Going Hollywood

"You never know"
- Roseanne Roseannadanna

I keep getting surprised. I thought I wouldn't be doing any more writing and that I had finished telling the story of my cancer.


A couple of months ago my friend Dan Mackay sent me an email, with an idea that would have never occurred to me in a million years.

"I've been mulling over an idea for a while now, so it's probably time to let you in on it, since it's your arse", it read.

Only people from the Canadian Maritimes - Dan is from New Brunswick, and is practically a hillbilly (wink) - are capable of the proper use of the word 'arse'. Them and Scots.

What did I think of the idea of adapting this blog as a one man play? Dan had thought it all through, is an experienced actor, and figured we ought to try getting into the 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival.

His note went on. "It could be a multi-media show, with lighting cues, sound effects and video clips that would enhance the storytelling aspect of it, without being gimmicky."

He had me at 'sound effects'.

But wait a second, I don't know anything about theatre or writing plays and so on. And would anyone really want to see a play about cancer, a sort-of-comedy no less? Then again, I don't really know anything about writing either and I didn't think anyone would read this blog, so there you go. Besides what was there to lose? And I have to admit, I liked the idea of having 'playwright' after my name, and maybe 'bon vivant' just for the hell of it.

Dan went on to explain a little about the Fringe Festival and I did a bit of additional research myself. The Toronto event (there seem to be dozens of others) takes place every year and showcases amateur theatre. Participants are chosen by lottery. The standing joke is that to make it in show business you need talent and luck. For the Fringe you just need luck. Perfect. Every year they put on over 140 shows at 25 venues in the city, drawing more than 70,000 people. One of the more famous outcomes from the Fringe is 'The Drowsy Chaperone', first staged in 1998 and later going on to Broadway and North American tours. In 2004, some guy did 'One Man Lord of the Rings'. This could be fun.

Before I knew it I was out getting blond highlights in my hair, shopping for new sunglasses and a beret, and calling everyone 'baby'.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea, but I still had many reservations. Was I sure I wanted to expose myself even more, or worse, see someone else acting out my experiences? Dan kept stressing to me that above all the play would need to be entertaining. How did I feel about that? Is it really OK to keep doing this, kind of having a laugh about my cancer? What are the rules? We were going to turn the whole thing into a fart joke? Would we offend anyone? What about all those people who didn't have any reason to laugh about cancer? Would we be able to pull off the more serious stuff in the blog (which I strongly felt we should) without being melodramatic?

A couple of months prior to all this, the movie 50/50 came out, which is basically, you guessed it, a humourous portrayal of a guy's experiences with spinal cancer. It was well done, and I realized that yes, there is a way to tell a story like this using humour. I'm honestly not sure if I saw the movie while I was having this internal struggle, but somewhere along the way I surrendered to the idea, and we decided to go for it. In my own mind, I kept going back to the reason I started the blog in the first place. Yes, I wanted to get some of these experiences out of me, off my chest, but as I went along I realized what I was really trying to do was tell a story that people who didn't have cancer might be interested in. There are plenty of places where people with cancer and their families can talk to each other, but I wanted to sort of break down a wall I guess. Would putting on a play do that? Yup.

Dan did all the paperwork and so on, and arranged for our entry into the lottery, and we waited a couple of weeks to find out. We had a few laughs thinking over the scenarios. If we don't get in we'll be very disappointed, but if do we get in, then we actually have to do it, and pull it all together in less than six months. Either way, we were screwed.

Around the end of November, Dan was back in touch to let me know we had got in! Our submission had been selected in the lottery.

Shit. Now we had to write and perform a play.

But bring it on. In May 2010 I was staring out my bedroom window wondering if I might die, now I am sitting down with my friend to write a play about it.

Let's stick a sail up into the wind and see where we go.


  1. Need any help? I'm in! I'll also buy a ton of tickets. You go girl!!

  2. I just wanted to say you're a very talented writer. Thank you for sharing such a personal journey.

  3. Thanks for your kind words Jennifer, and thanks for reading. Now go get screened... :)