As partisan political bickering is common, it’s rare that two parties find an issue they can both get behind. It’s even rarer that two parties jointly take action in support of that issue. But City of Falls Church volunteers have found a cause that’s brought not only its Democratic and Republican committees together, but garnered a wide range of community support. That cause is cancer treatment.
United under the name Strange Bedfellow, a bipartisan coalition of volunteers is raising funds for cancer treatment locally. Their first endeavor, two performances of the one-man show “The Actual Dance” set for this Sunday at ArtSpace Falls Church, will see all proceeds donated to the INOVA Health Foundation’s Life With Cancer program to serve cancer patients locally.
Moved by a production of McLean resident Sam Simon’s show about coping with his wife Susan’s cancer diagnosis, Republican Committee Chair Ken Feltman met with Democratic Committee Chair Betty Coll to see if their respective groups could team up to stage the play for charitable benefit. The actor-playwright agreed to perform the play and forgo all payment so that funds might be raised for cancer treatment in Northern Virginia.
An outpouring of support came from the community as word of the project spread. American Legion Post 130, the Falls Church Lions Club, the Village Preservation and Improvement Society, and other local civic organizations – currently more than 10 in all – have volunteered funds and services to bring the play to a Falls Church stage.
Since its first production in January 2013, “The Actual Dance” has been performed more than 30 times across the nation, including recently at the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival. In it, Simon tells the story of his wife’s diagnosis with Stage 3 breast cancer in the spring of 2000 and the impact it had on their family.
“Susan has defied the odds,” Simon said, adding that his wife is currently in fine health. Though her diagnosis is the catalyst of the story, Simon says the focus of the play is on his personal experience in coping with his wife having cancer.
“She is the subject of it, but the theme of the show is the role of the love partner in times when there is life-threatening illnesses,” Simon said. “This show is about thinking the heart is going to break and finding the way through the devastation, the beauty, the dignity, and how this journey can be the ultimate consummation of love, and how you do that, and how you discover that.”
Its author, father of freshman Democratic state Del. Marcus Simon, cultivated his interest in the dramatic arts after retirement. He started his career as a lawyer for Ralph Nader and later ran his own public relations company for 25 years. For the past 15 years, though, he’s been focused on writing and acting. He appreciates theater’s capacity to change people, and to heal people. He hopes that those who come to the show find meaning in his work, and is grateful that community groups have come together – some across party lines – to present his play.
“I’m just thrilled for the opportunity, and humbled by the fact that they’ve come together to do this,” Simon said. “This isn’t political; this is about everybody. And art is the same way.”
“The Actual Dance” will be performed Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The play will be performed at ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 S. Maple Ave. Tickets are $25. For more information, visit strangebedfellow.com.