Rehearsing a play in the city can easily open the process to distraction. That’s why writer/director Lynne Kamm trucks her actors for Mum and the Big C to a cottage near Orangeville to work.
“The occasional frog hops across the stage since we’re working next to a pond,” laughs the Toronto-based artist. “Besides that, getting out of the city has streamlined the process, which is essential. The cast are busy with other projects, so we’re ripping this one off like a Band-Aid.”
Mum and the Big C centres on playgirl lesbian Ripley (Elvira Kurt), a trained marine biologist who’s settled for life as a big-city barista. She’s happily banging chicks and steaming lattes, until her mother (Janet-Laine Green) is diagnosed with breast cancer and she’s called to return to the suburbs to nurse her. Finding respite at a local watering hole, Ripley lands a cheap one-night stand who turns out to be her mother’s oncologist (Megan Fahlenbock), leading to hilarious complications.
Despite hinting at a coming-out tale, Kamm stresses the story is anything but.
“Ripley being gay isn’t an issue for her mother,” she says. “The conflict is that her mom wants her to meet a nice woman, settle down and start having kids. But Ripley just wants to remain unattached so she can keep slutting around.”
The script will mark Kamm’s first work for the stage in more than a decade. Though she got her start staging Mambo Italiano creator Steve Galluccio’s early plays, her career has largely been dedicated to directing for the screen. Mum was originally written as a screenplay, but Kamm decided to adapt it for the stage after securing a Fringe slot.
“You have to do things so fast in film because every second costs money,” she says. “Even when you’re working fast in theatre, you still have a certain luxury to play. I’ve found a better route with these characters watching the actors work through things, and hopefully, putting it on stage will secure a different kind of attention.”
Getting attention for the cause of breast cancer is key for Kamm; she’s the only woman in her family who hasn’t personally battled the disease.
“I’m unfortunately an expert,” she says. “I’ve seen so many women deal with the side effects of chemo and the fears of being ugly because they’re having a mastectomy. But being able to laugh helps get you through. That’s the gift comedy gives us.”