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

UPDATED: West Shore RCMP officer cleared in Goldstream trestle death

Independent Investigation Office of BC issues final report

Transportation Safety Board’s out-of-date data system makes it hard to track trends

An upgrade to the system will be coming in the next fiscal year

Canadian Armed Forces to change approach to sexual assault investigations

New program aimed at a more open and transparent process, will consult with civilians, health and law professionals

Friends, family remember Dan Sealey, stepson of Minister of Agriculture, in private gathering

Lana Popham confirmed Sealey died of an accidental drug overdose earlier this month at age 23

Changes coming to BC Ferries reservations for Vancouver Island routes

Many customers are booking multiple reservations, inflating wait times

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

$50k fine and community service for Vancouver Island tax evader

David Gonyea was given a nine-month conditional sentence

Paved Pacific Rim National Park trail costs balloon to $51 million

Feds kick in an additional $17 million to complete trail running between Tofino and Ucluelet

Island connection to launch of new $10 bill

Great nephew of Viola Desmond says bill is a ‘step in the right direction’

B.C. fire chief learns from California fires

Chief Travis Whiting and Kelowna Fire Department learn from the devasting U.S. fires

1st Indigenous woman to start Canadian airline looks to B.C.’s remote regions

Teara Fraser is the first Indigenous woman in Canada to start her own airline, called Iskwew Air

Prosecutors appeal B.C. cops’ acquittal of sex assault charges in Cuba

Port Moody’ Const. Jordan Long and Vancouver’s Const. Mark Simms were acquitted last week

Examine ‘monstrous’ allegations of forced sterilization of Indigenous women: NDP

The issue of forced sterilizations will also be raised at the UN Committee Against Torture

Canada Post ‘cooling off’ period won’t resolve postal dispute, says CUPW

CUPW national president Mike Palecek says the union isn’t holding rotating strikes to harm the public

Most Read