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The Liberty Free Theatre celebrates life

By By Jonathan Fox
May 10, 2012

As I read through my e-mails last week, a press release from the Liberty Free Theatre (LFT) caught my attention. “We’re gearing up for our eighth season,” it began, “with a special event production of Constance Alexander’s ‘The Way Home’ as a fundraiser for CROC (Citizens Reunited to Overcome Cancer).” Some of the words leaped off the page, shouting at me, causing me to pause. CROC. Cancer. Home.

“I know these words,” I whispered aloud. “I know cancer.” I also know the Liberty Free Theatre, and a visit there always feels like home. Reading on, I discovered that the LFT has “partnered with CROC to enhance their emergency relief fund” with a special performance of Alexander’s new play on May 11 at 7:30 p.m. Memories flooded as I reviewed my own personal journey that began more than seven years ago. Shortly after being diagnosed with Barretts Esophagus, a digestive disease that affects (primarily) men in their 40s and 50s, I was led to understand that, aside from the esophageal erosion that stems from acid reflux, an unusual cancer can arise. As I underwent treatment for Barretts, the required biopsy delivered the bad news and my relationship with cancer began.

Cancer and celebrating are two words that don’t necessarily go hand in hand, but they are what CROC, established in 1999, is all about. The organization, “whose mission is to lavish cancer survivors with love, empower them with information, and motivate them to move” is amazing. I discovered CROC through a friend, and initially dismissed it. Having been involved with a cancer “support” group in the past, I was not interested in simply sitting with others in order to bemoan our fate to anyone within earshot. Glancing at its web site (www.crocalumni.org ) revealed a different approach and its motto, “Turning Tragedy into Triumph,” appealed, so I attended a get-together and found CROC to be as motivating and empowering as promised.

I called Paul Austin, artistic director of the LFT, to find out what the theatre’s connection to CROC was all about. “This play [“The Way Home”] came to me via the playwright,” Austin told me. “We’ve worked together in the past, stayed in touch, and she particularly wants this work to be shared with rural communities, since the characters showcased in ‘The Way Home’ are from western Kentucky. The play, which tells the story of two very different individuals, celebrates their lives and the spirit of cancer survivors, which is the thrust of CROC’s mission. We really wanted to get this message across here at home, so it just made sense.”