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THEATER REVIEW ‌ The Mammalogues

Tenacious Gene: A local actress' cancer story gives blogs a good name

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The Mammalogues
Aug. 24 & 25 at 8 p.m., Aug. 26 at 5 p.m.
The Village Playhouse
730 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant
$15-$20
856-1579

Blogs aren't all insane rants and shameless celebrity gossip. Some, like Gene's Public Domain, can educate, entertain, and help people.

By putting their journals online for all to see, bloggers are able to distance themselves from what they write by uploading it into the impersonal ether. But the feedback they receive makes a blog more interactive than any traditional diary could be. Isle of Palms actress Gene Glave found this out when she documented her cancer treatment in her Public Domain LiveJournal. She started the blog in 2004 and found it invaluable when a large malignant tumor was discovered in her breast in January 2006.

"I did it to get the terror of cancer out of my head and heart and into the written word where it was powerless and controllable," says Glave. "When I was growing up people didn't talk about breast cancer — it was a dirty little secret. I wanted to put it out there."

She also found that she could go back and read it and laugh at the situations she found herself in — from wearing a pink Dolly Parton wig to being mistaken for a man. "That hurt my feelings," she says. "Being bald wasn't so bad, except I looked like Mr. Spock's sister because my ears are pointed."

As Glave continued to write on an almost daily basis, she started to get a lot of hits. Some were from friends, family members, and other supporters. Others were from fellow cancer sufferers who were going through the same trauma experience. Some found her by accident while googling a chemotherapy drug. It was Glave's wit and tenacity that kept them coming back to read more.

Writing the blog empowered Glave, particularly when she was contacted by chemo patients who admired her openness or thanked her for making them laugh in a very dark time. She felt like she'd made a difference to "someone who was feeling as shitty as I was."

When Glave started to win her fight against cancer, Village Playhouse Producing Director Keely Enright urged her to put together an extensive story about her illness. Glave didn't take her seriously when she first suggested turning the blogs into a one-woman show. "I had to ask her a bunch of times," says Enright. "There was so much to the story, I was confident that it was powerful, and I knew it would make good theatre. She profoundly affected people throughout the nation."

Enright had worked with Glave many times — notably in a female version of The Odd Couple and Collected Stories, where Glave played an intense cancer patient. Enright knew that the actress could handle a solo show and offered to direct a stage version of her blog. Glave created a simply set 100-minute production called The Mammalogues, taking audiences through her 18-month "project" to beat her cancer and stop it from impeding her life, work, and relationships.

The writer and director hope that The Mammalogues will return and be staged at the Village Playhouse and elsewhere. Until then, Glave will incorporate parts of the show into talks she'll be giving at a Susan G. Komen survivor seminar and at Roper St. Francis, where she's manager of pediatric services.

"My colleagues were good to me," she says. "I had amazing support from my friends, family, and church. I got more than anyone should deserve. I want to pay that forward for the rest of my life — I have to."

Glave continues to disseminate information in a lighthearted way through her blog at www.geneglave.livejournal.com, using her own experiences to address cancer terminology, breast self-exams, and ways to get through treatment with dignity and humor. It's enough to give blogs a good name.

"The journal's really about her rejoicing in her life," says Enright. "On stage, no one could tell the story as directly as her. She's turned a devastating experience into something positive that she's touched other people with. I'm confident that it will not end with this weekend."

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