Who are we without our memories?

Recently I reviewed a play called Informed Consent by Deborah Zoe Laufer at Horizon Theatre in Atlanta, who produced it after it concluded at the Duke on 42nd in New York City.

In the play, a genetic anthropologist named Jillian is conducting genomic testing to try to find a cure for Alzheimer’s– a disease that took her mother when she was young, and is threatening to take her from her own daughter. In the middle of her research, a colleague calls on her to help him conduct genetic testing on the Havasupai Indians to see if they have a genetic mutation that is causing a 50 percent rate of diabetes in the tribe. The Havasupai believe that blood is sacred, and should never leave the body, but desperate to save their tribe, they consent to being tested for diabetes. However, Jillian sees rich research possibilities in this tribe whose blood is completely untainted, so she sends the blood to other labs to be tested for other things. One of those things is migration patterns that reveal that the Havasupai came from Asia, and not from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, as their origin story says. Embarrassed and hurt, the tribe sues the Arizona State University for lack of informed consent and in order to get the remaining untested samples back from the universities.

The play is based on a real incident that happened between a genetic anthropologist at Arizona State University and the Havasupai Indians in the Grand Canyon.  The real life genetic anthropologist was fired from her job and now works at a university in San Diego.

I have seen a lot of plays this year, but none has made me think for days after like this one. Though, the script is dense and the production I saw was okay, the message in the play about wanting to save one’s memories resonated with me. There is no history of Alzheimer’s or memory loss in my family, but I started thinking, who would I be if I didn’t remember who I am? How would I show up in the world without the knowledge of the day, week, month, and years before? I think that I, we, would be forced to only live in the moment for the moment without our memories. It goes back to that “the present is a gift” thing. And that is the ultimate lesson that the scientists in the play must learn– where facts are limited in their scope, love is limitless in its power. I love seeing plays that scratch at the core of what we believe and force us to ask why, and though Informed Consent is not a perfect play, it is definitely worth seeing and discussing. Check out my review below.

Read the full review of the play: http://www.artsatl.com/2015/10/review-horizons-informed-consent/. 

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