Radio theatre production inspired by a concussion and Kingston parks

Last week CFRC 101.9 FM in Kingston presented the Shortwave Theatre Festival, a series of original shows from Kingston-affiliated playwrights, directors, sound designers and actors.

One of the shows was Half Past Lunchtime by Haley Sarfeld. Half Past Lunchtime is told from the point of view of a feline flaneur who meets a forager, a full-time worker, a concussed daydreamer, a robin, a widow and cucumber beetles.

“All the characters are dealing with a lot of grief from isolation or a brain injury, and the disability it creates, and from widowhood or even the grief of gardening and there’s bugs all over plants. I just wanted to see when people bump up against each other in those moments of grieving and kind of have some relief from it,” says Sarfeld.

Sarfeld credits her neighbourhood located near Friendship Park, and Belle Park as sources of inspiration for the strong nature component of the production.

“I’ve lived in this neigbourhood and around it for a few years, there’s a lot of gardening, a lot of food sharing…really free veggie markets happen in this neighbourhood and there’s a really strong sense of connection in that community, and we’re near Belle Park…there was a bioblitz where people collect data to show much life there is in places under threat by developers,” says Sarfeld.

She also cites another local park’s Facebook group as an inspiration.

Sarfeld composed the music, sang, played the guitar, piano, melodica, egg shakers and a yogurt container tambourine.

“This was my first time really having to perform everything by myself…. I actually can play these instruments.”

The first song she composed came from her experience of suffering a concussion.

“There’s a line in the song Strawberry brain which is the first song I wrote after having a concussion…when I was initially experiencing concussion symptoms, part of me was thinking this is such good creative fodder, but I am mentally, emotionally and physically broken… I was writing these little lines, I have a strawberry brain, my brain’s like a bruised strawberry,” says Sarfeld.

She adds the concussion was a source of humility to the universe.

“I was very much a person that relied on my ability to think quickly and speak quickly….There were moments going through the time that I was disabled by my concussion where I had to figure out how to value myself just as a thing that is alive and in a capacity beyond what I could provide or who could find me impressive or even my connection to music and writing was really stilted so I had to just appreciate being a living organism on the planet maybe that’s also part of a connection to nature like I really got this deep sense of being part of everything like a strawberry or bug or cucumber is, and letting go of the need to be smart or able,” says Sarfeld.

Sarfeld says the production feels very similar to preserving food. 

“It was more than a year long process where you’re gathering up music, writing these lines, it was all recorded by June, shortly thereafter I had sent in the files for the music, and then I didn’t see it again, it was like pickles…I sent it off to the sound designer to fill the jars…it was this long process that fermented…became itself and it’s kind of neat tuning into the radio, or podcast, it’s like a preserved moment” says Sarfeld.

Listen to the full CFRC interview with Haley Sarfeld Below: