It is a play based on my experience as my wife Susan went through advanced breast cancer. It is about my journey – the husband, lover, soul mate. Susan’s mother had died from metastasized breast cancer at the age of 56 and Susan’s diagnosis came when she was 54. My mother had died of metastasized breast cancer and I had been with her when she took her last breath. What I couldn’t imagine in 2000 was to hold Susan in my arms as she too took her last breath.
How do I do that?
Happily, Susan is alive and well and we celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary this past August. In 2000 though in our 34th year of marriage everything I had come to know about breast cancer and even the tacit signals from the doctors told me that I needed to get ready. How was I going to do that?
I figured it out. It took me 12 years and it happened through improv and then theater.
The journey to writing and performing this play is its own story. From a high-profile Washington lawyer and consumer advocate to a playwright and performer. So many people to thank for making this show such a powerful experience for those who see it. You can read about the team and our back-story here.
A special shout-out to the dramaturge and friend Gabrielle Maisels for her dedication, creativity and commitment to the continued evolution of the The Actual Dance Experience. She has been and continues to be a partner in this work which reflects her keen eye and heart as well.
My most significant learning has been to experience how powerfully this theatrical piece creates a life altering experience for the audience. It was in recognition of the intimate nature of the experience that this past year we welcomed a second version of the show with Chuk Obasi. People confronted with the most basic questions of life and loss respond even more deeply when the performer and the audience can relate to a shared life journey. Chuk opens that opportunity to African American audiences.
In the 5 years there has been nearly 200 performances. What is most important to me have been the hugs and tears from the audience. The stories of those who also have experienced love and loss in elemental ways. The whispers from men to me after the show: “Thanks Sam, that is exactly how I felt, I just couldn’t put it in words.” The man and wife who walk up to me on the street: “We saw your show last night and it has changed how we will relate to each other forever.” The woman who hangs back and then comes up after everyone else has left, with tears streaming down her cheeks: “I lost my mom last week and I saw her leave. I too thought I was crazy. Thank you for letting me know it was real.”
Our Mission -- Our Vision --- is that everyone who needs to see The Actual Dance has the opportunity to do so. A very ambitious 2018 is being planned, starting in New York on January 11th. (Check it out here)
The Actual Dance project with its ambitious goal is supported by ticket sales, some foundation grants, and tax-deductible individual donations. (You can see a list of major donors here.) Please join us and help make this possible with your tax-deductible gift. ANDTheater, formerly Artistic New Directions, in New York has been our artistic home for nearly 15 years and serves as our fiscal agent. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation – and most importantly – help us book a performance where you live or in your community in 2018. Donate