A cancer patient, her caregiver and a comedy sketch show ... not a conventional formula for laughter but for one couple, it's been a therapeutic production. And their audience feels the same way.
On stage, Judy Fabjance and her wife Kelly Beeman are a team, performing the two-person sketch show they wrote together. It’s called “Tales of a Stage 4 Cancer,” and it’s no drama. But there is a song about robotic tumors.
Kelly Beeman: “We’re doing this show about this painful hard situation, but when we’re on stage it’s like, ‘Thank God because we have comedy gold right here!’”
Just as it does during a performance, their partnership shines off stage as well. Kelly has been by Judy’s side during countless treatments and hospital stays. This latest one the result of an infection – and just a week after a CT scan revealed the positive effects of recent chemotherapy sessions.
Kelly Beeman: “This catheter infection in just a bump in the road. We’re going to laugh about it next week.”
Laughing is something the couple has done together since they met at a Second City improv class – not long before Judy was first diagnosed with cancer six years ago. It started in her breast, but after a mastectomy and three years of remission, the cancer spread to her lungs, ribs and spine. Last year, a routine MRI showed lesions on her brain.
Judy Fabjance: “I was just in shock. I was pretty down for a while.”
But the idea of the show lifted her up.
Judy Fabjance: “There were different things that made me mad or sad or things I found humorous that I wanted to share with others.”
Kelly Beeman: “If this was any other show where it was just some random sketch show, it wouldn’t have been as good, but when you’re writing from the heart it’s going to be good no matter what.”
Judy Fabjance: “I really liked that we were entertaining people, educating people, making them think, and I didn’t want to do it in a sad, depressing way.”
The sketches range … some parody the ridiculous -- like actual advice they received at a conference for young women with breast cancer.
Kelly Beeman: “I love the cooking show.”
Other scenes break from the levity to show Judy’s sense of vulnerability – the most powerful center around precious moments shared with her seven-year-old daughter, Daphne.
Judy Fabjance: “I knew when that moment happened in real life that we had to capture it.”
It may be their honesty that has captured so many audience members.
Judy Fabjance: “The feedback we received, I had men and women who I hadn’t even met before come up to me and hug me and just start sobbing and saying thank you so much.”
Kelly Beeman: “The show really is about her. It’s my way of supporting her. Judy loves it so much. It makes her so happy. It gives her something to look forward to.”
And they do have more performances to look forward to -- Judy and Kelly plan to perform their show at Chicago Sketchfest on January 15, 8pm at Stage 773 in Chicago.