Max Bidasha will bring his play “Stages” to the Olympic Theatre Arts stage in January. (Max Bidasha)

Max Bidasha will bring his play “Stages” to the Olympic Theatre Arts stage in January. (Max Bidasha)

Survivor tells of cancer in ‘Stages:’ New playwright sets Sequim play for January

SEQUIM — A Sequim man has written a play about fighting cancer and will produce it at Olympic Theatre Arts.

For Max Bidasha, dealing with epithelioid sarcoma meant writing a play about it.

Long a fan of theater and the stage, Bidasha was inspired to write after seeing “Network” on Broadway in May.

He’d boarded the plane the morning after several days’ worth of cancer treatment in Poulsbo, and with a front row ticket in hand he got to see a play he’d long been anticipating.

Meet the stars

After the show, he was able to meet two of the show’s stars, Bryan Cranston and Tony Goldwyn, which was a huge deal to Bidasha, a long-time fan of Goldwyn’s.

The experience of both seeing a play as intense as “Network” and talking with Goldwyn about the show and his cancer experience left Bidasha with a burning need to tell his story on stage.

So began the process of writing “Stages.”

“I just knew that this was what I needed to do,” Bidasha said. “You just don’t see plays about cancer like this. I felt like I had to do this.”

“Stages” will be on stage at Olympic Theatre Arts, 414 N. Sequim Ave., from Jan. 9-12, though it’s not going to be a part of the theater’s regular performance season.

“I’m renting out the theater to put on the show,” Bidasha said. “They’re handling the technical side of things, while I’m in charge of what’s on stage.”

Bidasha not only wrote his first play in just two months, he also will direct and act in it — two more first-time experiences.

“It’s a challenge, but one I’m willing to take on to make sure this is done right,” he said.

The challenge is a financial one as well — Bidasha raised about $3,000 to cover the theater rental through sponsorships from Hurricane Coffee and Olympic Stained Glass, plus a few private donations.

He’s still looking for more funding to improve some aspects of the show, as well as to rent additional time for rehearsing on stage.

“The response from the community has been fantastic,” Bidasha said. “I really appreciate all the support and love I’ve already gotten.”

Two male parts are still being cast, and Bidasha encourages people of color or various disabilities to try for the roles. To ask about casting or to offer sponsorship, contact Bidasha at stages theplay@gmail.com.

“Stages” is about Bidasha’s journey as a cancer patient and survivor. Bidasha wound up working with several different doctors before he felt he was getting quality treatment. That is reflected in the play.

Three months later

Bidasha’s unusual form of an already-rare cancer in epithelioid sarcoma — the primary tumor was in his hand, when it’s typically a cancer that forms in soft tissue — meant that his left arm was amputated several inches below his elbow in December 2018, just three months after his initial diagnosis in September.

The cancer has spread to Bidasha’s lungs, but he said his prognosis is good and he’s not concerned about it impacting his ability to produce the play.

While he has family in Sequim — his father, stepmother, and two half-sisters have lived here for five years — Bidasha has lived in Sequim for less than a year.

He was living in California’s Bay Area when he was diagnosed with stage four epithelioid sarcoma in his left hand, and after several conversations with his father — a member of the local Black Diamond Junction band — he decided to join his family in November.

“I wasn’t scared of dying,” Bidasha said, “but if I was going to I didn’t want to do it having wasted time I could have spent with my family. That’s what I was scared of.”

________

Conor Dowley is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at cdowley@sequimgazette.com.

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