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Celebrating lost details
November 07, 2011, 03:30 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

Nicole Maxali and her grandmother Encar Villanueva. Maxali

When her grandmother began forgetting small details, it was a struggle for Nicole Maxali and her family.

Maxali, a 31-year-old from San Bruno, recalled her father’s reaction when his mother didn’t recognize him as her son. Maxali’s grandmother, Encar Villanueva, did recognize her. Watching someone you love struggle comes can create stress for the family but also unintentional comedic moments. Maxali’s family is far from unique when it comes to dealing with Alzheimer’s. In the Bay Area, about 75,000 people over the age of 65 are dealing with the disease.

Rather than put the family and personal struggles out of her mind, Maxali decided to use it as inspiration for her first full-length one-woman show "Forgetting the Details,” which opens in San Francisco Thursday, Nov. 10. One performance, Sunday Nov. 13’s matinee, will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association – which was a wealth of information for Maxali and her family.

Maxali didn’t hit the stage until high school. While at South San Francisco High School, Maxali began participating in drama. She took a break while studying at San Francisco State and pursued a more stable career, at the request of her parents, in broadcasting. She worked at a local television station for three years before quitting to follow her theatric dreams. Today she works at a nonprofit while also pursuing her stage interests.

About three or four years ago, when Maxali’s grandmother was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Maxali was taking a solo performing workshop in San Francisco.

"I’ve known for a long time I wanted to do a show honoring my grandmother,” she said.

 As the family struggled to provide their matriarch the needed care, Maxali took to writing material to deal with the situation. By 2009, she was performing it. The material continued to grow until, today, she has a 75-minute show. It’s her third solo show, but the first full-length one.

Like life, Maxali’s show is at times sad but in other instances funny. She recognizes that it’s a dramedy and her theatrical background helps make it possible.

"A majority of situations in my show are sad but it’s also funny,” Maxali said.

Today, Maxali’s grandmother is in a smaller facility where she gets more one-on-one attention – a change that has helped Maxali’s grandmother’s situation improve. Despite that, the 84-year-old won’t be able to see the show. Maxali hopes to perform parts of it, edited of course, for her grandmother.

While opening the one-woman show is exciting, Maxali is tickled to also have accomplished an original goal of performing her work at the Alzheimer’s Caregivers Conference, which she also gets to do this month.


"Forgetting the Details” performances will be held at 8 p.m. Nov. 10 through Nov. 12 and Nov. 17 through Nov. 19 with a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee Nov. 13. All performances will be held at the Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St., San Francisco. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door and are available at Proceeds from the Nov. 13 show will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.


Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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