Calgary Fringe Festival one-man show approaches aging with humour and resilience
"When man plans and God laughs," Judah Leblang gets creative.
The Boston-based writer has created a one-man show called It's Now or Never: My Life in the Late Middle Ages, and the virtual production is part of the 15th annual Calgary Fringe Festival.
The show takes a humourous look at aging and love as a gay, middle-aged, Jewish man.
"Being a baby boomer, I think somehow we thought that, you know, we were never going to get old, and that only happened to our parents' generation," Leblang told The Homestretch on Thursday.
"But it's one of those things where you look around and all those things that my parents said about the older you get, the faster time seems to go turned out to be surprisingly true."
Leblang started writing when he was in his 50s and developed this show after he turned 60 — aware of the idea of limited time.
"The stream only goes in one direction … so if there's something I really want to do, I better go ahead and do it," he said. "At 60, the clock is ticking louder and the years to come are finite."
He performed It's Now or Never in Calgary in 2019, and said people related to it a lot. Now the pandemic makes it resonate even more.
"That's really the 'woman or man plans and God laughs,'" he said. "It's those things that we can make our plans, but then life happens. And then the question is, well, how do we deal with it now? And sometimes I think we can find humour in that."
Humour and loss
Leblang said that finding that perspective comes from his upbringing.
He's originally from Cleveland, which he calls "an old industrial city that doesn't get a lot of respect."
"If you know where to look, it's got some really cool stuff and people have a certain resilience. And that's something that I kind of really imbibed."
That has helped him through the ironies of life. In his 20s, with a full range of hearing, Leblang taught deaf children, and in his 30s worked as a sign language interpreter.
Then when he was 50, he woke up and couldn't hear out of one ear. He thought he was congested, but after months and a number of doctor's appointments, he knew that the hearing loss was permanent.
"As we get older, I think most of us experience losses, whether friends or losing our parents or, you know, dealing with physical challenges that were not on our to-do list," Leblang said.
"But there's also the benefit of the wisdom and the life experience that comes from, you know, getting older and maybe learning that life is not so black and white, right and wrong."
And that's something we can all find, he said.
"Whatever our age, you know, we are all aging unless we're not, in which case we're dead and none of this matters anyway."
Tickets for Leblang's show and other virtual performances can be found at calgaryfringe.ca
With files from The Homestretch.