Five-and-a-half years ago, after having one of her breasts removed at the IWK, Julie Vandervoort was sent home not with painkillers, but with a gift card for a lingerie store. "At the time I was told studies show that women do just as well with regular Tylenol," she says. "So no painkillers, but there was this pretty in-your-face message to return yourself to symmetry as soon as possible." She immersed herself in literature about mastectomy post-care. "What I could never find is any reflection of women who choose to go about their lives one-breasted."
Vandervoort, a creative non-fiction writer, met Andrew Chandler from Kick at the Dark Theatre at a Fringe workshop. He encouraged her to develop the play he directs this week at the Stages Theatre Festival: Scoop debuts tonight on Neptune's second stage.
"I have a scoop body," says Vandervoort. "As I writer I wanted a percussive word with a positive connotation. It means you get to the story first, and it's also descriptive of what happened. Your chest is not flat, it's kind of hollowed out. For me it was a power word, reclaiming the body I have now." Vandervoort, a non-actor, joins vets Ryanne Chisholm and Samantha Wilson on stage in the lead. "If you've got a play on a Neptune stage, you find out it takes so many people to pull it off," she says. "I feel this incredible responsibility toward all of them. I really desperately do not wanna screw this up."
She hopes Scoop will invite conversation about symmetry and so-called normalcy. "I'm always quietly checking women out to see if they're scoop, and they never are," she says. "Seventy to 80 percent of Canadian women don't get reconstructive surgery. So either all the one-breasted women of Halifax are wearing the prothesis, or they're all congregating somewhere I never go. Cause I'm looking for them."