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Review: My Funeral: The Real Deal

Jane looking up form her casketMY FUNERAL: THE REAL DEAL by Jane Kansas

On June 5, which would have been the 69th birthday of Halifax based writer-performer-activist Jane Kansas, a one night remount of her hit 2014 play “My Funeral: The Dry Run” was updated to “My Funeral: The Real Deal” at the Bus Stop Theatre.

Thanks to the rich precision of Miss Kansas’s one woman show, her loved ones had not just a blueprint, but a manifesto, to work from in planning this, her actual funeral. Because Miss Kansas was unavailable to reprise her award-winning role as herself, actress Stephanie MacDonald performed a reading of the play. No performer could have better conveyed the cantankerous, outrageously funny, at-war-with-the-world nature of Miss Kansas. All the details from the play — right down to recipes for Church Lady finger sandwiches and quotes from Bladerunner, were brought to life with faithfulness to the text — after all, Miss Kansas originally performed the dry run of her funeral because she knew that her grieving friends and family would otherwise “fuck it up.” 

Miss Kansas-- who pre-shamed mourners that were too shy to speak-- would have enjoyed the full hour of friends and admirers who eulogised, remembered, teased and laughed along with her at her expense. Author Stephanie Domet, serving as emcee, expertly coaxed and cajoled a parade of mourners to share stories of Miss Kansas’s shenanigans — she was known for her epic journeys — she lived in Egypt, marched on Washington, rode her bicycle from Halifax to Alabama, and once walked from Montana to Maine. Testimonies were tied together by the frequent theme that Jane had initially hated the bereaved but had eventually become a deeply cherished friend. The funeral was capped off with an audio playback from CBC radio, of Miss Kansas’s contralto voice as she recalled being stuck in traffic in the passenger seat of a co-worker’s car, and deciding to pee in a paper cup, which subsequently broke in her hand and spilled all over the car.

The show was, without question, the best funeral I’ve ever attended. There were some flaws, however, with which to take umbrage. 

The performance was part of an all-day arts festival in Kansas’s honour, produced by Susan Ruptash (Kansas’s sister), Lis Van Berkel, Lee-Anne Poole, Jane Wright, and Tara Thorne. The program included an exhibit of her abstract paintings, and a mural timeline of her life to which the bereaved could add their own memories. There were screenings of Kansas’s two other fringe shows, “My Dead Dad” and “My First Heart Attack.” The dressing room was peppered with photos of Miss Kansas for the taking. There was a silver phone to call and leave a message for Jane. Displayed in a porcelain rooster were the ashen remains of Miss Kansas, divided into a hundred little paper packets for her friends to take home and scatter in places that hold special memories.

The show was, without question, the best funeral I’ve ever attended. There were some flaws, however, with which to take umbrage. Firstly, Miss Kansas envisioned a barbecue, which, because the province was ablaze with wildfires and open flames were banned, could not be provided. Secondly, Miss Kansas specifically wished to avoid the dark walls of a blackbox theatre for the event, although I’m sure she would have been tickled to see the robust crowd enjoy it there— the largest single audience her funeral ever received. Those minor flaws can be overlooked but there was one missing element that cost the production its fifth star in this review— and that was the absence of Miss Kansas herself. The lack of Jane Kansas’s yowls of laughter, pouting complaints, and star power was felt like a black hole throughout the production. No Jane Kansas show is complete without Jane Kansas. It’s doubtful that any audience has ever missed a star more.

the largest single audience her funeral ever received. 

With the exception of her play “The Asshole Monologues,” Miss Kansas’s performance pieces may prove too personal to enjoy future repertory productions. She didn’t create characters so much as tell her own story in a her uniquely candid tone. Miss Kansas envisioned her funeral as an arts festival, and she would have been absolutely delighted that she received exactly that, complete with laughter and tears.

Miss Kansas was born in Wichita, Kansas on June 5, 1954 and died in Nova Scotia on December 18, 2022.

If there is a heaven, I fully expect to be in the audience for Miss Kansas's one woman show "St. Pete and Me: How I Argued My Way Through the Pearly Gates." How I will miss you, Jane.