New play aims to educate community on Down syndrome

Eric Doran, Manager of UCI MIND’s Down Syndrome Program, has partnered with his longtime friend and playwright, Steven Oberman, to tell the true story of Dr. John Langdon Down, the man who first described Down syndrome. We interviewed Mr. Doran to learn more about the vision behind this new play, Blurred at the Edges, set to run in March of 2019 at the Diversionary Theatre in San Diego.

Eric Doran, MS

What is the vision behind Blurred at the Edges?

Down syndrome is named after Dr. John Langdon Down, a British physician who first described the condition in 1866. Most parents of a child with Down syndrome know that the condition was originally described as Mongolian idiocy or Mongolism, terms considered offensive in modern times. These terms would forever be attributed to Dr. Down and would unfortunately persist in the medical literature for the next 100 years.  His ethnic classification of Down syndrome and several other developmental conditions has blemished his reputation with parents and medical professionals alike.

My colleague, Dr. Anne Tournay, and I felt there was another aspect of the man that was less well-known but worthy of recognition.  Dr. Down was a pioneer for the humane and dignified care of persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Within an institution known as Normansfield, he created an enriched environment that would allow residents to reach their full potential and thrive. We believe this play will provide a meaningful historical context to allow the audience to understand why he chose the pejorative term to describe the condition and better understand the life work of this pioneering physician.

Dr. John Langdon Down (top), portrayed by Steven Oberman (bottom), the writer, producer, and star of the one-man show

How were you involved in the creation of the play?

I served as creative consultant by answering questions regarding the medical and behavioral aspects of Down syndrome.  I also served in a supportive role by researching content for the development of the script.  Steven has been working on this play, along with several others, over the past two and a half years.

What message do you hope the play delivers to audiences?

The importance of treating everyone in a humane and dignified manner.  By providing all persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities with appropriate supports and services they will have an opportunity to lead a productive and meaningful life and in turn will have a chance to enrich all of humanity.

Who should attend this play?

Individuals with Down syndrome and their family members, health care professionals, and anyone else interested in Down syndrome or other intellectual/developmental disabilities. Though the show runs for a limited time, the production is available for private engagements and special events. Tickets can be purchased here >

What else would you like people to know about Down syndrome that might not be addressed in the play?

The cause of Down syndrome wouldn’t be known until 100 years later when it was discovered to be the result an extra copy of the 21st chromosome, one of our genetic building blocks. As part of the Down Syndrome Program at UCI MIND, we aim to better understand how this genetic imbalance may contribute to the pathology and dementia of Alzheimer’s disease in adults with Down syndrome with the ultimate goal of getting us closer to prevention or cure of this devastating disease.

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