By Arleen Spenceley
Times Staff Writer
Mike Indeglio lost his father and grandpa to cancer.
So when he found out a colleague's dad was diagnosed in 2008, he understood the grief, the fear and the helplessness.
All this spring in Tampa, Indeglio and that colleague, Fred Ross, worked together in the cast of Godspell. Indeglio sought a way to help as Ross spent his days off with his dad at his parents' home in Clearwater, and when he flew to Philly to visit his parents' other home when his dad started treatment up there.
Sharing stories with someone who can relate is cathartic, Indeglio said. It also gave him an idea.
A benefit show, he thought, could be the cast's way of sticking it to cancer. He envisioned putting on a good show and sending the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. He'd need four nights and three actors with the passion to pull it off. He got what he needed.
With Ross, he recruited fellow actor Alison Burns, who also starred in Godspell. The three perform their finished product at 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through May 29 as a Jobsite Theater Job-Side Project in the Shimberg Playhouse at the Straz Center. The show, called Tick, Tick…BOOM!, is a rock 'n' roll musical by Jonathan Larson, creator of Broadway musical Rent.
The autobiographical play is about a composer on the eve of his 30th birthday, torn between chasing his musical theater dreams and pursuing a conventional life.
Indeglio saw the show for the first time off Broadway right after he moved to New York. Little did he know, he said, about 10 years later, he'd be 29 and facing the same decision as the show's main character. Ross, also 29, faces it, too.
"You have to decide whether you push forward or you succumb to what's expected" in life, Indeglio said. "Sometimes, you have to dig down for some courage."
Indeglio gets his courage from his father.
"Before my dad died, he said, 'You have to do what you love with your life.' I don't think he knew what I was going to do," Indeglio said.
But he bets his dad approves.
Indeglio and Ross, who both feel like the play parallels their lives, also recruited Tampa director and cancer survivor Karla Hartley and a set of musicians, all willing to work for "pennies" — money, Indeglio said, that will probably come out of his pocket. In the show, Indeglio plays Jon, Ross plays Jon's friend Michael and Burns plays Jon's girlfriend, Susan. None will be paid.
"Sometimes, there are things more important than money," said Hartley.
Before the cast can donate the proceeds, ticket sales will have to cover fees for the rights to use the play and the rental of some equipment. The rest of the money the show makes would normally pay the cast or a theater company. For Indeglio or Ross, who live in New York, it might have been a month's worth of rent.
But that, Ross said, is a worthwhile sacrifice.
"When you see what people with cancer deal with, not making money for a few weeks to help a good cause is important," he said. "It's a small price in comparison."
An easy price to pay when the cause hits close to home.
"I think everyone you know has been affected by cancer in some way," said actor Burns, 27, who lives in Carrollwood. "I have a 5-year-old daughter and her grandmother died of cancer two years ago next January. She still talks about her Mima."
Indeglio can relate.
"My dad was kind of a Superman," he said. "I thought he'd be fine."
But his father died nine years ago May 16, at 52 years old. Indeglio's performance in Tick, Tick…BOOM! — as with all his performances — is dedicated to his dad.
"The worst part is feeling like you can't do anything," he said. "But with this project, we can do something."
Arleen Spenceley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6235.