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Critic's Pick - Chicago Public Radio.
August 4, 2006

This is a one-man comedy about testicular cancer – and before you run away, what’s great about it, is that it is a comedy. (Cohost jumps in) A comedy? A comedy. A comedy about testicular cancer? Can you imagine the pitch meeting on that? The thing is it doesn’t engage in false heroics. The press release for this thing said, “Challenging the narrative of Lance Armstong” and that sounds sort of over-the-top, but that’s what he’s doing. Brian Lobel is indicating that cancer is not ennobling, although survival might be. It is really terrific… (Kelly Kleiman, Chicago Public Radio)

To hear the radio piece for yourself - click here and under "Dueling Critic's" click LISTEN. They talk about BALL at 5:33. Enjoy!

 

Windy City Times
August 8, 2006

I’ve known four men who’ve survived the physical and emotional trials of testicular cancer. I don’t know if testicular cancer hits young men more than older men, but all four had it in their twenties. It seems to attack those with little life experience at a time when their senses of self and their confidence as sexual beings usually are incomplete and fragile. Would you like to be 20 years old, still a virgin, and face the possibility of never again being able to ejaculate or, perhaps, not even achieve an erection? Of being known as “one-ball so-and-so?” Hey, meet Brian “One Ball” Lobel.

Solo writer/performer Lobel identifies as gay, so his new piece, Ball, is being presented as part of the 2006 Pride Series, but there’s nothing especially gay—in all its meanings—about his story or themes. As he aptly says, “This is not the material I wanted for my autobiography. ... I wanted to wait until I’d lived a whole life before I had enough material for my one-man show.” Lobel has been cancer-free for four years now—with each year being a benchmark—but he’ll never again look at a pimple or bruise without wondering if it signifies something more sinister.

You can’t blame him. In his eight months as a cancer patient, not everything went wrong that COULD go wrong, but there were complications. Removal of a testicle wasn’t enough; his cancer had spread to his lymph system, requiring radical surgery and the siphoning of six liters of lymph fluid from his abdominal cavity. That’s a helluva lot of fluid, as Lobel graphically demonstrates with visual aids.

It’s a wonder that, four years later, Lobel can discuss his intimate affair with America ’s healthcare system with humor and pungency, but that’s what he does in this effective one-hour show. He even shows his surgical scar, a long but fine line down his abdomen that belies the ordeal it represents. Most of all, Ball represents Lobel’s reaffirmation of life after a harrowing experience.

Something of an odd duck in appearance, as he himself admits, Lobel isn’t Chicago ’s most accomplished actor. But he’s accomplished enough to tell his own story with honesty, with an engaging smile and the confidence to share intimacies and embarrassments with us. Director Margot Bordelon effectively paces him from beat to beat. A few slide projections are tossed in, but not enough to be an effective element. As this new piece develops, they might find some additional visuals.

For women, it’s breast, ovarian or uterine cancer. For men, it’s testicular or prostate cancer. Ball is Brian Lobel’s personal story, but it’s also a cautionary tale for all. Guys, you’re gonna squirm.

(Jonathan Abarbanel)

 

 

 

 

 

Montreal Gazette
June 9, 2004
Byline: Kazi Stastna
Page: A6 Section: News

 

Ball tells tale of testicular-cancer patient: U.S. student presents play poking fun at macho attitudes he faced dealing with disease

A funny thing happened after Brian Lobel's testicular exam. His doctors became obsessed about his sex life.

At the time, the 20-year-old virgin didn't have a sex life, but the doctors who diagnosed him with testicular cancer in fall 2001 were passionate about reassuring him the disease and the surgery it involved would not leave him any less of a man.

"I thought: 'What is it about this disease that's making people obsess about this?' I think it's considered very emasculating to have a testicle removed, so it made them want to make me feel butch and athletic and super-masculine," Lobel said.

The University of Michigan theatre student began writing down this and other awkward and comic moments throughout his year of gruelling cancer treatments, which included surgery, chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant.

At first, it was just a way for Lobel to keep his mind active, but the journal he kept eventually became the basis of Ball: A Traumedy, the solo performance he will stage today for medical students and the public at McGill University .

In the 70-minute play, Lobel sets out to challenge the cliches and cheap sentiment that often surround cancer with frank talk about some of its unpleasant and absurd aspects.

