Brian Lobel is an artist and scholar based in the United Kingdom. He is a professor of Theatre and Performance at Rose Bruford College, and a Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the Central School of Speech and Drama. His work has been featured at the Sydney Opera House, National Theatre, and Harvard Medical School. He is known for his Live Art practice based in 'candid, personal interactions', and his work dealing with themes, issues and experiences around cancer.
Life and Education
Lobel is originally from upstate New York and currently resides in London. He studied with Holly Hughes at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and received his PhD in drama from Queen Mary University London. In 2017 Lobel appeared on the British reality show Come Dine With Me, ultimately winning the competition.
Lobel served as an Engagement Fellow for the Wellcome Trust (2014-2016), and in that role co-founded The Sick of the Fringe with Tracy Gentles. The Sick of the Fringe ‘supports artists and theatre-makers to get outside their comfort zones, to explore new and different ways of thinking and working’. It looks to bring attention to was founded in order to ‘connect art, health and social change’ and ‘challenge and fight inequality, inaccessibility, elitism and mediocrity in the arts.’
Lobel was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2001 at the age of 20 while studying political science at the University of Michigan. His work often ‘draws on his own experience of cancer treatment’, and is concerned with 'bodies and body politics'. Lobel has described solo performance as 'the perfect metaphor for being sick', since it requires one body 'on stage, isolated and vulnerable', and his performances often intervene 'into the way bodies are culturally stigmatised and marginalised.' In 2019 Lobel published Theatre & Cancer, a text aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate students of theatre, performance and disability studies, that challenges conventional perspectives on cancer narratives in theatre by highlighting key works to reconsider 'cancer performance' beyond sentimentality and survivorship.
Ball and Other Funny Stories about Cancer (2011)
BALL & Other Funny Stories About Cancer is one-person show that brings together works Lobel wrote about his experience with cancer between 2001 and 2011. Lobel refers to the work as a 'cancer comedy', and the work addresses the 'grim subject' of his cancer diagnosis and treatment with a 'light, joyful narrative style.' It has been performed at the Harvard Medical School, NY Academy of Medicine, Cape Town Live Art Festival, Seymour Centre Sydney, Performing Medicine, Contact Manchester, Colchester Arts Centre, Decibel Festival, Camden People's Theatre, and many more. The work is often cited for its warmth and humour in dealing with cancer, with one academic noting that it 'takes the cancer story and gives it a refreshingly new perspective through [Lobel's] unique literary voice and charming embodiment.‘
Purge is an interactive performance lecture that 'examines how we emotionally and socially interact with digital media'. Developed with support from Arts Council England, the show explores the process of, and fallout from, Purge, a performance action 'in which strangers voted to keep or delete each of [Lobel's] Facebook friends.' In the work, Lobel invites 'audiences to become co-creators' of the work, and highlights how we make choices about relationships.:91 Scholar Bree Hadley has argued that the work's 'spectatorial performances become exemplars for public scrutiny'.:91
Fun With Cancer Patients (2013)
Lobel’s work Fun With Cancer Patients (2013) ‘documents 10 areas of cancer treatment including food intake and appetite, the relationship between the starer and the person being looked at, the questions that cancer patients are always asked, and the sounds associated with treatment.’
A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer (2016)
In 2016 Lobel co-wrote the book for the musical A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer (2016) with Byrony Kimmings. The musical, with a score by Tom Parkinson, premiered at the National Theatre in London.
You Have to Forgive Me, You Have to Forgive Me, You Have to Forgive Me (2014-ongoing)
Lobel has also created work around the television series Sex and the City, and is a ‘self-proclaimed Sex and the City therapist’ His interactive performance work, You Have to Forgive Me, You Have to Forgive Me, You Have to Forgive Me requires participants to 'fill in a 94-question questionnaire which asks you to examine your life and relationships through the prism of Sex and the City and Carrie Bradshaw. Lobel then selects an episode from the complete box set of Sex and the City that he thinks will most help you, and you watch it together.' Participants watch the episode in bed with Lobel (either in person, or via skype). Lobel is usually ‘pajama clad’, and encourages participants to also wear pajamas.
- "Brian Lobel Appointed as Rose Bruford College's Professor of Theatre and Performance". Rose Bruford College. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
- "Brian Lobel | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama". www.cssd.ac.uk. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
- "Brian Lobel | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama". www.cssd.ac.uk. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- Serratore, Nicole (2014-10-16). "Fringe, American Style!". AMERICAN THEATRE. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- Lobel, Brian. "Theatre and Cancer". Macmillan International Higher Education. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- Lobel, Brian (2012). Playing the cancer card: illness, performance and spectatorship (Thesis thesis).
- Episode dated 18 September 2017, retrieved 2019-08-05
- Farrar, Jeremy (2016-08-17). "Wellcome's work doesn't exist in a vacuum - so we've brought science to the Fringe". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- Desk, BWW News. "The Sick Of The Fringe Festival Interrogates The Health Of Society". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- Johnson, Sarah (2013-10-03). "Artist inspires teenage cancer patients to reflect openly on their illness". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- cs2-admin (2018-05-17). ""I and you" Becomes "I am you": The Audience's Gaze in Contemporary Medical Performance". Critical Stages/Scènes critiques. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- "BALL & Other Funny Stories About Cancer". Brian Lobel. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- Park-Fuller, Linda M. (2008-01-01). "How to Tell a True Cancer Story". Text and Performance Quarterly. 28 (1–2): 178–182. doi:10.1080/10462930701754424. ISSN 1046-2937.
- "Brian Lobel". Brian Lobel. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- "Brian Lobel". Theatre and Dance. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- Hadley, Bree (2017-09-30). Theatre, Social Media, and Meaning Making. Springer. ISBN 9783319548821.
- "A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer, Dorfman, NT, London, review". The Independent. 2016-10-21. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- Gardner, Lyn (2016-11-07). "A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer: a masterclass in manipulating audiences". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- "I Saw A 'Sex And The City' "Therapist" & What He Prescribed Me Actually Worked". Bustle. Retrieved 2019-08-05.