This weekend, audiences will melt as the enduring characters of touring musical “Sickle Cell” dance across the hard frozen ice rink of SUNY Fredonia’s campus. The nine month tour has already touched hundreds of individuals across the country, and the company anticipates an identically strong positive response here to those they have received thus far, poignantly contrary to the anemic B-negative content of the production. The Artffliction Theatre Company presents the show about a young woman, first and foremost, who lives her life day by day, dreaming as others dream, facing problems with her boyfriend and parents, worrying about grades and dealing with self-doubt, but Celia faces one rarer difficulty that adds particular stress to her everyday life: Celia has sickle cell anemia. The musical unravels her tale beautifully and sensitively with exacting attention to detail, and the swift gliding movements mirror her somehow graceful path of struggle.
The founders of Artffliction, responsible for this stunning performance, had one simple propelling mission in mind when creating their theatre company: to educate the world about the subtleties of more obscure diseases and the lives of people coping with them, and engaging the participation, when possible, of actual members of those tortured and misunderstood communities. This noble undertaking has shown repeated success, bringing tears to audience eyes performance after heart-bleeding performance. Literally. In a recent performance of “Shell Shock,” a PTSD- inspired puppet show, the intuitive director Philip Shard took a bold step, firing blanks from a realistic machine gun and prompting the entirely real panic attack in an actor fresh out of Iraq that won the show its rave reviews.
Actress Cynthia Zygote, who plays the role of Celia, is not anemic, but sympathizes with the small chorus girl who appears briefly in act two that does have the disease. “I didn’t know much about it until I got the part, to be completely honest, but now that I have done all of my extensive background character work, I feel I have sickle cell anemia. It is in me, weakening my body, slowly, and I don’t want pity. No, that’s not the point of this show. I want understanding.”
The performances in this piece are of top quality, especially at its most tender moments: when Celia’s boyfriend cradles her head in his lap singing a reprise of the ballad, “Bleed For You,” or when her little sister gives herself a paper cut in attempt to transfer some of her healthy blood to her sickly sibling. Others in the cast say about Cynthia’s performance, “She’s brilliant. Truly riveting to watch. This is her Forrest Gump. Sickle cell was untouchable material, scary even, and she made it real and relatable. It’s got to win a Toe-Knee.” Of course, the Toe-Knee is the most prestigious medical drama award in existence, so such an achievement would be a great honor to everyone involved in the production process.
The show will take place March 4th and 5th at 8pm, tickets will be sold at the Ticket Office in the Williams Center for $10 presale and $13.50 at the door. This opportunity is sure to be the talk of the campus, and soon, the entire world will be talking too. As Celia says, “seizing every moment is like tricking reality to expand according to your wishes. You can do as little as you like, but life will be a lot shorter that way! Especially for me!”
-Mrsa Crso, March 2010