When Sam Simon thinks back to his wife Susan's breast cancer diagnosis, he says he pictured a ballroom.
"If the news was good one day, the ballroom would be silent," he said. "If the news was bad or grim, I could see the musicians start to set up, the ballroom would light up."
Simon compares his experience as caregiver to his wife, and his worry about losing her to cancer, like a ballroom dance. His concerns for how he would dance "his last dance" with her became the inspiration behind his one-man play "The Actual Dance."
"This is about a space that is very under acknowledged and recognized," Simon said.
Susan was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2000. Her mom died of breast cancer and so did Sam's mom. Sam says because of his experience with cancer in the past, he "went dark" very quickly with Susan's diagnosis and worried he would lose her. But he says he tried to remain positive and supportive, as Susan battled through the treatments.
Thankfully, Susan survived and is now cancer-free. It was a few years after that when Sam's thoughts and feelings about the whole ordeal resurfaced while he was taking improv classes. He was told to write about something he knew, so he chose to write about his experience as Susan's caregiver.
"The reaction of people who heard pieces of it changed me, I was surprised," he said.
So Simon wrote more and his play "The Actual Dance" came to life, using the metaphor of the ballroom he always kept in his mind while going through Susan's cancer treatments. Sam has no acting background; he worked for years as the head of his consumer affairs consulting group.
"However this feels like the most important work I've ever done in my life," he said. "I have now discovered that theater has great power and it can change people’s lives."
Simon takes his play on the road, performing all over the East Coast. On March 6, he'll be performing at the Unity by the Bay Church in Annapolis, as part of the John and Cathy Belcher Institute's new series "Courageous Conversations." For more information on how to purchase tickets, click here.