Samuel A. Simon knows how to get people talking. He started speaking out as one of the original members of Ralph Nader’s very first legal advocacy group, known to many as Nader’s Raiders. He would eventually start his own consumer affairs consulting group and continued the discussion as an expert that national news programs would turn to as well as Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey.
Now, as the playwright and actor of the one-man play, “The Actual Dance,” he wants people to talk about life. And breast cancer. And death.
The play began as an acting exercise where his acting instructor told him to “write something you know about.” He wrote an introduction about his role as caregiver to his wife, Susan, who was battling stage 4 breast cancer and read it to a rapt room. “You could hear a pin drop,” Simon said.
That was the beginning of what he says is first and foremost a love story. It is told from a unique vantage point — that of the caregiver who also is facing great loss. “(The play) gives permission to talk about it,” he said.
That is why the John & Cathy Belcher Institute, an education and advocacy collaboration of Hospice of the Chesapeake, decided to sponsor a benefit performance of the award-winning play at 2 p.m. March 6 at the Unity by the Bay Church, 4 Pointless Forest Trail, Annapolis. It is the perfect introduction to the institute’s next series of Courageous Conversations, free 90-minute community discussions designed to share information, provide helpful tools and provoke thought for families facing the prospect of difficult choices and conversations around end of life. The sessions will be held throughout the spring in Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties.
“Sam’s play touches on several important topics that will be presented in the Courageous Conversations series – including patient empowerment, the needs of the caregiver, coping with grief,” said Laurie Harrison, director of the Belcher Institute. “People who attend the play and later participate in one of our Courageous Conversations will appreciate how it all connects.”
A discussion will follow the play. Simon said acting before an audience that includes cancer patients, their families and other caregivers affects him, too, and though he’s performed the play nearly 100 times, he will often discover something new. “I enjoy being in a room where so many people get it,” Simon said. “These stories and this topic are deep. It’s about what life and love really means.”
Tickets cost $25 per person or $40 per couple and can be purchased at www.annapoliswellnesshouse.com. Sponsorships are available. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Wellness House and METAvivor. Call 443-837-1527 for more information.
Courageous Conversations Spring 2016 Schedule:
“The Actual Dance”
- 2 p.m. March 6 — Unity by the Bay Church, 4 Pointless Forest Trail, Annapolis.
“Safe Passages: Navigating Options in the Face of Serious Illness”
- 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 31 — Prince George’s County Public Library South Bowie Branch.
- 7 to 8:30 p.m. May 4 –Anne Arundel County Public Library Annapolis Regional Library.
“The Best Ending Ever: Having the Conversation”
- 7 to 8:30 p.m. April 11 –AACPL Annapolis Regional Library.
- 6:30 to 8 p.m. April 14 – Prince George’s County Camp Springs Senior Activities Center.
“Conversations of Hope: Exploring Spirituality at a time of Advance Illness”
- 6:30 to 8 p.m. May 3 PGCPL South Bowie Branch.
“Growing through Grief: What the Sacred Sorrow of Grief Can Teach Us”
- 6:30 to 8 p.m. June 2 — PGCPL South Bowie Branch.
- 7 to 8:30 p.m. June 13 – AACPL Annapolis Regional Library.