THEATRE: In ‘Seeds,’ a farmer’s fight with a food giant stars ‘Corner Gas’ dad

Docu-drama play hits Surrey Arts Centre stage on Jan. 28-29

Eric Peterson stars in “Seeds

SURREY — First things, first: Eric Peterson isn’t entirely sure if there’ll be another “Corner Gas” reunion.

“We did the movie two years ago,” said the actor, best known for his portrayal of small-town dad Oscar Leroy. “That was a good reunion, but whether we’ll do another one, I don’t know. That one happened five years after we stopped shooting the TV show.… That was all a wonderful, wonderful experience.”

These days, the affable Peterson, 69, is more focused on growing “Seeds,” a thought-provoking theatre show touring to Surrey Arts Centre’s main stage this month.

He plays Percy Schmeiser, the Saskatchewan farmer caught in a four-year legal battle with bio-tech giant Monsanto.

Based on court trial transcripts, the “docu-drama” follows the company’s patent-infringement lawsuit against the defiant farmer, who in the late-1990s was accused of planting genetically-modified (GMO) canola seeds without a license.

“People get to hear both sides of the story,” explained Peterson was rehearsing the play in Montreal when the Now called.

“By the end of the play, who is right and who is wrong doesn’t seem to be the point of it anymore, because larger issues have come up for (the viewer’s) consideration,” he added.

“I think people get a great kick out of that kind of responsibility and respect the play brings to an audience, some complex issues. People are being entertained in an intellectual way. And people really have questions. Even at intermission, it’s interesting to see them chatting about what they’ve seen on the stage, how they view it.”

On a short tour of Metro Vancouver theatres, a cast of seven is featured in Annabel Soutar’s acclaimed play. In addition to Peterson, the actors are Bruce Dinsmore, Mariah Inger, Alex Ivanovici, Manon Adler, Cary Lawrence and Amelia Sargisson.

(STORY CONTINUES BELOW ‘SEEDS’ PROMO VIDEO)

“This isn’t the first time for us, other than the two new people we’re working into the show,” said Peterson, who first hit the stage in “Seeds” three years ago.

“I play Percy and Amelia plays Annabel Soutar, the writer herself, and the other five actors play multiple characters,” he explained. “Part of the fun watching it live is the actor transformations, and we have very, very clever actors, very good. It’s fun watching them be a man one moment and a woman the next, an old person, whatever it is. It’s all part of this unique storytelling that I find highly entertaining, that theatre magic, you know.”

Although Peterson has never met Percy Schmeiser, he has great respect for the farmer, having learned what the fellow Saskatchewanite and his family endured in its David-versus-Goliath-like legal scrap.

“You can only imagine standing up to a big company like that, one with unlimited resources, and they wanted to make a point,” Peterson said. “The case represented a pretty big cultural change in how farming is done. There are lots of (film) documentaries now about Monsanto and GMOs, but this is different, a documentary-theatre (play) showing all the legal issues. It’s fascinating to me.”

“Seeds” plays Surrey Arts Centre on Thursday, Jan. 28 and Friday, Jan. 29, at 8 p.m. nightly. For tickets and more show details, visit Tickets.surrey.ca or call 604-501-5566.

tom.zillich@thenownewspaper.com

 

 

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