He begins the play with a single word - problematic - which is how the doctors described his enlarged testicle, and wastes no time in getting to the nitty-gritty.

By the second of 11 monologues, he is walking the audience through a testicular self-exam.

This direct approach also includes a graphic description of his visit to a sperm bank.

One in three chemotherapy patients become infertile, and doctors advise patients to donate sperm before they undergo the treatment.

"It's something that in a lot of cancer narratives takes about one second, but I really wanted to talk about it, to bring people there, and you can't do that if you're constantly worried about grossing people out," Lobel said.

So, Lobel describes everything, including what the room was like and how he felt walking out into an office of all-women staff holding a sperm sample.

Such experiences made Lobel highly conscious of some of the macho stereotypes that surround testicular cancer.

"I never did athletics and... people were always convincing me that I could still do that, and I was just, like, I just want to get over this. I want to get back to doing theatre and dancing. I'm not going to be Lance Armstrong."

The cyclist, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 25 and went on to win several Tour de France championships, served as Lobel's inspiration and arch-nemesis for the project.

In the play's final monologue, Lobel recounts how, in a parody of Armstrong's superhuman go-get-'em attitude, he took on an 8-year-old girl in a hula-hoop contest at a reunion of stem-cell transplant patients.

Lobel owns four copies of Armstrong's memoir, given to him by concerned friends and relatives, but has yet to read it.

"His survival and his success put great pressure on every cancer survivor. You can't just survive cancer any more. You have to survive it and succeed and become something big," he said.

Reaction to Ball has so far been positive, with most audience members recognizing its vulgarity as essential to an honest account, Lobel said.

After it premiered at the University of Michigan in November, a friend at McGill suggested he bring the play here.

Ball plays today at 2:45 p.m. at the Martin Amphitheatre in McGill's McIntyre Medical Building , 3655 Promenade Sir William

Osler.kstastna@thegazette.canwest.comIllustration:

* Photo: PHIL CARPENTER, THE GAZETTE / Brian Lobel winds up his one-man play Ball dressed as Lance Armstrong, the champion U.S. cyclist who survived testicular cancer.

 

 

 

The Gainesville Sun
March 2, 2006
Byline: Amy Reinink

 

 

Brian Lobel spent months watching well-wishers strip him of his humanity.

Here is how it happened: They told him his strong spirit would help him overcome testicular cancer. They assured him his sex life, which he said was non-existent before cancer, would be fine.

And, in what he considered the ultimate sign that someone had reduced him to only being a cancer patient, they would give him Lance Armstrong's book.

"He is absolutely the epitome to me of what's problematic about the way people in the U.S. look at illness," said Lobel, 24, who was diagnosed with cancer at age 20. "When people would give me his book and tell me how inspirational it was, I would think, 'Look at me. I could care less about athleticism.' At those moments, I felt, 'OK, I'm nothing more to you than a cancer patient.' "

Those experiences, along with dozens of other grotesque, terrifying, funny, demeaning and problematic eventsbecame the subject of "BALL: A Traumedy." Lobel will perform it for University of Florida medical students and others tonight.

The play opens with Lobel's diagnosis, with the assurances about his sex life. He was studying performance and social identity at the University of Michigan, and his playwright's mind got to work.

"I thought, 'That's weird,' " Lobel said. "Here I was, a virgin at 20 and a very awkward human being, and my sex life was one of the last things on my mind. What was on my mind was, 'Am I going to die immediately?' I thought, 'There's something here. I'm going to jot it down. This is good stuff.' "

The performance at UF is part of what Lobel calls his "national tour," with more than a dozen stops at medical schools between Nebraska and New York this year.

He never intended for the play to be a fable for doctors about bedside manner; he became involved with the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, which pushes for humanism in medicine, while working with the daughter of the group's executive director in an Ann Arbor, Mich., deli.

Lobel declined to say what the Gold Foundation pays him per show on top of traveling expenses. But he said it's "by no means a living wage."

Though Lobel said he didn't write the play for doctors, he said he wouldn't mind if medical students happened to see their patients in a new light after seeing the performance.

"I do hope they take away the idea that there's a living being underneath the ill person," Lobel said. "There's a lot that's going on there, and doctors need to be aware of that."

Most of the play's 13 monologues focus on the parts of cancer many other works avoid, from the scene in a sperm bank to the diatribe about catheters.

