2013 Projects
Professor Shnuffle: A Performance Highlighting the Elderly
Ryan Reid

The social problem I am addressing is the treatment of a marginalized group. And more specifically, the treatment of the elderly in American society. In the United States, the elderly population (persons above age 65) numbers 39.6 million – that is roughly 12% of the total population. For such an expansive population, the elderly are generally neglected. In our ever changing, fast-paced world they just don’t move fast enough to keep up. And this population is steadily increasing, by 2050 they are projected to be 1 in 5 persons. I have done research on their treatment in the public sphere and have found that they are marginalized both by societal designs and social interaction. Many elements of day-to-day life are not designed for them as users, especially in regards to their mobility. And, unlike Asian cultures in which the grandparents live at home with their extended family, nursing homes have become a popular care solution in the U.S. Not only are the elderly neglected as a group but their needs are neglected too. The decline in their physical abilities, their isolation and their battle against diseases are among the biggest challenges they face. They are a population in need of a voice. I believe that the elderly are a group of people to be highlighted rather than cast aside. By ignoring them, we are hurting only ourselves and limiting what we can learn. They carry a wisdom with them that is unparalleled and it needs to be harnessed. I aim to bring attention to the elderly and awareness about the problems they confront on a daily basis.

My solution to the problem is drawing attention to the elderly through a theatre performance. This project has become my yearlong combination Senior Thesis as a BAFA student at the New School. For my Lang thesis I am writing a play. Then, for my Parsons thesis I am designing the general performance, costumes and experience of the play. The play follows the elderly Professor Shnuffle through a day in his life. The audience learns about Professor Shnuffle’s daily struggles such as physical movement, loneliness and the onslaught of Alzheimer’s. The audience also gets insights to his life through flashbacks to provide a deeper understanding of who he is today. The play focuses on one character with the intention of providing a trope for the marginalized elderly in general. The actual performance will challenge normal standards of theatre. The play will take place in an apartment turned theatre, decorated like it is Professor Shnuffle’s. The audience size will be smaller than is typical – providing a more intimate environment, one in which the audience is truly able to see and understand who the character is. The costumes, music, and lighting design will all give further insight to who Professor Shnuffle is and how he lives. The hope is that the audience leaves thinking about how they can treat the elderly in their life more compassionately – a grass roots campaign essentially. The intention is to open people’s eyes to a societal problem and begin a discussion about what needs to change.

  • Cinderella

    This sounds like an awesome project – my vote is yes!

    • Ryan Reid

      Thanks mom!:)

  • Kami Dempsey

    Sounds amazing. You got my vote!

  • Al Maloof

    What an outstanding endeavor…all the best!

  • Louise Helton

    Very thoughtful project! Congratulations

  • OP

    All it takes is one voice to change the world – glad you are using yours wisely

  • Guy Hobbs

    Great idea! Great project!

  • John Ponticello

    This is some thing different for seniors, a new approach to bring the needs of the elderly. Wish you the best in your endeavors.
    Your Grandma told about the grandaughter moving to NYC. then to Brooklyn, this must be you………………………….John Ponticello

    • Ryan Reid

      Yes, I’m the granddaughter in Brooklyn! Tell my grandma hello. Thanks for your comments and best wishes.

  • Zev Kaplan

    Best of luck. This is a wonderful project and very creative.

  • Susan McCue

    So creative and WISE !

    • Ryan Reid

      Thanks Susan!

  • Steve Sisolak

    I am very impressed with this and wish you the best of luck!

  • Karen Mulcahy

    This sounds great, best of luck!

  • http://www.facebook.com/davidchasecohen David Cohen


  • http://twitter.com/Ezmark49 E. Z. Mark

    Very interesting. I vote in support.

  • Pat Christenson

    Well stated issue with creative platform to create awareness. Good luck!

  • thom reilly

    very interesting. Glad to support. Thom Reilly

  • Ray Carter

    Very cool idea Ryan! Big thumbs up.

    • Ryan Reid

      Thanks Ray!

  • http://www.facebook.com/karakelley Kara Kelley

    Ryan – as my mom’s full-time caregiver, you are right on the mark in highlighting this issue. Thank you.

    • Ryan Reid

      It is so admirable that you are your mom’s full-time caregiver. Thank you for your feedback.

  • Sk

    Excited for this!! Sounds fantastica

  • Steve jhawar

    Its great that you are shining a light on social issues faced by our elderly population. Good Luck!

