Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Cancer Lives

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Cancer Lives

I am still a non-smoker.

It is getting easier.

Today was the first day I did not feel crazy about it.

Tomorrow will be one-week anniversary.

Next year's theatre season's are being announced, including the Theatre Passe Muraille season. Its a pretty remarkable season, as it is entirely made up of work BY or FOR people who are NOT white. I am more excited for some of the work than others (particularly YICHUD/SECLUSION, which I will be acting in). It did, however, raise an interesting question for me about what and why a white Artistic Director programs an entire season of work that is pointedly multi-cultural. I'm not sure I have an actual opinion about it, nor should I, but it does make me wonder ....

I'd like to speak for a moment about a show I just saw called "This Is Cancer". It is by Bruce Horak and Rebecca Northan and stars Bruce Horak as a character named "Cancer". He sings and dances in a vaudevillian style for the first 1/3 of the show, and the whole thing was rather vulgar and kind of crappy. At about this point, something happens, and he discovered that he is, in fact, despised by the audience. Why? Because he's Cancer. Okay. So, he has a melt-down and he threatens to leave. He is forced to stay by the woman who booked him to do the show. He does. With disdain at first. And then, with more comfort. He decides to challenge the audience. Take pride in his conquests. He then, takes out a large book filled with all those who have died from Cancer. He reads an obituary. We realize it is his own Father's obituary. He then asks the audience if anyone else has anyone in the book. Someone gives a name. He asks that person what the book would say about said person. The audience member then give the obituary of the loved one they had lost. And the room ... goes ... still. In that moment, it stops being a show, and it becomes a communion. A couple more people give their obituaries, and then, he asks people to give their own obituaries. What would you say about your life? What are the 3 things you would say you wanted people to remember you for? "Cancer" then shares more of his own life, and we learn that the actor, Bruce Horak, in in fact a Cancer survivor himself, and is mostly blind (something you would not know if he hadn't told us). We also learn that his father died from the same Cancer Bruce has. He then chooses a woman in the audience, and tells he that he has fallen in love with her, which also means, he has just given her Cancer. We watch as her laughter turns to dread, as we see her thoughts absorb what it would actually mean for her to have cancer. He then gives her a foam rod and invites her to beat the shit out of Cancer (i.e. Himself) which she does heroically.

Why have I shared this?

Well. I think the show was remarkable It was a perfect example of how an artist being brave, taking a risk, can an enable an entire room of people to take that risk with you. Because of you. This, I believe, makes a great artist. One who implicates themselves enough so that we can also implicate ourselves. So that we can be faced with ourselves as you have allowed yourself to face yourself.

This show was a great reminder and a great teacher. And it is also a ridiculous that nobody has done it in Toronto. Very stupid.

Thanks Bruce and Rebecca.

For those who don't know Rebecca Northan (most of you, I would imagine), she performed in a piece called BLIND DATE at Harbourfront last month. My other favourite show in the world. What an incredible couple. Truly inspiring artists.

The End.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Michael Rubenfeld

Michael Rubenfeld is a writer, director, actor and producer. His plays include Present Tense, Spain and My Fellow Creatures.

Go to Michael Rubenfeld’s Author Page