When Chicago actor Steve Evans shared ominous medical news on social media, it sent waves through the Mobile theater community. An actor, writer and comic, Evans traded his native Azalea City for the windy one in the last decade to further his theatrical career.
A Jan. 4 Facebook posting revealed Evans had been diagnosed with small-cell carcinoma and announced a fundraising effort to help with related expense. Replies to the post showed he continues to have a base of friends and colleagues throughout Mobile’s creative community.
When Artifice spoke with Evans on Jan. 5, his characteristic humor showed a man with a healthy outlook.
“I told the doctor, ‘Doc, I’m a stand-up comic. I’ve already died onstage so this is nothing,” Evans said.
He was in an August motorcycle wreck that left him with ample road rash, a concussion and a collapsed lung. While in the hospital immediately afterward, an X-ray showed a modest spot in one lung.
“When they used the word ‘cancer,’ it immediately took care of my urge for another cigarette right there. I’ve had no problem with quitting except for some nerves right around election time,” Evans said.
A follow-up exam had good news. The spot was the same size.
“They were just making sure it wasn’t spreading to my brain or any other place, because it can be kind of aggressive. The fact it hasn’t is really encouraging,” Evans said.
Another party’s insurance paid for his initial medical bills. The oncoming cancer treatments will be paid for by his own insurance.
“I have insurance through the Affordable Care Act and asked the doctor what would happen if it were to somehow get wiped out. He told me, ‘Well, you’re lucky you’re in Illinois because there’s a pretty good safety net here.’ Good thing I wasn’t still in Sweet Home Alabama,” Evans laughed.
Evans was a regular on Mobile stages throughout the 1990s. For numerous years, he spent summers in Chillicothe, Ohio, in the cast of the lauded outdoor drama “Tecumseh.”
Another year he parlayed the Ohio experience into a role in “Black River Traders,” an outdoor historical drama in Farmington, New Mexico. His resume brought him some good-natured chiding among the cast and crew, with the nickname “The Big Deal from Mobile.”
Evans got some Mobile fame as a character in a series of Original Oyster House TV ads in the early 2000s, a role that surprisingly brought him a flow of residual checks.
“I thought it was going to be a flat fee, but I guess my agent was working that 10 percent,” Evans cracked.
Evans was a regular performer in Chicago’s massive Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins Theatre Festival, where he perfected his own one-man shows. His theatrical experiences in Ohio were fodder for his comedic one-man play “My Life with the Shawnee.”
Tired of the winters, Evans returned to Mobile a couple of years back. He appeared in Tom Perez’s South of the Salt Line satire “Ambushed By the Tea Party” in October 2014. In early 2015, he staged his one-man work “Bro. Luther Powell vs. the Tobacco Demons” locally.
Shortly thereafter, Evans returned to Chicago. Its increased theatrical opportunities were too alluring.
As for his upcoming cancer treatments, Evans is determined — especially regarding his status as a committed bicycle commuter.
“I want to be the guy who rides to chemo through the freezing-ass cold on his bike. This is not going to make me change the way I live,” Evans said.
His age is a bonus, too.
“The pulmonologist said, ‘You know, for an old guy you’re pretty young,’” Evans quipped.
“Old guy,” huh? Evans is younger than this writer by months. Thanks, Steve.
The Mobile Arts Council announced recipients for two very prestigious Arty Awards.
The Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Mobile artist, painter, poet, photographer and author Tut Altman Riddick. Active for more than 60 years, a gallery at the University of West Alabama is named for her and she was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame in 2013.
The Patron Award goes to native Mobilian and pro baseball player Jake Peavy. His foundation works with local nonprofit organizations to create signature outreach programs, and partnered with One Mobile on a youth mural initiative.
The Arty Awards take place Jan. 27, 7 p.m., at the Alabama Contemporary Arts Center (301 Conti St.). Winners in 11 categories will be announced in an Oscars-style event and presented with a physical award designed by Susie Bowman, owner of Kiln Studio and Gallery.
Tickets are available for the evening of food, drink and entertainment. They cost $30 in advance, $35 at the door. Call 251-432-9796 or go to mobilearts.org.