THE BAGDAD CAFE PROGRAM and House Plant Production
I first started playing in nursing homes in 1993 as was overwhelmed by the effect of music in that situation. The reaction was so positive in a very negative environment it really seemed like an incredible tool to make peoples lives a little better.. Over the bast almost 30 years I have performed many shows and the result is always the same – everyone has a good time for at least 1 hour. I thought a show every day would make life in these facilities a little better and have tried to promote this idea many times, from corporate offices to individual nursing homes. I have offered to do it for free and gotten turned down every time. These past 2 years with covid and lockdown have only exasperated the problem and people are dealing with less music and entertainment than ever.
The situation reminded me of the concept of an in-house entertainer that would come on a daily basis, like everyone else that works there, and provide entertainment which was impossible with the lockdowns and restricted visiting. And so, I want to try once more to implement this program.
I call it “The Bagdad Cafe Program” because of the movie by the same name that portrayed a very quiet and lonely desert cafe where life seemed to move at a snails pace that was converted to a lively place of people laughing and have a good time because of one persons’ actions, a German tourist who had been abandoned by her husband and happened to have a magic show kit in her luggage by mistake. She started to do her “magic” and by the force of her personality, changed the place from one of despair to one of joy. That’s what I want to do by having music on a daily basis.
The program will consist of three distinct parts – the first being a show by a musician that is quality entertainment and most of the residents will enjoy (it’s hard to please everyone), the second being a musical participation experience like sing-a-long or drumming where anyone can participate. And the third is to rehearse and perform a play that takes place in a nursing home. The play is called House Plant and is a sing-a-long mystery that I wrote many years ago. The idea is to change the culture of the facility so that music and theater become an integral part of the daily experience and much of the music can be provided by either the staff, residents or visitors. And adding the theater element takes it to a place where everyone can participate in some way and theater brings people together for a common goal. The play is the thing that will promote the positive experience of life – sort of a bad manipulation of Hamlet.
Also important to realize is that the activities that are currently happening will continue. The addition of the entertainer will leave the activity director more time to conduct other activities and there can often be two activities to choose from which will greatly empower the residents to feel like they are having some control over their life. Of course, nothing gets in the way of BINGO.
The plan will have two basic options -
Option 1 – visitors allowed – which will happen eventually
Option 2 – no visitors – just staff – which may be the situation sometimes in the immediate future
Starting with Option 2 the plan is to first coordinate with the Activity Director about the months’ calendar and work on the schedule. The basic concept will be to have each day a little different in the program to provide variety of experience, but have 2 musical-theater events every day – Monday – Friday.
The events will vary to include – 1) musical show by entertainer 2) sing-a-long led by entertainer at first but eventually led by either visitor or staff 3) drum circle 4) live dinner music 5) play rehearsal
The schedule can vary so the live shows can be either morning 10:30 afternoon 2:00 or evening 7:00
then sing-a-longs can be afternoon or evening and so on. You have a matrix of 10 shows (2 per day monday – friday) and 5 kinds of shows so each day will have a different mix and appeal to different residents.
A typical schedule is something like this – but each facility will have it’s own schedule based on the Activity Director and residents’ interests.
monday – blues at 2 – sing-a-long at 4
tuesday country at 2 play rehearsal at 5
wednesday – pop standards – great american songbook afternoon – sing-a-long at 4
thursday – rock – n roll at 2 – play rehearsal at 5
friday - steel drum party – island music at 2 sing-a-long at 5
weekends – music providers are either staff, family or volunteers
saturday – karaoke – sing-a-longs – live music from visitors – staff – local anyone who wants to make music
sunday – spiritual music of all kinds –
between the early and later shows I will talk with your residents and put together their own playlist and requests – have open input for requests –
the shows will change to fit your population and staff -
this schedule is repeated for 4 weeks and then you can evaluate the program and be able to carry on much of the program on your own if you want.
you will just need to provide a space for the afternoon shows and promote the idea of people coming – getting a routine where the folks who want to come to the shows, can get there without a lot of hassle – hopefully the nursing staff will realize that this is for everyone’s benefit.
I will work with the activity director to meld their schedule with this program – it should make their life easier so we just need cooperation. One major fact is that a nursing home requires many workers to make it a livable and safe environment but there is usually only one person responsible for everyone’s entertainment – the activity director. I suggest that it is too much for one person and the musical entertainment gets left to what they can afford and who contacts them regarding shows. Having an in-house entertainer will greatly lighten the load of the activity director so they can do a better job with all of the other activities throughout the day and the entertainer can do what they are good at – entertaining. The residents can have a choice of music or bingo, music or crafts or anything else. They will go from an experience where there is often nothing they want to do0 to having a choice of two things to do and that in itself will make them feel better about the day. Every day will have something for them to look forward to.
Another aspect of this program would be to stream the shows live on a youtube channel that can both share the entertainment with other folks and generate income for the activity program. As long as the residents are not in the camera’s view it should be an ok thing to do .
For Option A – visitors allowed - encourage local singers and musicians to participate – high school music – college theater – make it a community event for a month to add to the entertainment experience at the nursing home – serious changes are possible to make everyone’s life a lot better – music does soothe the soul -
Added to all of the music above we will be rehearsing and producing a musical show – House Plant A Sing-a-long murder mystery
One of the events listed above in the shows will be a play rehearsal. Characters in the play can be played by residents, staff, family or anyone who wants to a part of the production. There are a lot of frustrated performers who would love to volunteer and help make the play happen. If we are on Option A where the public can participate there will always be actors who want to act for a worthy cause -
The cause can also be a fundraiser for the activity budget if we get a revenue stream from the streaming and play performance. There is a real possibility that significant money can be generated.
The music and sing-a-longs speak for themselves and we know what to expect. The play centers around the piano player, Jack, who is accused of murdering Mary, a resident with alzheimers’ or dementia of some kind for $5 million dollars. Jane is the activity director, who has a thing with Jack sometimes and Leonard is another resident- with an interesting backstory you have to read in the context of the play. Throughout the story various songs are sung and the audience is encouraged to sing.
Here’s the link to the play – House Plant
This play cam also be changed at each facility to better match the residents. Theater has a way of bringing people together and everyone that wants one can have a part to play.
I am looking for a facility to do this. I am in Seattle now and hope to have something set up for the late fall (November)
Let me know if you are interested.