It’s a story that too many can relate to

ETC staging Sarah and the Dinosaur, which chronicles a battle with cancer, as a fundraiser for a pair of hospices

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ETC staging Sarah and the Dinosaur, which chronicles a battle with cancer, as a fundraiser for a pair of hospices
Andy Wasylycia, Ingrid Fast and Mark Dakin rehearsing for their upcoming performance of Sarah and the Dinosaur running from June 15-18 at the Elmira Theatre Company. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]

Everyone’s experiences are unique when it comes to dealing with serious and sometimes fatal illness.

With Sarah and the Dinosaur, the Elmira Theatre Company is telling the story of Sarah’s experiences, and how she deals with stage-two ocular melanoma … with the help of a big purple dinosaur.

The show runs from June 15-18, and ETC’s Debbie Deckert says the performances will be benefiting local hospices Lisaard House and Inisfree House, a cause dear to the theatre group’s heart.

“We have lost quite a few of our members to cancer, and many people have lost friends, family, and one of our long-time members, Sue Parr, passed away in September,” she said, adding that Parr spent her final days at Lisaard House last year. “In fact, a couple of our members are battling cancer right now, so the director Loren Fleming brought it to our script reading and we thought, well it is not really the kind of play that we would usually do, but we figured we would add this on in our off season, which is why it is coming up in June.”

The play follows Sarah’s journey through different treatments, with a few laughs and some more sombre moments, says Deckert, who wants to remind theatregoers the play isn’t suited for children. It deals with some very adult themes.

“The play is written by Ingrid de Sanctis, and this is based on the true story of a friend of hers that battled cancer,” said Deckert. “So, Sarah sees this purple dinosaur and she goes to visit the doctor, she goes to visit a healer, her mother and her sister think that if she goes and prays to Jesus and they lay hands on her she will be cured. It is her journey of a variety of treatments to save her life. When she is alone, this dinosaur shows up and she talks to the dinosaur, like, ‘why are you here?’ ‘go away.’ There are funny moments, and there are touching moments.”

Ingrid Fast, Julie-Anne Herteis, Pam Webb and Lindsey Quinn as the purple dinosaur who only Sarah sees through her various cancer treatments in the upcoming production of Sarah and the Dinosaur.

It isn’t just about hearing Sarah’s story, however. Deckert says the performances give those who know someone who has dealt with cancer or serious illnesses an opportunity to honour those who have died or survived the ordeal.

“It is about remembering supporting the fighters, admiring survivors and honouring the taken,” she said. “It isn’t just recognizing those who have gone, but there are those who have survived cancer, and those that are beating it, so we want to honour them too. It has touched everyone. We think that Lisaard House is such a great cause. But we want people to understand that the play isn’t a total downer, and it is a fundraiser. I think people might come by just to honour everyone who has been touched by the disease. The strength of the people that have to go through that is just incredible.”

The funds being raised aren’t just coming from ticket sales.

“We have a bulletin board in the theatre and it is going to be painted to look like a landscape with sky and that is where people will put their butterflies or flowers. All of that money goes towards Innisfree House,” said Deckert. The Elmira Theatre company production of Sarah and the Dinosaur runs from June 15-17 at 8 p.m. and on June 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Read’s Decorating in Elmira, or by calling 519-669-3230.