THE PROSTATE DIALOGUES Kicks Off Locally Grown Programming in Conjunction with BODY AWARENESS Month at Theater J!

Susan Lynskey as Phyllis in the opening of Annie Baker’s BODY AWARENESS (through September 23 at Theater J)

BODY AWARENESS is a wonderful send-up on what a week of sensitive cultural programming looks like on a college campus in upstate Vermont.

We’re doing our own version of complementary programming around our hit production of Annie Baker’s play by bringing back all 5 commissioned projected from our first Locally Grown Festival to hear the latest iterations of each respective play during the run of BODY AWARENESS.

Today a packed DCJCC library crowd heard the latest version of Jon Spelman’s THE PROSTATE DIALOGUES (with the newly added extra “AND TALES OF THE TELLYWACKER”). It was yet another wonderful experience—profoundly funny and human and just a wonderful journey for all.

Several brand new students from the University of Michigan, California at Berkeley and Merced and Notre Dame were at the reading. We may be hearing from them in the comment section of this posting. I’ll be introducing this class to our blog readers officially very soon–talking about the course and the amazing integration of these students into the life of our theater over the next 4 months. All 17 students will become subscribers for the fall and see everything we do. The readings are optional.

Tomorrow, everyone–students and non-students alike–are invited to the Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival to hear and see Jacqueline Lawton’s THE HAMPTON YEARS at 3 pm. To read much more about this exciting opportunity to hear the latest draft—quite literally hot off the printer–go to our playwright’s website and blog. You’ll get to read some amazing material about the real-life subject matters brought so vividly to life by our playwright, and very soon, by our dynamic cast and our director, Shirley Serotsky.

Look forward to reading thoughts from our audience below about THE PROSTATE DIALOGUES.

10 thoughts on “THE PROSTATE DIALOGUES Kicks Off Locally Grown Programming in Conjunction with BODY AWARENESS Month at Theater J!

  1. I found Jon Spelman’s The Prostate Dialogues to be remarkably humorous and enlightening. His approach at storytelling and words selected were very informational and educational for his audience, especially for me as a young adult. The structure of Jon’s storytelling was very uplifting and his exchange between voices, personalities, and acts was a great way to keep the audience intrigued. He also used a great deal of pauses, blank stares, and hand motions that added to the feel and emotion of the dialog. Jon was able to give a very detailed explanation of the prostate cancer process through the use of familiar metaphors or analogies that allowed the audience to make a close connection with a very uncommon situation. Through comparison of a cancerous body and an infested kitchen, Jon pointed out that while the plumbing will remain intact, your kitchen, or life, will never be the same. I found this analogy to be extremely moving and it really put the prostate cancer situation into prospective. A subtle event like this or a more sudden one like a car accident has the power to alter many aspects of your life and the life of those around you. In all Spelman’s dialogue gave me a whole new appreciation for theater and storytelling and his speech, style of storytelling and performance was a great use of art for the subject at hand. In addition, these theatrical additions allowed the audience to have a greater understanding and knowledge for prostate cancer and the hidden presence of cancer throughout the remainder of ones life.

    • Way to get us all started, with this your first posting, Kay. I’ll share it with Jon Spelman, who’ll appreciate your attention to detail, as you appreciated his!

  2. I sincerely enjoyed my experience at The Prostate Dialogues by Jon Spelman. I don’t think I have ever visualized the events of a speaker as much as I did during this dialogue. It was interesting to view his words being illustrated before my eyes. Words became art when I least expected it. It was a very touching and personal story that even I, at the ripe age of twenty-one, can relate to. I could feel his emotion through his words and the tone of his voice.

    Other than just the beautiful visualizations that Jon Spelman created, the dialogue was very informative and he explained his experience in a way that even the youngest of listeners could understand and relate to. At one point he created an analogy about his cancer paralleling to a family of roaches in your kitchen at home. He discussed the different measures you could take to rid your kitchen of the infestation. Paralleling the measures to chemotherapy, surgery, and even the simple watch and wait.

    Spelman discussed the idea of a phantom state, which remained in my mind even hours after the dialogue. He discussed how as one ages we change and realize that often we are no longer the person we once were. You are a phantom of what you used to be. Even I, as a part of the younger generation, can relate to this feeling though. As I am at a pivotal point in my life I find myself looking back at the child I once was and looking at the adult I am know becoming. A phantom of my childhood looking forward at what I may become.

