In 2004, my dad and I stood stunned, on a baseball surrounded by corn in Dyersville, IA. We knew it was magical - a place of dreams, faith, forgiveness, hope, redemption and love. Yes, the film, “Field of Dreams”, got us there. And, as many who have seen and loved the film as we do know, it’s only about baseball on the surface. Dwier Brown, who played Kevin Costner’s father in the film, wrote the brilliant book, “If You Build It…” which dives deep into the mythology and lasting legacy of the film - I highly recommend it. Arriving on the site took care of any remaining doubt…because the Field of Dreams, itself, is perfectly improvisational - you make it what you need it to be.
We were in the middle of our two month, 20,000 mile road trip to see a game at each of the 30 MLB parks together, taking a deep dive into what life with Parkinson’s might look like as things progressed. We heard about and saw PD from a number of unique angles. As it turns out, PD is well-served by improvisation because all who are affected need to constantly change to deal with new challenges, limits and opportunities.
Improvisation also helps because it’s impossible to know what life has in store for any of us. Dad certainly never thought about getting PD. But as he’s lived with it and fought gallantly against its advances over the 18 years he’s been diagnosed, I’ve been constantly challenged to figure out my role. I desperately want to do more. The serenity prayer is both my bane and guide. The wisdom to know the difference between the two, indeed…
Today I announce a part I’m claiming as an effort to bring some joy, relief and positive discovery to my dad and the millions who are in the fight against PD; to be clear that’s not just those with PD, but also care partners, loved ones, wellness and medical providers who wear their hearts on their sleeves:
I’m beginning work to earn my PhD in Kinesiology from the University of Nevada Las Vegas this month. My dissertation will be on the effect of improvisation on PD. It’s rooted in this landmark study done at Northwestern University. I have been running improv workshops over the past several months across the country and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. My goal is to have as many Improv to Improve Parkinson’s Disease groups going across the country and, in time, the world as possible.
If you like the sound of this and want to be involved, the answer is yes, we can use your help. If you’d like to donate to Improv to Improve Parkinson’s Disease (I2IPD), you can do so here. If you’d like to have a workshop in your community, please check out the guidelines and FAQ here. Once you’ve read them, you can email me from that page, too
The groundwork we laid with our first Boys of Summer film so many years ago continues to bare fruit. While we maintain hope that a cure is still “out there”, today is right here. While we may not be able to fix PD yet, we can help make things better today.
— written by Robert Cochrane