Town Talk: Play recounts Casey Wright’s 19-year medical journey


Weighing 25 kg and standing 122 cm tall after a stroke and 10 brain-tumour operations, Casey Wright, 19, has had Ben Ratner incorporate his words and videos of his many activities into a play titled Casey and the Octopus.


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SPEAKING UP: Casey Wright was 14 and had had 10 brain-tumour operations by 2015 when moviebiz veteran Danny Virtue announced he would executive-produce a film about him. Now 19, Casey weighs 25 kg, is 122 cm tall, and the movie has become integral to a play based on his own words that was written and directed by Ben Ratner.


Long-time drama teacher Jim Crescenzo is seen with members of the East End Boys Club he founded and that presented the Casey and the Octopus play.

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Presented by East End Boys Club, the one-act Casey and the Octopus ran recently in Templeton Secondary School’s theatre. The club was founded by Octopus co-executive producer Jim Crescenzo who taught two generations of Templeton theatre students. One grad thanked him “for helping me stand on my own two feet, which are strong and no longer let me fall.” Casey Wright’s own feet can be shaky, courtesy of a 2013 stroke that paralyzed his right side and rendered speech impossible. Lengthy therapy restored the latter enough for him to advise audiences: “When you’re climbing that mountain and the clouds part to show you there’s still a long way to go, tighten your boots, take a deep breath, and keep climbing.” His father, Larry, says the “Octopus” in the play’s title refers to what the first brain tumour looked like in medical scans. Casey subsequently refused scar-reducing surgery. “I’m keeping ’em,” he said. “They tell the story of what I am and what I’ve been through.” That is a lot, with more perhaps to come. Nevertheless, he ends the play on his feet and telling audiences: “If I had been ‘normal’ I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you guys. And talking to you is what makes me feel alive. It’s what makes me get out of bed in the morning and keep going.”

Despite his enormous medical travails, natural-showman Casey has had many more life experiences, including sky-diving and honorary RCMP staff-sergeant-major status, than many of his contemporaries.

There’s a word for that: Outstanding.


Casey and the Octopus co-executive producer Danny Virtue says he’s negotiating with broadcasters for a revival of his locally shot TV series, Neon Rider.

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NEXT: Danny Virtue says he’s negotiating a possible return of the 1990-95 Neon Rider TV series he and late actor-business-partner Winston Rekert created for shooting at the Virtue Studio Ranch that also supports physically, mentally and financially challenged children.


Grade 4 Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band members Avrie Hunter and Kevin Maloney played at a Robbie Burns dinner-benefit for the SFU Pipe Band.

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WHA HAE: Bard Robbie Burns’ Scots-dialect writings might have claimed that aipples fall not far from the crann. That certainly applies to Terry Lee who led the SFU Pipe Band to six world championships. At the band’s recent Burns fundraising supper, Lee and wife Nancy accompanied piper-son Alastair, 28, who won two gold medals at Kansas City’s recent Winter Storm tourney. Several world champions competed, too. The Lees’ daughter Fiona is a former world champion highland dancer. Terry’s brother Jack is a world’s-top-ten piper and the SFU band’s pipe sergeant. His sons Andrew and John are pipers there, too. Burns’ famed Tam O’Shanter poem had the devil, disguised as a dog, pipe for a witches’ dance. The SFU event saw nothing more diabolical than Kendrick Rutherford piping in the traditional offal-oatmeal-suet haggis.


Terry Lee, who led the SFU Pipe Band to six world championships, and piping-champion-son Alastair attended the band’s Robbie Burns dinner-concert.

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SCRUMMIES: Culinary curiosities bacon sarnie, fly cemetery and sausage butty will accompany English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Manx, Cornish and ancient Celtic cultural performances at the British Isles Historic Society’s Heritage Festival on the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza Feb. 22.


MonaLisa Healing founder Bif Naked, left, was portrayed with Calvin Ayre whose Bodog Music recorded her and fellow singer Nazanin Afshin-Jam.

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POTSHOT: Seemingly undeterred by hemp’s recent 75 per cent price plunge, cancer-surviving pop-punk singer Bif Naked (real name Beth Torbert) will launch an e-com boutique named MonaLisaHealing.com at this weekend’s Wellness Show. Extracted from marijuana-cousin hemp, the tincture of cannabidiol (CBD) is reportedly free of high-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Even so, pot activist Jodie Emery will join Naked and fellow singer Mary Zilba on a panel at the show. Naked’s next single, JIM, is due Feb. 14 with an 11th album following. She recorded her second, Superbeautifulmonster, at expat-to-be Calvin Ayre’s city-based Bodog Music where Nazanin Afshin-Jam would wax her debut single, I Dance For You (see YouTube). Iran-born global human-rights activist Afshin-Jam later launched her own foundation, married and had three children with now-Conservative Party of Canada leadership seeker Peter MacKay.


“Princess of Pot” Jodie Emery will join a Wellness Show panel with Bif Naked whose hemp-based tinctures reportedly contain no high-inducing THC.

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ANOTHER SEASON: Still no word on a luxury-hotel chain to succeed Four Seasons and renovate its leased Pacific Centre premises? Ritz Carlton backed out from what became the Trump International Hotel, but likely isn’t a contender. Marriott has reportedly looked aggressively. Ditto Hilton, where luxury-and-lifestyle global group head Martin Rinck oversees strategic development for Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and other growing divisions. Rinck may actually see the vacated Four Seasons locale from his West Vancouver home.


If we’re lucky, the coronavirus won’tget bad enought to give former emergency physician Daniel Kalla the impetus to write another best-seller about pandemic illnesses.

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ELEVENTH HOUR: The 2003 SARS outbreak saw then-St. Paul’s Hospital emergency-medicine director Daniel Kalla write the bestseller Pandemic. Nine novels later in 2019, his We All Fall Down pictured a recurrence of plague, the medieval Black Death. Perhaps Wuhan, China’s coronavirus will inspire another of his medically incontestable blockbusters.

DOWN PARRYSCOPE: As ride-hail cars proliferate, real-life taxi drivers may be modifying movie-star Robert De Niro’s question to: “Aren’t you talkin’ to me?”

malcolmparry@shaw.ca
604-929-8456

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