What is it? Breast cancer survivor Gene Glave transformed her online journals into a one-woman show, documenting her struggle with the illness.

Why see it? Village Playhouse’s Keely Enright encouraged Glave to take her blogs to the stage. The result is a 100-minute production that employs honesty and comedy to chronicle the 18 months during which Glave fought to retain control of her life, work, and relationships.

Who should go? Her play is meant to appeal on a human level, instead of just to women and cancer survivors — so anyone eager to understand the human mind and a heart faced with adversity will appreciate Glave’s courage and honesty.

PICCOLO SPOLETO • $17-$22 • 1 hour 30 min. • May 24, 31 at
3 p.m.; May 25 at 7 p.m.; June 3, 5 at 8 p.m. • Village Playhouse,
730 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant • (888) 374-2656

Cancer, It’s a Bitch: Mammologues blogger-turned-playwright feels better

Gene Glave (pronounced “Gla-vay”) has much to celebrate.

In January 2006, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She survived, and is now the star of an award-winning one-woman play, The Mammologues.

Based on her real-life collection of online journals chronicling her struggle with breast cancer, Mammologues debuted last summer and snatched the City Paper‘s award for “Best Play (non-Spoleto)” in the 2007 Best of Charleston poll.

On top of all this, she’s funny as hell.

“At the base of everything with Gene there is humor,” says Keely Enright, director of The Mammologues. “Even in the most scary, terrifying moments, she’s a very candid woman. I knew that if we could find that tone, that that would make it palpable for people, people who’d experienced cancer, family members, people that had never experienced it.”

Enright approached Glave almost two summers ago and encouraged her to transform her journals into a play. Glave was not convinced and turned down Enright’s offer at least three more times before they finally sat down and “page by page found the story within the journaling,” Enright says, which was followed by a month of rehearsals. The play had a three-night run during last year’s Piccolo Spoleto.

“Cancer is not funny. It’s not funny at all,” Glave says. “But if you can laugh at something, you take away its power. That was my way of dealing with it.”

“The cancer, yes, it was a dark time. It’s a bitch when you go through it. But the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter when you get there, and it’s taken me this long to figure that out. Do I wanna do it again? Oh hell no! Am I afraid it’s gonna come back? Oh hell yes! But things are brighter now.”

The veteran actress admits it was hard acting as herself on stage.

“It’s much easier to play a character,” she says. “I would get so nervous before each performance, because I’m standing up there and at least one person I know and care about is gonna be in that audience and I want to give them the best and I don’t feel so vulnerable as much as I feel like I really want to tell this story that’s going to maybe help somebody.”

The audience is able to witness firsthand, not only the emotional toll of cancer on the actress at the time she was blogging, but also her evolution from that place to where she is now. Glave says breast cancer has made her a better nurse, a better wife, and a better person. Turning her writing voice into her stage voice has been “very cathartic.”

“The ending’s not going to be the same, because I’ve learned to understand something,” she says. “There’s a poem by a lady named Mary Oliver — ‘Someone I once loved gave me a box full of darkness, it took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.’ It has taken me probably the last six months to realize that my bouts of darkness — which were cancer — really were a gift, and it’s a gift that I need to keep on giving.”

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