos of Grandpa Bob, who is almost always seen dancing. How sad it is to hear that Grandpa Bob, like 1 in 3 seniors, succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease. It looks like the fun didn’t end in the nursing home; reportedly, Grandpa Bob was found in the bed of another patient, a beautiful lady. But that is just one more charming part of this very real story, which shows that some of the nicest and most vital people we know may have to confront this disease.
This is a kind-hearted production which I hope will find an audience around the country. “Props” to Lauren Arneson, stage manager, dramaturg and family relation of Grandpa Bob, for helping bring this show to life. Ditto to choreographer Laura Thoma and lighting designer Bruce A! Kraemer, who have made it that much easier to have a one-person family. (Photo of Laura Force Scruggs by Tisse Mallon)