One-Two Cancer KO

Two benefits working to deliver a knockout to the Big C

Do you feel the power to heal?

Cancer takes down too many people without a fight, but this week a pair of benefit efforts from theatre artists aim to put the Big C on the ropes and ultimately down for the count. One is a homegrown effort to help a local artist, Robert Matney, the other a national drive, literally, by a pair of Californians that will stop in Austin today and tomorrow.

Benjamin Viele and Alexander Rodriguez off the road

On the home front, friends of Matney and his wife, actor-director Liz Fisher, launched a campaign to raise $50,000 to put a dent in the medical bills that will be incurred as Matney fights a malignant melanoma discovered in his system a few months ago. Through online donations and a benefit reading of The Taming of the Shrew by Hidden Room Theatre on June 30, the Matney vs. Cancer – Fight! campaign has already exceeded its goal. But a second benefit event already in the works for tonight, a Tent Revival at the Off Center, will give Matney even more breathing room in his bout with the bullying disease.

The Tent Revival starts Wednesday at 8:30pm (doors open at 8), and features a stellar lineup of entertainment. Leading the proceedings and rousing the faithful will be the Rev. Lowell Bartholomee (the holy hellion behind the hilarious video in which Matney plays both himself and his obnoxious, freeloading Cancer), with playwright Kirk Lynn offering a prayer, hymns by the Slack Biders quartet, a homily by playwright-performer Steven Tomlinson, and music, music, music by Manateeman, Cami Alys, Shoulders, Four Bouncing Bums (members of East Side Dandies), and special guest deejays Graham Reynolds, Michael Joplin, and Peter Stopschinski. Your hosts at that heavenly haven known as the Off Center 2211 Hidalgo, are the Rude Mechs. Bring your checkbook for what promises to be an outstanding silent auction. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.

Meanwhile, Benjamin Viele and Alexander Rodriguez will be making a pit stop in town during the 2,937-mile Drive-a-thon they're undertaking to raise $25,000 for the American Cancer Society. The two friends and entertainers – catch their weekly radio show, "Happy Hour With Ben and Alexander" on Universal Broadcasting Network – are driving from Los Angeles to Illiopolis, Ill., where Viele grew up and where his grandfather is battling Stage 4 lung cancer. At the end of the trip, the two will perform a cabaret fundraiser at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield, but they decided to make a benefit out of the entire cross-country odyssey, and so they scheduled stops along the way where they could perform additional findraising concerts and entertain children in cancer wards.

Viele and Rodriguez embarked on The Journey Home July 12 and have already stopped in Orange, Calif., and Phoenix, Ariz. A previously announced benefit at the Spider House Ballroom tonight was canceled in deference to the Matney Vs. Cancer Tent Revival, but the pair will still perform a cabaret of Disney songs in the Dell Children's Hospital playroom on Thursday at 2pm. You can follow their progress To Atlanta, St. Louis, and Illiopolis on Facebook and their YouTube channel with videos of the pair in transit. And most importantly, you can support their campaign with a donation on their American Cancer Society page.

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benefits, Matney Vs. Cancer – FIGHT!, Off Center, Robert Matney, Lowell Bartholomee, Kirk Lynn, Steven Tomlinson, The Journey Home, Benjamin Viele, Alexander Rodriguez

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