Nothing But a Good Time


Acting Against Cancer brings ‘Rock of Ages’ to Louisville

By Graham Pilotte

For 19 years, one theater company has been uniquely changing lives throughout Louisville. Acting Against Cancer has an almost unprecedented mission: to combat cancer through theater and the arts. And the company’s 2018 season is one you won’t want to miss.

“Acting Against Cancer is a nonprofit, semi-professional theater company,” explains Whitten Montgomery, managing director. “We produce a five-show season throughout the year, and we also have children’s programming after school. Any child touched by cancer can come to our classes for free.” The mainstage shows help to fund the classes, which allow kids to explore their creativity and express the passionate emotions that often come with seeing cancer up close at a young age.

Acting Against Cancer started in 1999, as Montgomery and her sister watched their mother battle non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The pair decided to raise money to fight cancer, and started with a basement production of “Annie” that raised $200 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Now, in 2018, the organization has grown into a full-fledged theater company that produces high-quality shows, raises community awareness and brings the healing power of the arts into the lives of children touched by cancer as well as raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat the disease.

Acting Against Cancer is already known around Louisville for its after-school programs, which allow elementary and middle-schoolers to explore creative outlets and develop confidence. “Fifty percent of our students receive free admission, because their lives are touched by cancer,” Montgomery says. “We’re starting rehearsals for this semester soon, and we’ll be performing ‘Aladdin Jr.’ and ‘Seussical Kids’ in May.”

Fun, edgy and high-energy performances are also becoming Acting Against Cancer’s hallmark, as the company is quickly developing a reputation for being the first to bring new musicals to the Louisville area. “We love doing a regional premiere,” Montgomery explains. “Our audience base is really young, so we like to do trendy shows and keep up with what’s going on in the world of Broadway.”

And soon, Acting Against Cancer will perform the regional premiere of “Rock of Ages.” The show is an ’80s jukebox musical featuring songs from Styx, Bon Jovi and Journey, along with other chart-toppers. “The basic plot is that a young rocker meets an actress, who turns out to be the girl of his dreams,” Montgomery explains. “It’s built around songs like ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’” And from the actors to the technical elements, audience members know to expect a terrific performance. “For ‘Rock of Ages,’ they can especially look for some excellent costumes. We have some great pieces, from ‘80s glam to rocker grunge,” Montgomery says. “There are also a lot of funny moments that will surprise the audience – the show has a number of characters who keep the plot going and keep everyone active in the show.”

The company’s talented artists and knockout shows are especially noteworthy, but most of all, Acting Against Cancer is dedicated to its mission and its community. “The Louisville community is where this company has grown up,” Montgomery says. “We try to use all local artists and designers, and we’ve continued to grow our audience base. The community is so supportive.”

Starting January 26, Acting Against Cancer will take on 2018 with a confident, energetic “Rock of Ages.” Their fresh take on these ’80s songs will bring a great energy into the new year, and it’s a show that no Louisvillian will want to miss. “We have a really cool arts presence in our community,” Montgomery says, “and we’re so glad to be a part of it.” VT