  • Barbara Bell

    Good luck, Ryan. I applaud your endeavor on behalf of a population that has given so much over their lifetime, and needs so much help now.
    Barbara Bell

  • Ross Romero

    This is a very neat concept and very important topic to our Nation’s changing demograhics. I have said we are getting grayer and browner and this bring that realization to dramatic life.

  • Amanda Tremblay

    I really like this idea. best of luck and you got my vote!

  • Chris Brown

    Can I have one of those “I Voted” stickons?

  • Telesia Fau O’Dell

    An inspiring concept from an inspirational young woman!

  • Jan Jones

    Wishing you much success with this project.

  • Barbara Avila

    This is great, as I saw my husband move slowly into Alzheimer’s.. From a very active, strong cowboy, to someone who lived in the past, thinking the kids were little. I thank you for your work. Good luck..

    • Ryan Reid

      My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has slowly began to talk more about his past. It is great to hear about all the stories of his childhood and see a different side of him but it is certainly hard to watch him change. I hope to highlight this “living in the past” – it is a very interesting process. Sending you love.

  • Ash Mirchandani

    Very thoughtful…. this brings to focus a major socio-economic issue for our elderly population…. all the very best!

  • http://www.facebook.com/melodee.p.wilcox Melodee Pratt Wilcox

    My father passed away from the effects of Alzheimer’s at the age of 69. It was such a difficult experience watching him ravished by this disease as well as watching my mother suffer greatly as his care-taker. Thanks for taking on this “forgotten” group of people who are so wonderful. Good luck!

    • Ryan Reid

      You’re welcome Melodee. xo

  • Robert and Susan Bilbray

    Ryan.. after recently losing my Mother after many years of caregiving I can only tell you my brothers and i feel blessed that we were able to give her the loving attention in her final years that so many others are unable to provide. Its a thought of mine each day since her passing. Thank you for honoring me to express my feelings and that of the Bilbray Family.

    • Ryan Reid

      I’m very sorry about your Mother but also happy that you could spend happy final years with her. I hope I can do justice and express what you have gone through.

  • Sonya

    You got my vote..great project.

  • http://www.facebook.com/John.Cheney88 John S Cheney

    GREAT idea. Best of luck from Henderson NV!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=643189261 Gail Campbell Dietrich

    This is a well-thought-out project and I commend you for having the wisdom at your age to take on this project. My friend’s husband was a retired army col. and university professor, who died of this Alzheimer’s disease. She wept in my arms as she told me she would never be able to say goodbye to her husband of over fifty years. How sad! This could also be written from the perspective of a physically disabled person. I wish you success and feel certain you will hit a grand slam! Gail Dietrich, Sparks, NV

    • Ryan Reid

      Thanks Gail! All the best.

  • Janel Jones

    Wonderful project, Ryan. Very insightful. I trust that things will work in your favor.

  • eohatdan

    Ryan, I’m a 75 year-old math professor who experiences daily the kind of isolation and marginalization that you mention. I really relate to the song from the musical Chicago: “Mr. Cellophane Man” — especially the lines, “you can see right through me, walk right past me and never even know I’m there.” Good luck in your endeavors. I wish you much success. Btw, I supported and voted for your Dad when he ran for governor in 2010.

    • Ryan Reid

      YOU are the reason I am doing this project. Thank you so much for your comment. I have felt like Mr. Cellophane Man sometimes too – hopefully the message will be universal. Sending you love.

  • john


  • Glenn Galvan

    A great project and I strongly support your efforts as your project is personal to me. One of my family members is in a nursing home and I have seen some of the neglect that are in those facilities. I wish you the best of luck for your project.

  • kelly mays

    This sounds like a great project, Ryan. Have you read the novel *Cloud Atlas,* by David Mitchell? (The movie adaptation is coming out this weekend.) One of its narrators is an elderly man, Timothy Cavendish, and his narrative makes some of the same points you want to in a very funny, moving way. I think you would enjoy it. Best of luck!

  • http://www.facebook.com/evan.le.90 Evan Le

    Sounds like an awesome project

  • Emma Sepulveda

    Great Project!!

