Q&A: Waiting Room

Playwright Diane Flacks on her new medical drama premiering at Tarragon Theatre

Presented by Tarragon Theatre
Written by Diane Flacks
Directed by Richard Greenblatt

Diane Flacks. Photo by Shy Alter.

This month, Diane Flacks premieres her new play about life in the waiting room of a major children's hospital as part of Tarragon Theatre's current season. Directed by Richard Greenblatt, and featuring a powerhouse cast, including Ari Cohen, Michelle Monteith, Jordan Pettle, Warona Setshwaelo, Jane Spidell and Jenny Young, Waiting Room follows a doctor about to embark on a ground-breaking medical experiment despite the objections of his colleagues. Meanwhile, a couple are torn about whether the doctor has what it takes to save their baby.

Here, Flacks gives us a behind-the-scenes peek at what inspired this story of hope.

Theatromania: Tell us about Waiting Room. What inspired you to write this play?

DF: My youngest son spent most of his first year in critical condition at Sick Kids hospital. The brave, brutal, absurd moments that we experienced and witnessed form the backdrop for the play. The struggles in relationships: between loved ones, between patients and medical staff, and between the staff were often heart-breaking, hilarious or frustrating and I felt should be talked about. The play is set in a neuro-oncology unit, which was not where my son was. But I am fascinated by brain science (as a total lay person). Who are we when our brains are sick? What is our essence when our brain changes? So I wondered if I could confront some of the provocative, often intolerable, and fascinating life-and-death medical ethical questions that we were faced with, and set a play in the medical milieu of neurology.

Theatromania: How would you describe Tarragon’s production in a few sentences?

DF: Tarragon is a writer’s theatre, so I feel fully supported, and our cast is insanely brilliant and 100% committed to some really hard, dark stuff. And director Richard Greenblatt is just perfect. The design element is key and the theatre has been fully behind it. I hope the images will be terrible and beautiful and that people will laugh and think and relate.

Theatromania: What have you learned from this process so far?

DF: Well, I already knew from decades of doing it that writing is hard, frikkin', slogging, unending work. It gives you an ulcer and alopecia and carpal tunnel. But this process has also been deeply rewarding. I’m never afraid to edit, and that’s key when you’re asking an audience to turn off Netflix and come to the theatre. And mostly, I’ve been inspired by my team.

Theatromania: What do you hope audiences take away from this performance?

DF: I hope they will ask: what can we expect from our doctors, who have the most intimate job in the world—more intimate than a priest or a sex-worker. And I hope we continue a conversation that’s in the zeitgeist now about end-of-life care. We will all confront the medical system if we haven’t already. If you or a loved-one were on the precipice of life and death, what would you do? Would you risk or refrain? Who decides? I also hope the audience feels heard. Personally, I hope they get a good laugh as well—it’s okay, it’s great, it’s crucial to laugh in these horrible moments. Laugh or give up, I guess.

Theatromania: What’s next for you?

DF: Nightwood Theatre is developing my next play, Unholy, about women and religion—another light romp!!

Waiting Room runs from January 6 to February 15 at Tarragon Theatre. Visit tarragontheare.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Tue, 2015-01-06 - Sun, 2015-02-15


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