David Hudgins is an award-wining theatre artist and founding member of the Electric Company Theatre. SMALL PARTS is inspired by the author’s real life experience directing his mother’s first play, while learning she had a terminal ovarian cancer diagnosis and dealing with his mentally ill sister. Funny, heartfelt and musical, this very personal play is rich in little truths and big questions.
InspireHealth had a chance to interview the author of SMALL PARTS, David Hudgins and Director, Marisa Smith who is familiar with InspireHealth and helped to form put together this special partnership.
How did the concept of Small Parts come together?
David Hutchins: The story was inspired by a true life event. My mother did indeed pen her first play in her last year of life, before succumbing to complications from ovarian cancer. And the play did deal with her body parts being essentially “bought out” by a corporate mass-marketing franchise in the form of white gauze that resembled cancer. I was asked to come back from Vancouver to Ontario to help direct the play, and she had found a group of willing student actors at the local university. // Years later, some guy at a bar taps me on the shoulder and says: “Remember me? I played your mom’s liver in a play.” Judging by the reaction around me, I realize I have a story here. // Jump ahead five more years. Aaron Bushkowsky, who commissioned the work, asks me what plays I have brewing. I name several. When I get to Small Parts, he says “That one.” // One year later, I’m answering these questions for Inspire Health. Fantastic.
How important was it to tell this very personal story in the form of theatre?
DH: Well, I think it’s safe to say that the story found its form before it found me. And the gesture of my mother, in writing her story in play form, was really a gift. A great part of the very bittersweet memory of that time was both the fun and horror of embarking on something so personal and so sad and so private while trying to maintain this public, professional poise as part of a theatre production. I’ve tried to make the play both an endorsement of the power of theatre, but also how silly, quaint and narcissistic it can all be. I hope audiences respond to my gentle way of making fun of something I quite love a lot.
One of the key themes of the play discusses the important role of family as informal caregivers. What are some of the emotional considerations of the support person that may not be as obvious to people?
DH: I think one of the main challenges in having family be caregivers is the confusion over how much the care is to benefit the patient versus to benefit the family members. Who is the care-giving for, in other words? Is it a sign of love, or of guilt? How clearly are the patient’s needs spelled out? This is partly addressed in the play, as the main character feels overwhelmed and frightened by the prospect of having to take on the responsibility of the role of a major caregiver. Is he being selfish, or pragmatic? If he had his way, he would employ a professional to do home care, but he is stopped by the another family member for whom the idea of an outsider support person coming into the family causes major anxiety. This complex tension of expectations, hopes and fears lies bubbles under the surface of the story.
While there is humour in Small Parts, what can you tell us about the uncomfortable topics covered in the play?
MS: Without giving away too much, this play deals delicately and sometimes playfully with the grieving process. Which, sometimes in families dealing with cancer can come before the end of a patient’s life. It also tackles the family dynamics that often rise the surface under such circumstances. One of the things I can relate to in this play, having recently gone through helping a close family member through Cancer, is the way it so aptly illustrates denial of the illness. It’s amazing how silly that can look from the outside and yet it’s something that so many people go through.
All that said, I should mention that this isn’t a play just about cancer. To me the play has many themes: the struggle to find meaning and purpose, the ridiculousness and hilarity of dyer circumstances or the question of what value art has in the life of an artist and the wider community.
Why did you feel that InspireHealth was a fit as a beneficiary of your play?
MS: Having gone through the life program with my Mom, I didn’t think twice about Inspire Health as a beneficiary. I have found that in talking with others about Inspire, there are still many people that are unaware of the programs the organization offers. The level of support and the holistic and inclusive environment they have created for patients and their families is incredible and should be shouted from the roof tops! My hope is that with this production, we not only raise a bit of money for Inspire Health but we raise awareness so that more people can take advantage of this wonderful organization.
Tell us about the panel discussion on Nov. 14?
MS: On Nov 14th, in addition to the benefit performance, Dr. Janice Wright and Mark Fernandes of Inspire Health will be part of a post play panel discussion to discuss their work and how it relates to some of the themes in the play. Playwright, David Hudgins will also be there to talk more about his inspiration for the play, along with myself and possibly a few of the actors in the play. There will also be a short Q and A with for the audience. The discussion is a way for us as artists to directly relate the work we do to real life. One of the themes I’m pondering for the discussion right now is “Cancer and Community”.
SMALL PARTS, a new play by David Hudgins, is at Performance Works Nov 12-23, presented by Solo Collective Theatre.
- PWYC Preview November 12
- Opening November 13
- Benefit Performance for InspireHealth November 14th
- All Performances at 8PM (dark Mondays)
For Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets