Brian Lobel is often asked if he lost his virginity to a lesbian.
Lobel, a 25-year-old writer and monologue performer, is coming to Western this Monday and Tuesday. He will perform his plays Ball and Other Stories About Cancer.
When Lobel was 20-years-old, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Lobel was concerned he’d lose his ability to ejaculate due to an abdominal surgery related to his illness. Lobel, a gay man, became obsessed with losing his virginity, for some reason, to a straight woman. The punch-line? He discovered he could still ejaculate when he had a wet dream about Sex in the City’s Cynthia Nixon, an iconic lesbian actress.
Lobel, now 25, left this story out of Ball, the monologue performance he wrote in 2003. Ball shows both the ugly and funny sides of having cancer, including sperm banks, hair loss, and catheters.
“I think the story about losing one’s virginity is too trashy for a story about cancer, for Ball, for my cancer story,” he said. “I wanted my story about cancer to be perfect, for people not to judge me.”
Writing and performing Ball was a way to get people to sit down and listen to his story. Lobel resists that writing the monologue was therapeutic, and likes that he is able to control what information about his illness he shares.
“Instead of cancer just being my shit I dealt with privately, I put it out in the open,” he said.
Ball isn’t a tear-jerker, he said, but raw and rough.
“I want to write for people who have an open mind, a political mind, an ironic mind,” he said. “I try to stay very far way from sympathy and touchiness. I try to stay away from the simple tear-jerk… I hope that [my writing] speaks to people who live in a compli-cated world, a world in which you can not have the answer to things, and not everything works out happily in the end.”
Lobel was a student at University of Michigan when he was diagnosed.
“As a young person with cancer,” he said, “one is really obsessed with the missing of time, missing out on things while everyone is moving forward. To be in an arrested de-velopment was really frustrating and difficult for me.”
When Lobel recovered and returned to college, he found his peers were in a much dif-ferent place than he was because most people in their early 20s haven’t dealt with a se-rious illness. Having cancer, for Lobel, was a very isolating experience.
Other Stories About Cancer is Lobel’s second play, which in some ways is a second chapter to Ball because it explores everything that he thought was too trashy for his cancer story, including the story about losing his virginity.
The opening line of Other Stories About Cancer is “I wish I had AIDs.” He knows that the opening line is harsh, but uses it to make a point about how people with illnesses like AIDs or lung cancer are blamed for those illnesses.
“I recognize that I had this illness [cancer] that was perfect,” said Lobel. “I did nothing to cause it.”
Lobel is frequently invited to perform his plays for medical students to help doctors learn to better serve their patients.
“I think it gives [medical students] a chance to listen to a patient for an hour,” he said. “That is really what ‘Ball’ is. It’s my experience going through and traversing the world of cancer.”
Lobel will perform Ball on April 30 and Other Stories About Cancer” May 1.
This will be the second to last performance of Ball; Lobel said he’s retiring the play be-cause he is ready to stop performing something that happened to him five years ago. He will continue to perform Other Stories About Cancer.
Ball will be performed April 30 at 7 p.m. in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room, and Other Stories About Cancer is May 1, also at 7 p.m. in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room. Each performance costs $5 for students and $7 for general admission.