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Fringe on Fringe: A survivor on shows about cancer

The call Is coming from inside the house: Fringe performers review other fringe plays

If you think going to see two one-woman shows about cancer back to back at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival might be a bit depressing…think again!

I went to see Lara Rae’s Fragments (Venue 5, Son of Warehouse), followed by Lana Schwarcz’s Lovely Lady Lump (Venue 7, Cinematheque) and both were beautiful, funny, touching and, yes, life-affirming.

This is not a review of these shows, but a reaction to the content from my point of view, as an artist who has personally experienced cancer.

It was exactly one year ago that I underwent my breast cancer surgery and had to use a walker to get myself out to see a couple of shows at last year’s fringe. I was keenly aware that this year I was able to cycle to the fringe site and participate in this incredible festival humming with life force and creative energy.

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If you think going to see two one-woman shows about cancer back to back at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival might be a bit depressing…think again!

Sharon Bajer (Supplied)

Sharon Bajer (Supplied)

I went to see Lara Rae’s Fragments (Venue 5, Son of Warehouse), followed by Lana Schwarcz’s Lovely Lady Lump (Venue 7, Cinematheque) and both were beautiful, funny, touching and, yes, life-affirming.

This is not a review of these shows, but a reaction to the content from my point of view, as an artist who has personally experienced cancer.

It was exactly one year ago that I underwent my breast cancer surgery and had to use a walker to get myself out to see a couple of shows at last year’s fringe. I was keenly aware that this year I was able to cycle to the fringe site and participate in this incredible festival humming with life force and creative energy.

Fragments and Lovely Lady Lump are both unique and personal and as different from each other as anyone’s experience with cancer may be. In both cases I felt as though I was invited into the minds and hearts of these women as they shared their intimate thoughts and feelings with poise, humour and grace.

Lara Rae (Supplied)

Lara Rae (Supplied)

As a lover of Greek theatre, I was thrilled that Lara Rae and Catherine Wreford Ledlow chose to write the piece in a neoclassical style. I felt bathed by the words, which evoked many images for me of ancient times when the power of the feminine was celebrated and feared.

Lara’s passionate performance was electrifying and she was absolutely radiant as she read passages of searing truth mixed with gallows humour. My brain was electrified as Lara invited us into the world of Catherine’s brain, which in turn stirred our hearts, made us feel smarter and desirous of greater connection to the universe and to each other.

 Lana Schwarcz (Supplied)

Lana Schwarcz (Supplied)

Lana Schwarcz is such an engaging, inviting performer that anyone who may be triggered by the material are invited to do so in a safe, nurturing environment. She really brings the audience together and makes us feel part of her experience, which is filled with humour and honesty.

At no time did her show feel self-indulgent or self-pitying. In fact, you get the sense that she wrote the show for other people touched by cancer that may not be able to see the humour in it. Lana shows us where the humour is. And it’s there, believe me.

You don’t have to be a woman or to have gone through a cancer experience to enjoy Fragments and Lovely Lady Lump. Both are wonderful one-woman shows, both women are amazing performers and fabulous writers.

For those that hate the slogan "cancer is a gift," I am right there with you—  but leave it to the artists that cancer has touched to transform this horrible "gift" into the gift of art.

Bravo to the three of you, Lara, Catherine and Lana, for sharing your work with us.

Sharon Bajer is a Winnipeg actor, writer and director. She stars in Catalpa at Venue 13 (School of Contemporary Dancers) which has its last performance Saturday, July 29 at noon.

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Updated on Thursday, July 27, 2017 at 10:22 AM CDT: Updates

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