I went to the Orlando Shakes Black Box Theater expecting to find the Pink Ribbon project rehearsal. A group of teenage girls were tap dancing in a circle. Three of them had pink shirts on but the mood felt wrong. I checked my calender again, I was supposed to be at the Black Box Theater at the Rep. I slipped out and dashed across Lock Haven Park to the Rep. When I arrived, Matt McGrath was getting several brooms and a bicycle pump out of his car. I wondered how these props would tie in to the show.
In the first scene I sketched, Marty Stonerock and Mikki Scanlon sat on stage each bathed in a pool of light. They both spoke on cell phones. At first it seemed like they were speaking to each other but then it became clear they were speaking to their respective spouses. Mikki shifted her position in her chair, leaning forward and twisting, "Can you hear me now? I'm at the hospital. No I wasn't in an accident! I'm fine, really I'm fine. Well, no, I'm not fine. I have breast cancer." Marty was having a similar gut wrenching conversation trying to comprehend the impossible. "I have it, I have breast cancer... Are you there? Hello?"
Large pink ribbons were hung from the rafters. They will be used in a dance number early in the show. Aradhana Tiwari was directing and the show carries her signature. Multiple stories overlap and bloom during the course of the production. There is brutal honesty as women confront their own mortality. The show's mission is, "To raise awareness, educating people about the physical, mental, and emotional realities that dealing with breast cancer entails. The aim to offer a therapeutic and cathartic experience for women and their families who are in the midst of the fight, touching them in the unique way that only the arts can. Lastly, our vision is to bring hope, champion faith, and ignite inspiration that will empower women as they walk forward and continue to battle on.”
I was unexpectedly moved when a young boy excitedly tried to keep his mother engaged and entertained although she had breast cancer. He was a live wire running circles around her. He showed her card tricks, dance moves and offered her brownies. She was unable to eat after chemo. Dejected he looked at the pan of brownies in his hands and muttered to himself, "Your so stupid, you know she gets sick after chemo. I have to keep her going, I just have to keep her going." I welled up, thinking of my own mom's battle with breast cancer. At ten years old, I was to young to even know how sick she was. But something was wrong and I just wanted to see her laugh again. I couldn't visit her in the hospital. I suppose they wanted to keep me safe from the reality of seeing her slip away.
Though I only saw the show in fits and starts at the rehearsal, I can tell it will be a multi layered and emotionally inspiring production. The Pink Ribbon Project will be run September 16-18th at the Orlando Repertory Theater, 1001 E. Princeton St., Orlando. Admission is $20 for general seating and $150 for a “giving seating” ticket. Purchasing a “giving seat” ticket will fund one mammogram for an uninsured woman. To purchase tickets, go to www.playthemoment.com or call 321-662-0611. Proceeds will benefit the Breast Cancer Fund at Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, which provides diagnostic testing and treatment for uninsured and under served women in Central Florida.