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Friday, June 14, 2024

David Hudgins takes on cancer with love and humour

In David Hudgins’ new play Small Parts, art imitates art imitates life as it is inspired by his real-life experience directing his mother’s first play, at the same time he discovered that she was dying of cancer.

[pullquote]“I think my mom would be very proud.” – playwright David Hudgins[/pullquote]“You have a certain perspective as you get older and over the years I kept running into things that told me this was going to be a good story,” says Hudgins of his decision to tackle such a personal and tragic part of his life.  “I remember being at a theatre party a few years after my mom died and this guy tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘remember me, I played your mother’s liver in a play once’.  I thought that was so weird for someone to say that, but it also helped me to realized that there was actually a story here.”

A play-within-a-play, Small Parts is not only Hudgins’ memory of what took place, it also includes some of the original dialogue from his mother’s script, The Ovarian Dialogues.  “I did go back to the original script, not a whole lot, but there is a homage to the original,” he says.

Recalling that the writing of the initial script was relatively painless, it was when Hudgins began on the inevitable re-writes that he found the process more difficult, but perhaps not for the reason one might think given the personal nature of its story.

“The first draft was pretty easy because it came from my memory,” he says.  “Taking it further and playing and stretching it and making it theatrical was much more difficult.”

But while Hudgins says the process of writing wasn’t particularly tough, the memories that it forced back to the surface were.  “It was painful at times to write,” he admits.  “It was painful in the sense of reliving certain memories.”

One particular memory Hudgins retains is of his mother lying in a cold white room getting an MRI and realizing that she would be dead within the year.

“With the pain comes the memory of the person,” he says.  “On some level, and I’m not a very religious person, there is also a spiritual element to reliving that person’s life and memory.”

With ten years since his mother’s death though, Hudgins is now able to look at that period of his life with a new perspective and not a little humour.

“Time does heal a lot of wounds,” he says.  “I can talk about it now and look at the lighter side with a sense of gratitude for having had this story to tell.  It has allowed me to deal with her death in a positive way and to look back and realize that these memories were gifts.”

Along with mother and son, the Small Parts central characters also include Ariel, the daughter/sister who suffers from adult ADHD and mental issues and finds her support system dying with the mother.  Ariel is also based on Hudgins’ real-life sister.

“My sister is not alive as she did succumb to the effects of her own mental illness,” says Hudgins.  “The play is a tribute in some ways to her as well as someone who fell through the cracks of the system.  It made writing the play that much more vulnerable and raw.”

But even with all the talk about cancer and mental illness, director Marissa Smith doesn’t want to leave audiences with the impression that Small Parts is one big downer.

“David has a great sense of humour and a really great sense of family that shines through,” says Smith.  “There will be moments that will dig in with what is happening emotionally with these characters, but there is also this magical realism quality to it.  My hope is that the audience gets to go on a bit of an imagination journey as well, with buoyancy and whimsy.”

As for how he thinks his mom would react to the play?  “I think my mom would be very proud.”

Small Parts plays Performance Works (1218 Cartwright St, Granville Island) November 12-23.  Visit for tickets and information.

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