Belfry Theatre: Pushing theatrical boundaries since 1976
2020 will be a year of exploration for the Belfry Theatre, a company already known for presenting thought-provoking and inspiring contemporary theatre. And as audience members, you’ll be asked to come along for the ride.
At the halfway point of its mainstage season, The Belfry will launch Ministry of Grace, writer-director-performer Tara Beagan’s tale of friendship and redemption. Set amid a backdrop of a 1950s evangelistic tent revival show in the Southern California desert, the story sees a woman from the Ntlaka’pamux Nation near Merritt, B.C. “discovered” by a charlatan evangelist. She is renamed Grace, put on stage reading the Bible and displayed as a “miracle.”
Show unique in two ways
Ministry of Grace, which runs from Feb. 4 to March 1, was created by an all-Indigenous team led by Calgary resident Beagan and designer Andy Moro. Not only is the show part of The Belfry’s commitment to present at least one Indigenous piece per season, it’s one of four new plays to be premiered in 2020.
“For audiences, you’re seeing something that has never been on stage before,” says Mark Dusseault, Belfry marketing and communications director.
Explaining why he chose Ministry of Grace for this season, Belfry artistic director Michael Shamata says, “It’s like a sprawling Steinbeck novel – a real saga – of encountering hypocrisy and evil, while clinging to the beliefs that guide you.”
Four decades of topical performance
While The Belfry has produced live theatre for more than 40 years from this renovated former Baptist church in Fernwood, you may not know it only presents contemporary plays: “It’s rare that we’ve tackled a classic,” Dusseault says.
“We kind of trailblaze, and we’re noticing now that other theatre companies are doing the kind of work we did 10 to 15 years ago. Our patrons have the opportunity to see things that are not necessarily proven, and that can be a very moving and beautiful experience.”
Experience the Brilliance
A rebuilt (at least temporarily) stage and reconfigured performance space is a key element of Every Brilliant Thing, a one-woman comedy about finding joy in everyday life that uses audience participation to generate emotional connections to the subject matter. “It’s nothing to be terrified about,” says Dusseault, “but you may be called on to do a few things.” He notes that one of the theatre’s endearing qualities is the intimacy of the space, “so for us, redoing the space in the round will make it even more so.”