While teaching a writing workshop, Toronto-based writer and comedian Deborah Kimmett received a message that her younger brother Kevin had been diagnosed with cancer. The unexpected journey that followed has become the basis for Deborah’s brand new one-woman show The Year of The Suddenly.
Directed by Linda Kash, the show is being called part standup comedy and part eulogy. Deborah, a Second City veteran and a regular on CBC Radio’s The Debaters, will perform her monologue at Catalina’s in downtown Peterborough for one night only on Saturday, June 3rd.
“I was in the middle of teaching a writing class about the word ‘suddenly’ when suddenly my whole life changed,” Deborah recalls. “So, as a writer, I was trying to write this story in my head as it should go. But as I started getting closer, it didn’t go that way at all.”
“The Year of The Suddenly is this journey of how I got the news that my brother had cancer, and I thought I was going to bring the casseroles and be a good sister. But I ended up having this other thing happen with my brother.”
Deborah admits that, despite knowing her brother his entire life, she really didn’t know him at all. The show she has written is about the new relationship created between herself and her brother at the end of his life.
“The premise is that this is a love story with a person who I didn’t know very well my entire life,” Deborah says. “One of the lines I use is ‘I found the brother I didn’t know I had.’
“You have this incredible love for your family, but you think you have enough time to be indifferent. It’s not that you hate anybody, but you put them in a category and they put you in a category. And then, a lot of people move around now, so you may have moved away twenty years ago, but your family still thinks of you the same way you were when you left.
“You just think you have time to not work this stuff out. I didn’t think in a million years this story would evolve the way it did. It was a surprise to me as a person that I could feel the way I felt towards my brother, in terms of the way it shifted in our relationship.”
Although the show deals with her brother’s illness, Deborah stresses that The Year of The Suddenlyis not a show about cancer: it’s about the relationship that formed between two siblings in a backdrop where time is running out.
“At first I was just writing about what that process was all about because it was absolutely epic,” Deborah explains. “But as I got into it more, I realized it was about a brother-sister journey and not a cancer story at all. I really don’t deal with my brother’s treatments.
“It’s also about that idea of when are you going to show up for life as it is. It was like there was a time limit, so we had to make our peace. But I had no idea of the things that were going to happen that were going to challenge me.”
Part of the development of the show came from notes that Deborah kept after having phone conversations with her brother during his illness. It was through these conversations that she began to get to know Kevin in a way she never had before.
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