Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Gracie - Alberta Theatre Projects

Gracie in the dressing room at Walmart
I was dreading going to the Alberta Theatre Projects peformance of Gracie.  

This problem of polygamy has confronted  out faith for over one hundred years now.

I think it is an easier idea to look at when it is othered onto the RLDS people, and that is what we get to look at in this new play by Canadian playwright Joan MacLeod.

You can listen to a quick audio review of the show by Jonathan Love or just read on.

For 90 minutes, twenty-five  year old Lili Beaudoin plays the part of Gracie, a child of four years old to fifteen years old.

I thought the play might open up spiritual wounds for me, but that didn't happen at all.

... Gracie with a cherished gift of a doll ...
There is a soft charm in the text -- the voices of children who are riding in cars, dirt-biking, receiving presents, learning how to fit into blended families, changing locations, and trying to figure out their place in new worlds.

I sat by a UofC theatre major, so we chatted before the show began.  She reminded me that there would be a chat afterwords with the actor, so I stayed and listened to the questions.'

I had some questions of my own.

1. I wondered how the music was done for the show.  At one point there is a hymn, but it was not one that I recognized from the Mormon musical liturgy.  I would have liked that.

2. I wondered what choices guided the costuming.

3. I wondered if they had workshopped the play with any fundamentalist women who have left Creston or some other group.

The play was clever and wove its way in and out of many issues:  trafficking of women between the United States and Canada, the polygamous generation of lost boys, the trouble in Texas, Arizona, Utah, the assigning of women with families to other men, kicking out of the group, men who don't cooperate.

... the mountains, hills and plains of southern B.C. ...
All of this was done through the eyes of this child.

I asked Rebecca if she saw the show when it was done by The Belfry Theatre  in Victoria.  She had missed it.  Has anyone seen the show yet?  I would love to talk about it.

In the talkback session when the play was over, someone said that they had warmed to a scene where Gracie's brother, Billy, put his hand on her back and the front of her body to embrace her in a big hug.  Family connection they saw.  I had a moment where I had a different analysis, so it was good to sit and hear what other people made of the play.

I do want to say something about the costuming because the answer I got in the talkback was only that they had tried to honour religious clothing.  Gracie is seen, near the end of the play, in a garment that resembles the temple garment.  I wondered why they had that on her, given that she had not been part of an endowment ceremony yet.  They wanted to assure me that it was not real religious clothing they had used and then tried to explain that there is religious clothing worn by Mormons before marriage and then something different after marriage.

I was more interested in the clothing as symbolism.  I would have argued that although she could take off her outer clothing (long sleeved, high collared calf-length dress), she was still wearing on her body the beliefs of her childhood teachings.  Well, that is the way with these soft sciences.  There is an arguement that can be made for anything.

This show runs until March 18th.  If you have ever wondered what it might be like inside the mind of a child in a polygamy colony, this show is a must see.  It ends here.  So far no other theatre has picked it up.  I think the play is here to stay.

Call me, anyone, if you are going.  I would like to go again.


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