It's not sentimental, though it may be inspirational in spite of itself.

The closing monologue is a spoof on Lance Armstrong's biking victories. The scene is a picnic for stem-cell transplant patients.

Lobel competes fiercely against several little girls in a hula-hoop contest. Wearing a Lance-esque biking jersey, Lobel wins second place.

The play ends in mock jubilation when he learns he won by default - the winning 8-year-old girl was disqualified because she forgot to clap her hands in accordance with the contest's rules.

"Survivorship is a problematic concept," Lobel said. "The idea that we are better after we survive was offensive to me when I was sick. I really tried to hit home that it's not like, 'I was sick, and now I'm well, and I've risen like a phoenix.' "

Lobel lives in Chicago, and works as a transcriptionist and smoothie-maker. He's also working on his second play, "Other Funny Stories About Cancer."

 

 

 

LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL
June 14, 2004
By Sara Champagne
Page 11: TEMOIGNAGE

Le cancer des testicules est le cancer le plus frequent chez les homes ages entre 20 et 40 ans.

Selon une etude effectuee par un groupe de chercheurs de l’Universite de Calgary, c’est dans le groupe des homes ages entre 25 et 34 ans que l’on retrouve pres de la moitie des cas.

80% de guerison

Mais, bonne nouvelle pour les homes, le taux de guerison est tres eleve, se situant a plus de 80%.

“Malheureusement, il faut pratiquement toujours proceder a l’ableation d’un testicule. Mais c’est un moindre mal comparativement a la maladie”, a explique au Journal le specialiste, Laurence Tanasci.

Pour ce qui est des causes derriere ce type de cancer, le mystere reste complet.

“Aucune etude ne demontre que la cigarette, une mauvaise alimentation ou autre chose pourrait entrainer le cancer des testicules”, a precise le Dr Tanasci.

“Tout l’monde veut savoir comment je l’ai su.

“Eu bien, j’ai decouvert une bosse dans un de mes testicules bien confortablement installe dans un bain moussant d’une chamber d’hotel, a lance Brian Lobel sur un ton desinvote, au cours d’un monologue initule: Ball: One man. One Ball, presente a l’Universite McGill.

“Est-ce que je me santais malade? Est-ce que je l’ai decouvert chez un medecin? Le verie pure et simple: j’etais en pleine forme et je jouais…avec mon corps”, a-t-il ajoute, le regard vif, devant une audience qui se tordait de rires.

Reste qu’a travers cet humour, le jeune home a du, comme pour la plupart des victims de ce cancer, subir des traitements de chimiotherapie et l’ablation d’un de ses testicules. En tout, les traitement ont dure n an et demi.

“Jen e pouvais pas m’asseoir ni me coucher après l’ablation e ma balle, alors imaginez le reste. Imaginez toutes les questions qui sont passees par ma tete! a explique M. Lobel.

Du sperme et de sexe…

Avant la chirurgie, le jeune home avait pris soin de se render dans une clinique de fertilite pour congeler son sperme. Il ne sait toujours pas s’il sera en mesure d’avoir des enfants a travers une relation sexuelle.

“Mais le pire c’est de penser a l’erection. C’est une inquietude majeure quand on n’arive meme pas arrester assis et ce, meme si les medecins n’ont pas arête de me rassurer, a lance Brian Lobel.

Autoexamen

Maintenant en remission et “puissant” selon ses dires, le jeune home natif du Michigan aus Etats-Unis espere que son histoire va sensibiliser les homes a l’importance de l’autoexamen des testicules.

“Allez, ne soyez pas genes! Il faut prendre tranquillement sa balle dans une main et la rouler entre les doigts. Cet examen peut se faire facilement dancs la douche. Sous l’eau chaude c’est encoure plus agreeable!, lance-t-il. C’est comme le cancer du sein, plus le depistage est precoce, plus les chances de guerison sont elevees.”

****************************************************

Quote: “J’ai 22 ans et une balle en moins…”

Quote (incorporated in article) “ J’al 22 ans et une balle en moin”. Pas une balle de golf! Brian Lobel a survecu a un cancer des testicules et il veut maintenant demystifler la maladie.

Heading to picture #1: BRIAN LOBEL, dans un monologue humoristique intitule: BALL: One Man. One Ball.

Title: Le cancer des testicules: le plus facile a soigner.

