Laughing at the unlaughable

Bruce Horak no longer needs the catharsis that his play, This is Cancer?, has been for him.

But other people do and, so, he will continue accepting invitations to travel with the play he wrote and stars in.

Indeed, having only just been here for one show this past winter for the Pivot Festival, Nakai Theatre has asked him to return to present the play for four shows Oct. 15 to 18 at the Old Fire Hall.

It is a “one-man, satirical play” that has Horak portray Cancer, a disease that, in real life, took 90 per cent of his sight and the life of his father.

The tables are turned on Cancer as he discovers the world hates him and that sends him through a journey of denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance.

Laughing at (with?) Cancer has elicited a wide range of reactions, which is why Horak believes the four shows will all be different: “Audience participation makes it a different show every time,” he says over the phone from his Toronto home.

“There is some heavy stuff in there, but it is a joy.

“Often the audience will hang around and say, ‘It is great to be able to laugh’ and not just treat it with kid gloves.

“Some people are tired of tip-toeing around it. It depends on what stage people are going through, where they are on the journey. Are they in denial, or anger, or have they accepted it?

“The one I had the hardest time with is when somebody got angry and stormed off. Someone pulled me off to one side and said that person needed to do that.”

Having lost his father five years ago, and having confronted his own cancer and its high re-occurrence rate, Horak says he sees no more need for the play for himself: “I’d let it float away … but people keep calling.

“After hearing so many stories and so many perspectives that the audience has given back to me, I see it as quite a gift.”

One such gift was a woman who said to him after a show, “Cancer is not a battle, it is a dance.”

After three and a half years, Horak still meets a different reaction each night.

“I often describe it as one of the most exhausting and draining shows in my life; but it is also one of the most creative and fulfilling shows and it is because of the reaction.

“It is so different for everyone. I just hope they come away with a new perspective. I hope they know there is another way of dealing with it.

“I hope the message of the show is, ‘Make every day matter … live it up!'”

Tickets for the shows, Oct. 15 to 18, are available at The Old Fire Hall, Arts Underground, Well-Read Books or at the door at the Old Fire Hall.

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