  • Carol Chesnut

    Hi Ryan,
    Nice to hear what you are doing these days!
    Dwayne and I are definitely in this category. We are both in our 70’s. I find that people tend to dismiss what I have to say and to discount the years of experience I have because I am retired. At least I assume that’s why. And the orthopedic difficulties I have don’t tend to reinforce the genuine authority with which I can speak. Being discounted for any reason is painful. But with wisdom to impart, it is even more important to be heard.
    Some of the nursing homes here are awful. Much of the loss of ability in them is because of the drugs patients may be given to make them easy to handle. These places tend to smell dreadful too. I was an elderlaw attorney before I retired and I know.
    But you could stress the good side of being ancient in America too. We do lots of volunteering and traveling and we are still learning, with more time to do it. We’ve lived long enough to discern patterns in peoples lives so that predicting behavior becomes more accurate. And we’ve lived long enough to harvest some of the fruits of our labors. All in all so far life is good!
    I wish you great success with this and with all you do!
    My best to you,
    Carol Chesnut

    • Ryan Reid

      Thanks for your comment. I agree, there is certainly a good side to this all. I actually can’t wait to be old – I feel like I’ll be so wise! I just hope that people who are not treated well (like the ones you describe in the nursing homes) will have a voice.
      Happy travels and volunteering!

  • Amy Tingey

    So lovely to read about this project you have created. I am so impressed by your thoughts and insights. You are a very tender young lady. Love to you!

  • Ann Reynolds

    Be sure to include recent legislation in your thoughts, and to consider the ramifications of the recent “bundled care” mandates that have been handed down to doctors in hospitals. This is a huge challenge to our society, but it is not isolated in our treatment of seniors. It is indicative of the loss of our commitment to human life in general. We need a robust prosperous and healthy society that produces enough to routinely care for those who need help. All life is important, and the way we treat the senior population is, after all, the future for all of us. What needs to change is the way that we view economics. . .it is the exact physical science of human survival. It includes the cultural, philosophical, spiritual, and moral overtones of humanity as well as the maintenance of the infrastructure to keep us warm and well-fed and respectful of each other’s cultures. Good Luck. I’ve sparred with your father, and from a distance with your grandfather, concerning LaRouche, the problem being that LaRouche is right about economics, and that the elderly in institutions are being singled out as a place to save money. Don’t let anybody off the hook. Give ’em hell. Derotha Ann Reynolds.

    • Ryan Reid

      I think you have it exactly right when you said “it is the future for all of us”. It’s so true. I want to treat the elderly now the way I want to be treated when I am old.
      Thanks for your comment.

  • Joanne Vuillemot

    Ryan, I like the theatre solution to the described problem. The closeness of the audience to Professor Shnuffle will provide a powerful impact that will be “in their face”. I wish you much success!

  • Taylor Hayes

    Good luck from the reddest of states darlin! Love Ry and Tay.

    • Ryan Reid

      Thanks Tay! xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/ellenbarrespiegel Ellen Barre Spiegel

    Great project, and a very thoughtful approach. One positive trend that we’re seeing is increased attention to programs that allow people to “age in place” at home, avoiding institutionalization. This allows seniors to maintain their dignity (and it’s also less expensive than institutionalization). Good luck with your project.

  • Bridget Phillips

    What a great inspiring project. Best of Luck Ryan!

  • Ryan Reid

    Thanks Chuck. Tell Paris hello!

  • Ryan Reid

    Thank you everyone for your feedback!!! How wonderful. Please get your family & friends to vote as well. Thanks!!:)

  • Ken Ashworth

    The project you are doing is one of great value. As someone who tends for Elderly and ailing parents and deals with people whose families have forgotten about them our culture needs to be aware of the importance of the Elderly. They are a vital part of our past and we can learn much from the past. Good Luck

  • Mary-Beth Zahedi

    So happy to see someone of your generation speaking out about the way that our elderly are marginalized when they perhaps don’t have the funds or the health to continue to “contribute.” I hope that your work helps to strengthen the idea that our elderly do not see themselves as victims as some in the political arena may characterize them. Finally, I am to proud to see yet another generation of the Reid family making a positive social impact.

  • laura

    Good luck with your project and hope we continue to value all human life especially the most vulnerable of society. Many baby boomers are now aging….are we ready for this challenge?

  • Faye Denton

    Thank you for your fine thoughtful words. This is indeed a subject that needs to be examined and talked about. We can do better and perhaps your words will bring the realization to many people. I, too, supported your father and voted for him. Some people just sit wonder “why” and people like you and your family step up to the plate. We’re proud of you and all your family.

