She may have donated a kidney to a stranger, but Amanda Nicastro still has her funny bone.
Nicastro has turned the unique experience into a one-woman show titled “I’m Just Kidneying,” being performed as part of the Frigid Festival starting Friday.
The Bronx resident mixes humor with a serious message about the importance of organ donation. And Nicastro explores the feelings she dealt with after finding her kidney recipient lives on the other end of the political spectrum.
Nicastro was born in Elmhurst, Queens, and lived in Astoria until she was 7. The family relocated to North Carolina, where her father worked as an airplane mechanic. In 2010, she returned to New York City to try her hand at acting and theater.
“I fell into the comedy scene,” said Nicastro, who went on to be a guest writer and performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and the Peoples Improv Theater, among others.
But when it came to writing her first one-woman show, Nicastro picked an issue close to her heart.
Her younger sister Brenna has a rare kidney disease, and their father donated one of his kidneys to her when she was still a teenager. When Brenna needed another kidney, Nicastro was devastated to find out she was not a match and could not help.
Through a paired donation program, Nicastro was matched with another woman who needed a kidney. In return, that woman’s husband donated one of his kidneys to Brenna in 2014.
The surgeries — which took place in North Carolina — were successful, and Nicastro became Facebook friends with the couple.
That’s when things got uncomfortable, she said.
“Sometime in 2015 or 2016 I started seeing stuff pop up on Facebook supporting Donald Trump,” she said. “I got the feeling they were socially conservative and evangelicals, but I thought maybe they are just Ted Cruz supporters.”
Then one day she saw the husband had changed his Facebook profile photo to the Trump/Pence logo.
“Oh no! Why?,” Nicastro, who describes herself as a liberal and supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, remembers thinking. “They were posting what I would consider some really bigoted stuff.”
While she is no longer in touch with the couple, Nicastro hopes her story will remind people about the importance of being an organ donor. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 95 percent of adults in the U.S. support organ donation but just 54 percent are registered donors.
“It’s really about leaving a legacy," she said.
IF YOU GO
"I’m Just Kidneying" is part of the multivenue 2019 Frigid Festival, on Friday, 5:10 p.m. at The Kraine Theater (more shows are to be announced), 85 E. Fourth St., Manhattan, tickets $20, $5 off at the door for registered organ donors, horsetrade.info