Saturday, April 7, 2018

Play a Day: Fuck Cancer

Tanuja Devi Jagernauth
Seven days, seven plays!

For Saturday I read Fuck Cancer by Tanuja Devi Jagernauth, and available at New Play Exchange.

It has not even been eleven months since my father-in-law was diagnosed. We got the call in late May, he was gone in mid-December. The intervening time felt like forever, and it was no time at all.

There were discussions of treatment, but by the time his cancer was discovered, it was too late. As I am reminded from Jagernauth's play, we treated the person, not the cancer.

Much cancer treatment, in the West and elsewhere, are merely treatment. The palliate. To soothe. To provide energy, and strength, and hope. Because cancer will win.

Jagernauth’s play, however, is not so much about the patient, but the provider, whose struggles are a reminder that you cannot take care of the patient if you do not take care of yourself.

In 2017, our own personal cancer year, I was a provider for a provider; my wife who spent so much time out of town, looking after her father while I held down the fort at home. I see it. I get it.

The playwright has created a dreamlike, grounded, and heartbreaking piece about the helplessness we feel in the face of the most insidious and prevalent of maladies. "There are as many forms of cancer as there are people," her mentor says. And as many beautiful, powerful stories out there, like this one.

And now a word on stage directions. My colleague Sarah Morton wrote a play about Berthe Morisot, Eight Impressions of a Lunatic, which begins with a scene without dialogue in which the young painter is reading. I don't have the text in front of me, but there is stage direction to the effect of "she pours blue light out of her shoe."

I always loved that, and it was an important lesson in playwriting. The writer writes. Leave it to the design team to interpret and make it happen. There is a lot of water in Fuck Cancer, coming in from everywhere. On stage water can be a crisis, or it can be the stuff of magic. The writer wrote it, let the director figure it out.

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