Beloved Denver comedian Mara Wiles has received a heartwarming amount of support from the local comedy community in the face of her battle with lupus. Leading up to her kidney transplant last month, several benefit performances raised funds to help cover her mounting medical bills -- and while everyone is now celebrating her return to health (and comedy), the all-too-familiar dilemma of health-care costs has inspired another charity performance, this one spearheaded by Wiles's former thespian haunt, Impulse Theater.
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"Impulse theater was where I got my start doing comedy," says Wiles. "It is where I learned improv, first started performing professionally, where I first did stand-up. I have learned so much there and performed with some of the funniest people I know. It has a very special meaning to me and always will."
Wiles made her return to the stage last Sunday, with a performance at Matt Monroe's Propaganda show at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret. We'd spoken with her last month about how her illness affected her brain's creative function (among other things we talked about); today Wiles says she's feeling better than ever and thrilled to be back on the work horse. "I am feeling much quicker and my energy level has been amazing," she adds. "I feel like a new person. I have been writing a lot and have performed at two open mics since my surgery, and it was the most fun I have had on stage in a while."
Impulse Theater director John Bauers is thrilled to have Mara Wiles as an alumni, and says he was eager to lend a hand in the face of her compromising illness. "By definition a community implies a mutual support system," he says. "Given that the artist community is smaller than most others, it is vital that we do what we can to prevent them from going extinct. And Mara as an artist is so impressive and versatile -- she has challenged herself over the years with so many different types of comedy. It takes guts to experiment in front of a crowd."
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Wiles has been humbled by the outpouring of support and kindness that has come in the wake of her illness. "People have been amazingly kind and generous," she says. "To date we have raised around $16,000, which has already gone to medical bills. The money raised at Impulse will continue to help pay for my medical needs and my anti-rejection medicine, which I will have to take for the rest of my life. Medical bills will always be a reality for me, and this money is going to help me so much."
The Mara Wiles benefit is at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 25 at Impulse Theater, located inside the Wynkoop Brewing Company at 1634 18th Street. Tickets are $18; for more information, visit www.impulsetheater.com.
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For more comedy commentary, follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.