How fititng that this post is on Valentine’s Day!
Few people can say that they have battled cancer, and even fewer can say that someone wrote a play about it! MESA VERDE by Matthew Ivan Bennett is a story of my struggle with myself when I battled ovarian cancer.
I always told Matt to write what he knows and would often find a funny line or situation from my real life appear in one of his scripts. In fact, I think most of Matt’s friends could say the same thing: “That character is totally me on paper.” or “Oh dude, I totally remember when that happened.” But nothing quite compares or prepares you for having one of the scariest and most intimate parts of your life set on stage for God and the whole world to see. And nothing can ever prepare you for the feeling of an audience crying and laughing at what is quite possibly the hardest part of your life.
MESA VERDE sort of just happened; Matt never planned to write a story about my cancer. Matt wrote it for SLAM in 2006. It came to him as the title was assigned to him. It was short – just 10 minutes – and beautiful. Matt tried to prepare me for seeing it by casually saying, “It is ‘kind of’ about you.” ‘Kind of’ might have been a bit of an understatement. As I sat and watched my own personal, spiritual and philosophical inner struggle, portrayed simply and beautifully by 3 actresses, I was overcome with emotion and amazed at how much Matt had understood about my struggles. What was even more overwhelming was watching the audience around me experience the same emotional journey that cancer had taken me on. At that moment I knew that it was important for me to share my story, I knew that it would bring others who have struggled comfort, and most importantly I knew that Matt would need to be the one to write it.
Cancer comes with a lot of stigmas that can leave a person feeling isolated. There is this old-school philosophy that was should treat illnesses with reverence and only ever whisper their names. Nothing was worse than that: the whispering of people around me. “What is wrong with her?” “Oh, Marcine, she has cancer.” No one ever knows what to say to someone who is sick…should they talk about it, joke about it, ignore it? But the hardest part of being sick is not being sick. It is feeling alone, unsure; being forced to question everything you once believed in and the desperation, the willingness to try anything, if only given the time. That is the part of cancer that needs to be told: the part where you want to fight for every small piece of your life and at the same time the part where you really want to give up because the fight is too hard, and the part where all you have left is the spirit inside you, that small voice that drives you. I wanted those who have been sick and those who have nursed the sick to know that someone understands. We don’t need to be reverent. Matt has allowed me this opportunity.
Matt constructed this piece into a full-length play and, nearly 5 years later, it has been my pleasure to be part of the process. It has been a labor of love and understanding for Matt and a form of therapy and acceptance for me. I look forward to seeing the full production on stage for the first time and feel blessed to be able to share a part of my soul. I’m very thankful to Matt for helping me, so eloquently, to tell my story.
Plan-B Theatre Company presents
the world premiere of MESA VERDE
February 24-March 6, 2011
Studio Theatre at the Rose Wagner
Thurs-Fri at 8pm | Sat at 4pm and 8pm | Sun at 2pm
Tickets $20 here or 801.355.ARTS
MESA VERDE, Matthew Ivan Bennett’s most personal play focuses on the relationship between two estranged sisters (played by April Fossen and Christy Summerhays) and their late mother (played by Teresa Sanderson, who also portrays several other characters) in this complex quest for hope and healing. A play about facing family. Directed by Cheryl Ann Cluff.
Marcine Lake will participate in the free post-show discussion with the cast, director and playwright on Sunday, February 27 following the 2pm matinee.