When I wrote my last blog, “The Effect of Telling Someone’s Story,” I was reflecting on how powerful it can be to tell another person’s story through theatre. At the time, I was particularly inspired having just seen Joe Morton portray Dick Gregory in Turn Me Loose (now playing Off-Broadway), and having followed the phenomenal rise of that musical they call Hamilton (anyone have an extra ticket?), as well as my own new work, Dream on Church Street. I was also in rehearsals for the one-man play The Actual Dance, written and, until now, performed solely by Sam Simon. The play tells the true love story of how Sam’s life changed when his wife, Susan, was diagnosed with breast cancer. I imagine that anyone who has seen Sam perform his work has found it to be quite moving.
Telling someone’s story is a beautiful thing, but not a rare thing. That being said, stepping into the role of the originator of a one-man play is a relatively rare way of doing that, at least in my experience. Most one-man shows are written by the actor, and tell a story about his or her life, as is the case with Sam. He’s been telling this story for four years now. I’ve experienced the play twice as a spectator. And now, he has invited me to play his part in the story.
I should point out some differences between Sam and me – Sam is twice my age, white, Jewish, and from Texas. I’m black, Catholic, and from The Bronx. In other words, I’m not his type, if you know what I mean. Yet this experiment worked really well because love is a universal experience. Because everyone in the audience can relate to Sam’s story of feelings associated with anticipating losing a loved one, it would make sense then that anyone could step into his shoes and tell his story, give or take a few details to fit the storyteller. My version of Sam is younger and Christian. Aside from adjusting references to support that, it's the exact same story. The Actual Dance is a collective experience where a room of people from different walks of life, experience and culture intersect at the theme of love and loss. A unique experience for me, and an important experience for theatre. I hope you’ll all get an opportunity to see it down the road, whether it be Sam’s version or mine. We’ll keep you posted.