    If have one piece of advice to Jon Spelman, I ask that he keep giving more personal dialogues like the one I attended. I appreciated his presence a lot and I feel like some of the emotion and connection would be lost over camera. Overall, I applaud him and his abilities to make the public more aware of prostate cancer in such a beautiful way.

    • Alicia
      I too loved this theme of the phantom state; the phantom version of a former self; a phantom prostate (now gone); a phantom masculinity (now diminished). I’m glad you’re referring with specificity to resonant material; how and why it lands and why it sticks with us.

  3. I had the privilege of hearing from a gifted storyteller throughout Jon Spelman’s performance of The Prostate Dialogues. The honesty and sincerity of his words pulled me in immediately, and I found myself fascinated by his ability to create vivid imagery despite a lack of formal staging.

    As a younger audience member, I had never encountered the topic of prostate cancer before. Jon did an excellent job of explaining the mechanics behind prostate cancer and the methods to cure it through both technical terms and metaphor. The comparison to ridding a house of cockroaches was especially powerful, as previous comments mention. Cancer is a topic often avoided or discussed in discomfort – Jon was able to tackle an enormously sensitive and difficult topic in an accessible and artistic way.

    I also enjoyed Jon’s focus on bringing in other characters to his story, particularly his family members. At one point he describes a hiking trip with his daughter where a bull blocks the path for a tense moment, leading to endless dreams of bulls connected with the challenge of upcoming prostate surgery. His strong connections to his wife and daughter throughout the performance remind audience members that cancer is not an isolated experience – it has a profound impact on the functioning of entire famillies and communities. A more humorous take on the communal impact of prostate cancer occurs during a conference, where men of various backgrounds seek answers for the sexual challenges they will face after surgery.

    The performance was a personal, funny, and candid take on an illness that has already reshaped the lives of many families.

    • Good posting, but we don’t want to REPEAT the same specific examples in post, following post. As we add comments/responses, we need to be reading the posts previous and build on the information that’s already been laid out. Otherwise, it seems like we’re lazily referring to the same moments that others have just discussed. Given that there are SO MANY moments to refer to in a play like THE PROSTATE DIALOGUES, I’d prefer you come equipped to your comments writing with a bunch of examples to cite and then pick the most original!

  4. Although I was not able to make it to the show, I had the opportunity to read the script. I truly enjoyed reading the manuscript and very easily became engaged with the story. I was able to sense Jon’s overwhelming feelings of confusion, fear, and frustration as he went through the stages of learning about prostate cancer.

    I don’t believe I have ever heard or even read the accounts of prostate cancer and the medical interventions as closely as described in The Prostate Dialogues. I like that the descriptions and terminology of these procedures are told in a very colloquial and easy to understand manner. The dialogues, inner thoughts, and stories within the Dialogue are very interesting and bring about the human side to the topic at hand. Prostate cancer is one of those diseases that are hardly ever talked about in our society, yet very real and dangerous. Coming from a community of color, I know very well about the statistics that make men in my community more prone to this disease, however I had yet to hear a story as vivid and touching as this one.

    Jon’s story does many things—it is humorous, engaging, informative, and personal—but amongst them all, what it truly captures is the importance of learning and understanding how to deal with prostate cancer. I wish I could have been able to attend the performance. I am sure there is much more I could have learned and enjoyed at the same time.

  5. We’ve always looked forward to Theater J’s “Post-Show Discussions” … yet attending Jon Spelman’s “The Prostate Dialogues” this past Sunday was a real bonus!

    We’ve personally had 3 family members/friends diagnosed & treated for prostate cancer in the past few yrs. Like Jon Spelman’s story, each of their experiences are unique to themselves and their families; but ALL included an almost bewildering array of “what ifs”, “perhaps”, “in most cases”, options for treatment (including “none at all”) and prognoses for “success”, with even “success” being qualified when “possible side effects” were considered.

    To underscore both the complexity of the subject and how even the medical community has not come to any consensus … just today we came across a number of articles in “Scientific American” re. Prostate Cancer, the Pros & Cons of various treatment options, and a discussion as to whether or not screening tests for the disease may in themselves pose more risk than the disease itself!

    See:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-great-prostate-debate

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/search/?q=Prostate+Cancer+Screenings&x=1&y=7

    Thank you Jon Spelman, Ari Roth, & Theater J for opening up a personally moving dialogue re. a subject that will most likely affect ALL of us at some time in our lives.

    • So glad you’ve added these responses within the context of a number of student responses as well. That’s what we’re looking and hoping for! A nice cross-generational conversation about a work!

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