My friend, the palliative care doctor, took me to a production of “This is Cancer.” When I heard the name of the production, I had to be bribed; after all, who wants to hear about cancer?
I’ve heard a good writer can create audience identification with any character. I didn’t believe writers, Bruce Horak and Rebecca Northan, could succeed with Cancer. They did—at least for long enough. Horak and Northan gave the audience access to the character Cancer’s emotions, making this stranger understandable to someone like you and me.
Cancer, the character, demonstrates human concerns: he makes drinks and serves his guests, is self-conscious about his appearance, and wants to be loved. Horak’s costume is amazing and unimaginable. The play’s tempo of “reveals” about Cancer’s character is a study in anticipation. Horak’s Eddy Izzard-like performance makes the audience feel sympathy for Cancer—until the plot turns.
Next time I hear that a reader can’t identify with one of my characters, I know what to do– give ‘em the Horak treatment. If Horak can have an audience relate to Cancer, I can solve my own character problems.