  • Robert J Norris Jr

    Great Idea———-“GOOD LUCK”———-

  • http://www.facebook.com/epaslov Eugene Paslov

    Ryan, sounds like a wonderful play and I will look forward to reading it or (better yet) seeing it). Dr. Eugene T. Paslov

  • Renny Ashleman

    Ryan: I haveknown your family for years. This is certainly in their tradition of public service and thoughtful analysis of societal problems. It also sounds like you are having a bit of fun with it, which is very important.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bishop.crockett Bishop Crockett

    Go for it and it will be a success

  • Sam’s Dad

    Wonderful and important message, Ryan. I especially like the idea of presently this through performance art which, I think better communicates the message. As a playwright, you will be able to draw deeper emotions and a strong connection with your audience as they get to know your characters…this is a great medium to deliver your message! I am so excited for you. Break a Leg!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767025312 Peggy Cole Ashman McEntee

    This work is so crucial to all of us. If we are meant to move forward in society we must bring the maginalized with us. We must leave no one adrift. My Mom passed from Alzheimers. We knew there was something wrong many many years before she was diagnosed. I am truly intrigued with the work that Dr. David Troxel is doing with his organization called, I believe…”Best Friends Approach” I went to school with David growing up and his protocol is so innovative in partnering with the loved one and all seniors in such a way that we all benefit. You may want to Google him. At any rate,,,congratulations on creating a project that benefits all of us. It is truly your family tradition.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.logerwell Don Logerwell

    Congratulations and good luck with this important issue. I worked on your father’s campaign in Reno. And, I went to college at UNLV (when it was called Nevada Southern) with your grandmother, Landra. Give her my regards.

  • Chris Miller

    We sometimes forget that, as people get older, they experince great loneliness. What insight you can give to those who come to see your play. Great work!

  • Jan Jenkins

    Sounds very interesting. Will the apartment be bare (fewer needs) or more like a horders. I can see books stacked, cats (we like cats), cups and dishes everywhere, newspapers, etc. If it plays in Vegas let me know and I will shuffel down.

  • Lannah

    Hi Ryan. I am Australian and when I saw this, was HOPING it might be occurring here too, but my suspicions were right – it’s in the USA. But all I can do is applaud this idea. I am working on my own cause ‘down under’ – in that I am trying to spread the word and get my fellow Aussies to encourage their elderly to sit and do what most humans love doing – talking about themselves and their lives – and get all this taped – captured. Before it is too late and this wonderful generation has gone, taking all these stories with them. They are the ones who experienced WWII (most of the WWI have gone – and taken their personal stories with them) and the current generation is, sadly, also going. What we are encouraging them to do is sit – sit and talk – about themselves and their lives and have one or two family members, friends, whatever, tape it. What happens once it is all caught is completely personal – up to the story teller and their families, whatever – just as long as it is CAPTURED.
    I really do wish you the very best with your project.
    Good luck

  • http://www.facebook.com/tera.spencer.9 Tera Spencer

    I love it, absolutely brilliant, creative, and ground breaking. With such an intimate setting for the audience, I recommend a theater in the round.

  • Carlos J. Ezeta

    Ryan, I am a college counselor/professor who sees on a daily basis the marginalization and isolation of our elders in the public sphere and specifically in academia.I wish you the best on your thesis, I know you will be a total success since this is a matter of social consciousness,I do have my 82 year old mother and lives at home with us. Thank you for bringing awareness on this matter. Ps: I voted for your grandfather and father as well, I consider both, my friends.

  • Mason & Darcie

    I like your topic and your sense of understanding folks in my age group(69) My wife and I recently made the plunge to a smart phone and it has been a challenge. My wife is a 20 year elementary school teacher and she has had many challenges to her method of teaching, which is NOT in line with NCLB, or teaching how to pass tests. Darcie recieved her Ed.D. last may and we know haow hard this part of your education is. We wish you success

  • Annette Bonder

    My husband and I are in our 80s and fortunate enough to be sound of mind and to live in Las Vegas. I say that because we are not disconnected from others and have joined the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UNLV . However, we have seen many others who, because of their physical and/or financial circumstances , are unable to live the lives they may have envisioned.. Thank you for bringing their plights to others through your art form. It is inspiring to know that you have joined others in your family in htis compassionate venture of yours. Right on!

  • Andy Nixon

    Bravo, Ryan. Keep up the family tradition of activism and service. My wife volunteers at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and daily sees the need to raise awareness.

  • Jack Weinstein

    Very interesting we must all help to solve this problem

  • Evelyn

    Dear Ryan,
    I am a little older than your grandfather, and like him, I want to be seen as a strong, capable member of society. Every six years he asks the voters of Nevada to hire him. I am trying to get a full time permanent job so that I can be self-sufficient and have enough to provide for my old age, sometime in the future. I would prefer it if your play portrayed people over sixty-five as capable and experienced. They should be sought after for their better qualities.