Header: “Si vous avez a avoir un cancer, priez le ciel pour avoir le cancer des testicules. C’est le plus facile a soinger,” affirme le Dr Laurence Tanasci, un specialiste de l’Hopital Julf de Montreal.

Article by Sara Champagne

I never knew it was my dream to be misquoted in a French-language tabloid - until it happened and I realized my dreams had come true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here<<---------- BALL in the Michigan Daily

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*about Single File Solo Performance Festival*

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
September 17, 2004
By Web Behrens

Single File fest lets talents fly solo

 

There's the Catholic woman who takes a job as a phone-sex operator. There's the Jewish guy dealing with testicular cancer. There's the Chinese-American woman who trashes "Madame Butterfly" fetishism. There's the Lakota-Cherokee man questioning the roles of race and culture. And there's not one but two explorations of gender by men who were born women. Welcome to the Single File Festival.

Chicago stages always offer a variety of experiences, but the next four weeks brings a huge infusion of lesser-heard voices, courtesy of this third annual assembly of solo performers, which opened Thursday.

The Single File Festival "was inspired by the idea of nurturing new and independent theater," says festival director Rachel Romanski. Since moving from New Mexico to Chicago, the 31-year-old has done everything from stage managing to producing. She dreamt up the idea for the festival four years ago: "Specifically, I wanted to encourage artists to develop their point of view, or to support those who already had."

Although a young festival with a plurality of Chicagoans, Single File has managed to draw diverse entries from all around the country (and beyond--last year's lineup included a New Zealander; this year's features a French woman). "It's a lot of grass-roots recruitment for submissions," Romanski says of her efforts, which involve internet research as well as poring over the performance schedules of famous Fringe Festivals in New York, San Francisco and Edinburgh, Scotland. "This year I was taken aback. We had 225, 230 submissions, which was very exciting to me," Romanski says.

The final lineup consists of 36 writer- actors. The only common denominator is that the artist performs alone (although one performer will be backed by an eight-piece band). "The benefit of a festival like this is that you can see the different ways solo work can be done," says Andy Eninger, a Chicago improv talent. "It's not like every solo show operates from the same template. There's everything from a person sitting on a stool telling an engaging tale, to people revealing their own lives, to people playing many, many characters, to people doing a full mini-musical in the course of their solo show. It's a pretty elastic type of art.

"The reason I enjoy performing for Single File is because it really welcomes experimentation," adds Eninger, who's done improvised sets for the past two festivals. This weekend, he's performing his very first scripted solo show, "The Last Castrato." Accustomed to the quick mental riffs of improv, this more conventional, scripted approach, he reports, "is a little more daunting."

The full four-week roster, posted at www.singlefilechicago.com, includes Eliza Jane Schneider, a voice actor on "South Park," who traveled across the country interviewing Americans to detect the state of the nation; Kristina Wong, who made a name with her college project, www.BigBadChineseMama.com, a spoof of Asian mail- order bride and porn sites; Kayran Irani, whose "We've Come Undone" looks at the effect of 9/11 on Arab and Muslim immigrant communities in the U.S.; and local writer-actor Karen Weinberg, remounting her musical comedy about a Jewish lesbian movie star.

Of course, Chicago already had existing outlets for individual performance--such as Chicago Improv Festival Solo, or Live Bait Theater's recent Fillet of Solo. Still, Romanski didn't see any reason why the city couldn't support abundance. "Somebody asked me, `How can you try to compete with Fillet of Solo?' I'm not trying to compete," Romanski says. "I think what Live Bait does is excellent as it is--supporting local artists, encouraging them to develop new pieces. I'm looking at pieces that have mostly been previously produced, both in Chicago and outside of Chicago."

Single File also features five different workshops about writing and performing, which are open to the public. "It's a natural extension of the festival," Romanski says. "I'm thrilled that it keeps growing each year," says Eninger, the only artist to participate in all three Single Files. "I think it might be a couple years before it really solidifies its personality. It might have the eclecticism of the Edinburgh Fringe, where its personality is its diversity." ----------

Single File Festival When: Through Oct. 10. Where: The Athenaeum Studio, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Price: $15, all-festival passes $90; 312-371-4476, www.singlefilechicago.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Promotional Material, BALL Premiere <------------

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Program, BALL Premiere --------->

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No time like the present...

 

So no one feels left out...