On the NBC comedy "30 Rock," Jack McBrayer's character, Kenneth, hailed from Stone Mountain and often rhapsodized about his hometown.
"My high school reunion was so much fun," the irrepressible page said in one episode.
It's not far from reality. McBrayer, who was born in Macon and went to high school in Conyers, will be back for a high school of reunion of sorts next week. His classmate Robin Florence Andrews, producer and co-founder of the Dementia Spotlight Foundation, invited her chum to participate in night of laughter benefiting the foundation and he jumped on board with Kenneth-like enthusiasm.
"When she started talking to me about things they wanted to do it spoke to my very limited skill," he said during an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I always love coming back home. It’ll be fun to have high school friends I’m performing with."
The fundraiser, called Light Up Atlanta, will be from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Monday at the Buckhead Theatre. Tickets are $40 and available online at freshtix.com/events/lua .
The event begins with a reception, and the program begins at 7:30 p.m. Joining McBrayer for a night of improv and sketch comedy will be Carolyn Cook, Karen Stobbe, Mondy Carter, Tom Chalmers, Ashley Ward, Rob Poynter, Nick Gibbons, Amber Nash, Mark Kendall, John Mangan, Tommy Futch, Rosemary Newcott, Celeste Green and Abby Cox, with musical guests Vince Zangaro and the Celli, an Atlanta cello quartet.
"My theory is if you can hold your end of a conversation you can improvise," McBrayer said. "It’s not a 'funny' contest. It’s a collaboration between two or more people."
And it's a fitting art form for an evening meant to raise awareness about dementia, he said.
"Everyone wants a cure but until then, focus on what can be done," he said. "The basis of improv is going with the flow of what’s happening."
Cook, one of the performers, has been dealing with dementia since her mom, 91, was diagnosed several years ago. After the initial fear, Cook began researching and her thinking changed.
"Instead of thinking of dementia as this horrible event that’s going to ruin the lives of the patient and their families, it’s an opportunity for a new relationship," Cook said. "The experience of having someone in your life with dementia is if you can have a relationship with them you can have a relationship with anyone. Trying to meet my mom on her journey has helped me meet others on theirs."
An acclaimed local actress, Cook starred in "Blackberry Winter," produced by Actor’s Express and Out of Hand Theater, a play about a woman pondering the challenges of her mother's Alzheimer’s disease. Cook, her mother June Sparks and other family members were profiled in "Forgotten Memories," by AJC writer Jill Vejnoska . The 2014 project, awarded first place for integrated storytelling by the Society for Features Journalism, is online at memories.myajc.com.
"I’m not saying it’s all sunshine and roses," Cook said. "I’m just saying, if you can let go some of the fear and embrace some of the humor and delight, life can still be good."