  • Tim DeRosa


    The impact of the baby boomer generation on our culture and lifestyles is only just beginning. This work is important. The future caretakers of this group (their children mostly) are still too often surprised by the impact on their lifestyle and unprepared financially for the cost. Creating awareness, understanding and preparedness will be key to the future of these people and their families. Particularly with respect to Alzheimer’s disease. As a mental illness it is the least understood by most, if not all of us. Mental illness must become more generally defined as the physiological disorder that it is. Your work may help to further this understanding and remove stigma from this and all other mental illnesses(brain disorders). You may want to research the National Alliance for the mentally ill (NAMI) for some additional insight. Good luck.

  • papillon

    great idea by why not make it a woman, as we are the majority. We live the longest and are the most likely to be in poverty etc

  • Roberta C. Ferguson

    What a wonderful idea. I am a clinical psychologist who retired in 2010, and have worked with people of all ages, including the elderly. Something I found to be essential was Including their families in their treatment whenever I could; essentially I did extended family therapy. Including how how his family related to him as well might enhance the drama. Good luck with your project. I appreciate your thoughtful social consciousness. I’m sure you will be a great success. All good wishes and luck to you.
    Dr. Roberta, F.

  • Bob

    This was a great article and until someone close to you or a family member is involved you don’t pay attention

  • TyinVegas

    My grandfather is 96 years old and has been in a nursing home for the past 6years. Even though it is crowed you still feel the loneliness. Hope that your project shine a light on those who have walke the walk before us.

  • Samhita Collur

    LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS! So creative. So genuine. So touching.

  • ntschiedel

    Hello Ryan, I worked on your grandfather’s and dad’s campaigns. I treasure a photo taken at your grandfather’s office in Reno. It’s laudable and exciting to hear that a young woman is interested in the elderly, our problems and committed to bringing our challenges before the public thorough entertainment. That in itself will be a huge challenge. I’m a retiree, who after losing my husband in 2004, I also lost retirement income due to this disastrous economy, so I still need to work. I’m a very active independent senior, healthy and sound of mind. I have continued to update my skills through classes and volunteer work to be ready to make a career change, but that illusive position has yet to materialize. I read and hear that there are many seniors in similar circumstance. It seems that seniors should be a valuable human resource who sometimes are willing to accept entry level pay, because the new earnings are supplemental. Most seniors have good or adequate health benefits, they don’t have young dependents that would interfere with attendance at work, and they are experienced at motivating others to attain the organizational goals. For many seniors this elusive job is a matter of a personal financial survival, or the extra financial resources needed to raise a second family, or most important …to be a healthy independent senior, without being a burden to anyone. Self motivation works wonders everyday, and many seniors look at life as a beginning of a new way of life instead of the end of a way of life. Why aren’t companies eager or encouraged to hire these seniors? I recommend including this particular senior challenge in your interesting endeavor. I wish you good luck, and success with your project.

  • Vicki L. Tulley

    Hi Ryan! I am a previous Eng. 101 student of your mother. (She’s a great professor, by the way) I am now taking my last prerequisite to apply for the M.O.A. program. We have to do 8 hours of Community Service and I chose to do it in a Nursing home, for the very reasons you mention. Geriatics is a specialty that I’m leaning towards. My heart goes out to the elderly. I also feel that they are a wealth of information and insight for anyone, and it saddens me to see how they are disrespected and abused, and pushed aside. Someday, (if we’re lucky, we’ll be in their shoes as well.) I know that if I do get into that field than I am one person closer to treating them the way that they deserve. I believe your play will have an impact and I support you all the way. Good Luck :-) Vicki L. Tulley (It would be awesome to have it streamed if possible)

  • Sharyn

    Ryan, I applaud your interest in senior issues. As you know, I am a friend of your grandmother and grandfather. Like them, I am a senior. At this point in my life, I am concerned with the prospect of others stereoptyping and defining what a senior is and what is to be expected of them. We do not all have gray or white hair, nor are we all retired. Speaking for myself, I have a number of successful businesses and very much enjoy being involved in their operation. I do not let others in the workplace know my age; not out of vanity, but because I worry that they may not take me seriously. People are living longer and working longer and age should not define our capabilities. I hope this helps you.

  • George Togliatti

    Ryan, I was blessed with the opportunity to care for my parents at the end of their lives and cherish the special time I had with them. Thank you for engaging in this honorable and worthwhile project.
    Good Luck
    George Togliatti


You need to log in to vote

The blog owner requires users to be logged in to be able to vote for this post.

Alternatively, if you do not have an account yet you can create one here.