Expiration Date at Edmonton Fringe Festival

Expiration Date
C103 (8529 – 103 street) August 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23
More information: sunsetgunproductions.com

An interview with Candy Simmons

Candy Simmons in EXPIRATION DATE. Photo credit: Aaron Fenster.

Candy Simmons in EXPIRATION DATE. Photo credit: Aaron Fenster.

Describe your show in five words. 

Lucille versus the Grim Reaper.

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

Meet Lucille.  She’s young.  She’s smart.  She’s funny.  And she’s just been given a rapidly approaching deadline.  What happens when the unthinkable becomes your harsh new reality?  EXPIRATION DATE offers a ‘funny, haunting and breathtakingly honest’ peek into one woman’s leap into the great unknown.

You conducted a series of interviews with those who are face-to-face with end-of-life situations. How did you approach those interviews and what were you hoping to get out of them?

I wanted to explore this topic through a solo work, but I didn’t have any interest in doing a straightforward autobiographical piece. Of course, I drew on my life experience in creating the play, but it was important for me to research and gather stories of others who have either faced a terminal diagnosis or have been alongside someone who had in order to broaden my perspective. I conducted interviews with terminally ill patients, caregivers, hospice works, healthcare professionals, and other community members to shape one-woman’s journey from diagnosis to end-of-life.

I approached the interviews with an open heart and not much of an agenda other than a few set questions I asked everyone. I really wanted to just create an environment where the interviewee could have a platform to talk about their experiences uncensored, and we could have an organic conversations without feeling like either of us were tip-toeing around the subject. The social default is to talk about death and dying in hushed tones, and what I’ve found is that just jumping in head first is better for everyone. Just rip that band aid off. Why pretend its not happening?

Why do you think audiences have found Expiration Date so poignant? Have any of the ways audiences have reacted to the showe show surprised you? 

I think audiences appreciate Lucille’s humanness in her reactions to her diagnosis. She is in no way perfect; some of it she handles gracefully and some of it she completely screws up, and hopefully we learn something from that. Her journey isn’t meant to be a how-to die template, its just one woman’s story. I also think audiences appreciate the humor that’s woven through the story. It was important for me that it not be a dirge, that’s the thing about experiencing that stage of the lifecycle with someone, life doesn’t just stop.  You still laugh, get annoyed, get mad, are silly, you’re still living, just under extreme circumstances. Really, its okay to laugh!

What I’ve been most surprised/excited about is the audiences willingness to share their own stories with me following the show.  I’ve performed the play a good bit now and what I find most gratifying is that the play is very successful in what I set out to do, start a conversation around a subject most of us have a hard time starting a conversation around. Everyone has a story about their brush with death or being with a loved one during that time in the lifecycle, we just don’t have many opportunities in our culture to process that in a socially acceptable way. I love that this show is able to be a springboard for those interactions.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
Although we are exposed to Lucille’s medical experience, her journey is more an exploration of her emotional roadblocks and the sheer logistics of navigating this journey we all have to face at some point. I offer audiences a safe way to laugh and be present with someone going through the death process. Many audience members do have an emotional reaction to the show, but I’ve also found in speaking with them that its a cathartic experience. I die on stage every night and I’m able to walk off energized and uplifted by the end. When I verbalize fears in my own life, I find they seem to lose a bit of power over me. This show is about starting that conversation, confronting that experience together.

Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?

My creative team are all Minneapolis-based artists this go-around. Tyler Olsen directs, Laura Holway choreographs, and Tamara Ober (PIPA in 2009) also contributed some movement direction. This will be my third time producing and performing at Edmonton Fringe. I performed one-woman play AFTERLIFE in 2009 and more recently shared Holdover Winner SCARLET WOMAN in 2011.

The 33rd Edmonton International Fringe is August 14 – 24. I’ll be previewing shows up until the Fringe starts. Want your show to appear on After the House Lights? Email [email protected].

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