British actor, Stephen Bergman, returns to the stage for a staged reading of award-winning playwright, Maura Campbell’s tale of … Stephen Bergman!
Ms. Campbell, while in London on another project, met Mr. Bergman a short film and read his journal about his ordeal and recovery from Stage 4 throat cancer. So taken with the story, she created MASSIVE. Massive concerns George, a British actor who endures intensive radiation and chemotherapy for a massive throat tumor caused by the HPV virus. Thanks to the morphine treatments, George thinks he’s dead – or at least his life is starting to look that way. Left alone with his mother-in-law (who’s addicted to online shopping), a pet Beetle named Prince Hal, and the ghost of his dead brother when his wife is rushed to the hospital herself, George confronts the massive upheaval that is the stage show of his life: the roles he’s played, the disease, the treatment, his debilitating tracheotomy, and those poor souls in the chemo ward who never made it out, alive. All the while an omnipresent Kafkaesque Creature teaches George that grotesqueness and beauty co-exist in every moment and how to live in the world we create for ourselves.
A private (by invitation only) staged reading of the play will be October 29, 2018 at 7PM on Theatre Row, 416 West 42nd Street, New York, NY. For further information, please contact Jay Michaels at JMAE.firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-338-5472.
Campbell and Bergman decided that she would create a stage play tackling the disease, treatment and massive upheaval on the family. Bergman provided the film footage and journal for Campbell’s research.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Bergman about his ordeal and the play that came out of it.
Tell us about yourself as an artist
To be an artist a person has to be creative. This is something I have striven for in my everyday life as well as on stage. Creativity comes in my forms; we can talk about the painter, writer or actor being an artist but creativity can exist anywhere. Acting can be creative and life changing. When an actor takes on a role, they live in someone else’s skin, understand what makes them tick and then present it to the audience. That is a powerful experience for actor and audience. If the world were stripped of creativity then it is a lonely, barren place for all of us.
We can hear the play but tell us YOUR story.
In May 2015 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Squamous Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Cancer. It was on my right tonsil at the back of my throat. From that day my whole life changed. It was a gruelling and torturous time with no respite. Although I have to acknowledge that I am not alone in this experience. There are many people who have been through what I have. Many suffered more and some haven’t survived.
On leaving hospital I decided I had to take back some control of my life. I started filming, took photos and kept an intimate journal not knowing whether I was going to live or die. I think I did it to try and make sense of what was happening to me. I went through seven months of radical treatment; I had massive doses of chemo and radiotherapy. My physical recovery took almost a year but emotionally it was far reaching. It affected my confidence. I had major anxiety, which impacted on my relationships with my wife and daughter. This all went in my journals and film where I recorded my inner most thoughts and fears. I think that is what Maura found interesting.
I soon realised that I had a resource that could be useful. I was approached by an HPV cancer charity to make a 5 minute film supporting the vaccination of boys in the UK. This is where my journey started. From my misery have come the most incredible experiences. I have appeared on television, written newspaper articles, presented at conferences and I spoke to Government about my experience. I even rowed the Mediterranean to highlight the cause. I met Maura in December 2017 as a cast member of ‘Cross Talk’, her fantastic play about addiction. We immediately connected and shared stories from our lives and here we are today with ‘Massive’, a creative collaboration.
We all try to make sense of the world – why do you think this happened to you?
What happened to me is ‘life’. It wasn’t a judgement on my life style. HPV is passed by intimate contact. 80% of adults in the UK and US carry it without ever knowing. It is responsible for 5% of all cancers globally. For most nothing will ever happen; for the unlucky few it mutates into cancer.
How do you look at life and the arts now?
I live life much more in the ‘now’. If I have an idea, I get on and do it. It is partly about my age but it is also because I had a near death experience. When I first met Maura, she was honest and open, which was refreshing and appealing. That helped me share my story with her.
Maura Campbell is a great playwright. She can take the big subjects and write sensitive and witty dialogue without losing the serious message. I believe this play has happened for a reason. All art is there to entertain but great art entertains and we learn from it. ‘Massive’ certainly does that.
‘Massive’ is a universal story of a family that have to live with a cancer sufferer. I am a positive person who wants to enjoy life to the full. A dreadful thing happened to me but some very good stuff has come out of it.
This play needs to be seen by a much wider audience. There is so much to connect with. It is about how people cope under adverse, life threatening conditions.