Our Team

The Cast

Meet the cast of Tangles in Time, twelve participant-performers sharing real-life stories of living with dementia, caregiving and healing.

John Best

John Best is a neurology resident at the University of Pennsylvania and a future cognitive neurologist and dementia care provider. His fascination with the brain is contagious. When not in the hospital, John can be found riding his bike across Pennsylvania, dancing for hours on end, or cooking up a storm for friends and strangers.

“When the brain is healthy, all the parts talk to each other at the right time—the outside and inside worlds synchronize. But with dementia, we never know what will rise up. It’s most beautiful when all the parts work together. It’s most tragic when they don’t.”

Brienne Bush

Brienne Bush attended Spelman College and graduated from Thomas Jefferson University’s College of Nursing in May 2019. She participates in the annual Autism Speaks Walk in Philadelphia each year as a team leader in support of her elder son, Kaleb. Brienne loves to spend her time creating special memories for her two children and her younger brother and sister. She also enjoys reading, fitness and music.

“I’m an unconditional lover. You need that type of open heart to work with others. Everything isn’t about a diagnosis. You never want to make anyone feel like a diagnosis.”

Salena Cui

Salena Cui is a medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. At the transition between classroom and hospital, she is grateful for all the people and books who have been her teachers so far. She loves to dance and play music and treasures holidays with family. She can often be found playing piano for patients in the hospital.

“How do we lose a language and culture so quickly? How do we find the language beyond words?”

Bill Dougherty

Bill worked as a pharmacist for fifty-three years, including the last thirty as manager of Outpatient Pharmacies at Jefferson Health. Married to Nora for fifty-five years, Bill is the father of four great sons, three grandsons and (finally!) one granddaughter. He always enjoyed playing, refereeing and coaching sports. Bill is currently diagnosed with dementia.

“Sometimes my mind feels blank. With this diagnosis, Nora is the one taking all the punches. What am I going to do to help her?”

Nora Dougherty

Nora has been married to her husband, Bill, since 1964. She has been a hematology medical technologist and, later, a phlebotomist at Jefferson Health. She loves gardening, opera and music of almost any kind. For her, cooking and baking have always been tops. She is currently a care partner for her husband Bill.

“Bill and I have a deep abiding love after 54 years of marriage. I will always be there for him. There’s a touch of divine in the deep place in my center.”

Kailyn Kim

Kailyn Kim is a medical student pursuing internal medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. She has learned so much from everyone and is excited to be a part of this wonderful piece. She enjoys dogs, 60-degree weather and planning her next meal before finishing her current meal.

“I grew up afraid to ask questions about subjects that my family didn’t speak about. The question I was most afraid to ask was “What’s going on with grandma?”

Sunny Lai

Sunny Lai is a family medicine physician at Thomas Jefferson University with special interests in HIV, addiction and LGBTQ health. She is a lover of all things creative. She is thrilled to share this experience with her partner, John Best, and all of the amazing individuals in this work.

“For me, being a physician is about being with a family through the mundane as well as life-changing moments. It’s about long companionship and knowing their stories. And if there are no more words, it’s about being with their soul.”

Mike Szkaradnik

Mike is a married father of two who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and now resides in South Jersey. He worked in accounting and finance and now owns his own business. Mike loves to play golf. He is the care partner of his wife, Mary Anne, who has frontal lobe dementia.

“Being a care partner can be scary. It’s like I’m on an island. Other times, it’s like I’m spinning plates and, before I know it, one has crashed.”

Mary Anne Szkaradnik

Mary Anne is a retired ICU-Critical Care nurse residing in South Jersey with her husband, Mike, and two children. She loved to garden and exercise and now likes to dance and listen to music. Mary Anne is living with dementia.

“I would be nowhere. That’s where I am right now. [I think you’re somewhere, you’re right here.] Right here? Good.”

Kimberly Mellon

Kimberly Mellon is a certified clinical hemodialysis technician at Jefferson Health, New Jersey, and a recent graduate of Thomas Jefferson University’s College of Nursing. She is a dedicated mother to her dear daughter Nevaeh Mellon. She loves dogs, coffee and the beauty of human connection.

“After many years of taking care of my grandmother at home, we had to put her in a care facility. It’s hard to think you’ve failed your loved one.”

Michael J. Williams

Michael was born and raised in Philadelphia. Like his mother, Michael loves traveling and jumping in his car to take long drives while watching the sun rise. He retired from AT&T in 1987 and began working full time in healthcare. He has been a volunteer emergency medical technician and instructor. Michael was a care partner for his mother, who had dementia.

“When my mother had dementia, the most upsetting part was when she told me she didn’t have any children. I said “OK,” because I’d known that day was coming.”

Norm Wisler

Upon his late wife Marcia’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Norm started reading and learning about dementia and the brain. He became active in programs, courses and conferences of the Alzheimer’s Association, American Brain Foundation, University of Pennsylvania and ARTZ Philadelphia. Norm currently operates a long-term care insurance firm and jogs 5.5 to 7 miles per day.

“Before my wife Marcia died of Alzheimer’s, I knew I’d do anything I could to help her and keep her. When we got married, we changed our vows to say “love, honor, and protect.” Part of my love was to always protect her.”

Artistic Team

Teya Sepinuck

Creator, Director, and Producer

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Teya is the founder and artistic director of Theater of Witness. Since 1986, she has been creating Theater of Witness productions with people whose stories haven’t been heard—including prisoners and their families, refugees and immigrants, people affected by violence and/or abuse, and people healing from trauma. Their stories of strength and resilience inspire her.

Megan Voeller

Producer

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Megan is a curator, educator and art critic based in Philadelphia, where she serves as Director of Humanities at Thomas Jefferson University. At Jefferson, she organizes a wide range of humanities programs, including the medical school’s humanities selective courses, a co-curricular health humanities certificate program and public events.

Jay Fluellen

Composer

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Jay started playing the piano at age seven and wrote his first musical composition at age eleven. He grew up in Philadelphia and received his Doctorate in Music Composition from Temple University. Jay excels as a jazz pianist, composer, singer, organist and educator.

Dax Mackenzie Roggio

Filmmaker

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Dax is a director, editor, photographer, and commercial drone pilot. He is also the managing director of Packafoma Philms, a digital cinema production company based in Philadelphia.

Raymond Holman, Jr.

Photographer

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Raymond’s photographs have appeared throughout Philadelphia. In response to his father’s dementia, he created a long-term project focusing on family caregivers and the challenges they face living with a person with dementia and the love they share.

Josh Robinson

Percussionist

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Josh is a teaching artist who helps people express themselves and overcome challenges through drumming. Josh travels across the country leading workshops with children and adults. In addition to his work as a teacher, Josh also performs as a professional musician.

Matilda Ostow

Production Assistant

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Matilda is grateful to be working on her second Theater of Witness project. Since June of 2017, she has loved learning about Philadelphia as she repairs books, supports a health and wellness project through the Free Library, tends to a cradle grave in the Woodland Cemetery and bikes around.

Beth Popelka

Production Assistant

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Beth has twenty years of experience working nationally as a theatre-maker, carrying a special concern for social justice. She is delighted to have spent the past year facilitating workshops, growing a baby, and apprenticing with Theater of the Witness. Beth’s passionate about creating opportunities where people weave new connections and unearth the healing medicine in stories.

Lucy Li

Production Assistant

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Lucy is a medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College. She is inspired by everyone she has met through this production; they have taught her so much about the capacity to selflessly love and care for one another. Some of her favorite things are Hot Cheetos, sleeping in, and Hot Cheetos.

Samantha Morse

Production Assistant

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Samantha is an occupational therapy student at Thomas Jefferson University. She comes from upstate New York and has lived in Philadelphia for four years. Samantha is an avid traveler, cook and art enthusiast.

Rebecca Harris

Production Assistant

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Rebecca grew up in New Jersey. She studied Art History and Political Economy at Tulane in New Orleans. She works for Thomas Jefferson University as the Humanities Program Coordinator in the Office of Student Life and Engagement.

David Meinhart

Exhibition Coordinator

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David is the Education Coordinator for Jefferson Humanities & Health. He has previously worked in the arts as well as in education, teaching high school, adult education, and English as a second language. He studied English and Spanish at Syracuse University.

Thinking Partner

Anne Basting

Founder & CEO of TimeSlips

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Anne Basting, PhD, is a theater artist and educator demonstrating the potential of storytelling and creative expression to improve the lives of elders experiencing cognitive impairment. She runs the award-winning nonprofit, TimeSlips, to improve quality of life of elders and their circle of care by nurturing communication and creating value, meaning and purpose through creative engagement. Anne is also Professor of Theater in the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and a 2016 MacArthur Fellow.

Building Empathy Through the Arts.