Brennen Reeves started a one-man show centered around his own personal experience dealing with Cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects the lungs, causing a difficulty to breathe over time.
The show, aptly titled "Breathe. A True Story" is in its third year and has been featured in the local Piccolo Spoleto arts festival and on NPR. Since the show's opening, Reeves has been on tour traveling regionally and nationally to universities, medical campuses and theaters.
It's a blend of comedic highlights and intensely raw, moving moments. Reeves performs what he says is most likely his last show in Charleston on Saturday at Pure Theatre.
Q: When did you decide that this show was something you should do? How did you arrive at the concept?
A: The concept was created and came to be my senior year at the College of Charleston when I was enrolled in a class that was designed for students to create their own original work.
I never had the intentions to bring forth my life in any sense of the way. I was and still am to a degree a very private and separate person in the way of my health. I'm not a tell-all person. So when it came to writing this show set before an audience, I was extremely hesitant.
Despite this being the end goal (writing a one-man show about my life), I felt a sense of regret or guilt. Because yes, this is my life and sure, it's had its hardships and so have I and my family, but who hasn't? No one. Every single person has had a hardship. Some more than others. So the guilt stemmed from that, those other people. Like who am I to write a show about my life?
Q: Where does the humor come in to play?
Life. Life is what makes the show funny. But too, life is also the reason it's a bit gloomy. I like to think of myself as a realist, so some of the humor comes from self reflecting or presently just looking at myself and asking, "Now why are you shaped like this? Why can't you have a six pack?"A little self deprecation and a little bit of observant humor.
Q: How does your own personal struggle with Cystic fibrosis impact the show?
A: The show's whole purpose is to tell that story, almost like a cause and effect to receiving a bilateral. The cause= Cystic fibrosis. The effect= receiving two other lungs. The incorporation of the disease comes from an array of different vignettes: my life at camp, my life at home, etc.
Q: Tell me about being featured on NPR!
A: The NPR thing happened right as the show was taking off for Piccolo in 2015. Trying to explain what the show is, who I am. What's really exciting about coming back to Charleston is and still remains the show. As David my director reminds me, "This script is a living document." So, I've updated it here and there, earned some jokes, lost some, but I've kept the same message throughout. It's pretty cool.
Q: Why have you decided that this might be your last show?
A: I have a few other projects I want to focus on. There's this memoir autobiographical thing I want to sit down and write. There's a poetry collection I've started and want to finish. I want to have some other things that can be talked about and presented. I want to finish up grad school in creative writing. Maybe another solo show— to be honest, not totally sure what the next part is... Just because something's retired doesn't mean it's completely erased.