“Radical” in FireWorks 2015 – Playwright and Director interview

This is the last week of FireWorks! FireWorks 2015 - RadicalThe final play in the series is Radical (Nov 18 – 22) written by Charles Hayter and directed by Neil Affleck (who acted in the New Ideas 2014 version).   Radical is the true story of a brave Toronto doctor, Vera Peters, who pioneered the now-common lumpectomy surgery for breast cancer, when the accepted course of treatment – as late as the mid-1970s – was the disfiguring radical mastectomy.

Q: What inspired you to tell this story?  What was the germ of the idea?

A (playwright Charles Hayter):

Helly Chester as Dr. Vera Peters in "Radical". Photo: Bruce Peters

Helly Chester as Dr. Vera Peters in Radical. Photo: Bruce Peters

I have known about Vera Peters for a very long time through my day job as a radiation oncologist. In the medical world, she is still remembered and revered for her compassion, curiosity, dedication, and perseverance. The doctor in me continues to be inspired by her ideals, and awed by her challenge to the arrogance, narrow-mindedness and sexism of the medical establishment. Part of my motivation came from wanting to bring her story to a wider audience that may not know much about her. The playwright in me saw natural opportunities for drama in her conflict with the surgeons over mastectomy.


Q: FireWorks is a showcase for full-length plays which have been workshopped and/or dramaturged through Alumnae Theatre Company.  What’s the development history of Radical?

A (Charles Hayter):   I’ve been doing research and drafting pieces of a play since 2010. The project finally took off when a few draft scenes were accepted for the New Ideas Festival 2014. These scenes grew into a first draft which had a public reading at NIF in March 2014. Subsequently, a rewritten and longer version directed by Edgar Chua was presented at the Toronto Fringe 2014. After more rewrites, the play had another reading in the Page to Stage Reading Series at New Stages Theatre Company, Peterborough, in April 2015, under the direction of Randy Read. The version produced in FireWorks is yet another rewrite. Through all of this I have been greatly helped by my dramaturge Molly Thom [a co-founder of Alumnae Theatre Company’s New Ideas Festival], and the wonderful actors and directors who have participated in readings, workshops, and rehearsals.

Q: Neil, tell us about the process of directing Radical.
A (director Neil Affleck): The direction of Radical very much represents a three-way creative partnering between myself and my Associate Director Ingryd Pleitez and our writer Charles Hayter. I like to think we all brought complementary skill-sets to the task. There was a generational aspect to Ingryd and my directorial collaboration that I found intriguing and informative. It has been more than thirty years since I worked in the theatre, during which I slogged away in the vineyards of Animation, and while some of the creative muscle groups that I called on were the same, there was a lot that I had to scramble to relearn. Ingryd, on the other hand, is at the start of her directing career. So different energies and life experience but I believe we’re both equally excited by Charles’ script and the opportunity to bring it alive.

I’ve deeply impressed by Charles’ dedication to his story and development of the play, his willingness to drill deep into his characters and the situations he dramatizes. He has great writers’ instincts.

Q: Is there anything specific you would like the audience to know, or to watch out for in the production?

A: (Charles Hayter): Only the character of Vera is based on a real person. The other characters (Rose, Helen, Bernie, Frank) are fictional representations of elements of the world she inhabited.

The only scene which remains intact from the very first version is the scene where Rose rejects the breast prosthesis (Scene One). The instructions that Rose reads (“Jump!” Twist!” “Turn!” Lean over!”) are copied verbatim from the packaging for a breast prosthesis c. 1970.

I’d also like the audience to know that this is a work-in-progress and comments about what works and what doesn’t work are very welcome!

Q:   Do you have future plans for your play? 

A (Charles Hayter): : I plan to submit it to theatre companies across Canada for further development and possible production. I am also toying with writing a screenplay version.

[Ed. Comment: YEESSSS!] 


FIREWORKS SHOWTIMES: 8pm Wed – Sat; 2pm Sat & Sun.

TICKETS:   $15 except Sun – PWYC.

Purchase tickets online (except for Sunday PWYC matinees) or reserve seats and pay cash at Box Office.  No credit or debit cards accepted for in-person sales.

RESERVATIONS:   E-mail reservations@alumnaetheatre.com or phone 416-364-4170 Box 1.

For more into, and to purchase  tickets online, please go to http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/fireworks.html


POST-SHOW TALKBACKS – “Behind The Curtain”:
Thursdays: Directors Pamela Redfern, Julia Haist or Neil Affleck with their Assistant Directors Melissa Chetty, Lisa Alves, Ingryd Pleitez.
Fridays: Lighting Designer Gabrielle D’Angelo and Sound Designer Bill Scott.
Saturday Matinees: Costume Designers Peter DeFreitas, Toni Hanson, Trish Worrall.
Saturday Evenings: Set Designers Marysia Bucholc, Mark Cope.
Sunday Matinees: Playwrights Chloe Whitehorn, Taylor Marie Graham or Charles Hayter.



1 Comment

Filed under 2015/16 season, FireWorks

One response to ““Radical” in FireWorks 2015 – Playwright and Director interview

  1. Pingback: FireWorks: Lumpectomy champion Dr. Vera Peters puts ‘Do No Harm’ to the test in Radical | life with more cowbell

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