Victoria comic Mike Delamont tells the story of what it was like growing up with an alcoholic mother in a single-parent household, and how he draws on those experiences for his comedy act, in Mama’s Boy. Courtesy Belfry Theatre

Belfry Theatre looks to spark your imagination

10th annual Spark Festival presents personal-experience plays, creative development opportunities

On the surface, the five entries in this year’s 10th annual Spark Festival at the Belfry Theatre seem about as widely varied as possible, but at their core they all tell personal stories.

Noted Victoria comic Mike Delamont’s Mama’s Boy addresses how he built a successful comedy act drawing on his tough childhood growing up with a single mom who battled alcohol addiction. Speaking of mother stories, Franco Nguyen’s Good Morning Viet Mom – part-documentary, part theatre piece – tells of his search for his mother’s roots as a way to better understand her.

Sound of the Beast, a hip-hop-fuelled piece written and performed by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, addresses, among other topics, what it’s like to be black in Canada in 2019. Courtesy Belfry Theatre

And Sound of the Beast, a hip-hop-fuelled piece written and performed by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, addresses, among other topics, what it’s like to be black in Canada in 2019.

Belfry artistic director Michael Shamata says this year’s Spark Festival, happening March 8-24, once again offers Victoria audiences an opportunity to see “some of the most exciting, acclaimed work that has been happening across Canada.”

Also on the schedule is the musical Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, starring Ben Caplan. It tells the story of the grandparents of playwright Hannah Moscovitch (whose work has been seen multiple times at Spark) when they came to Canada from Europe.

“It’s a story about immigration filled with klezmer music and joy,” Shamata says, noting this To Be Theatre production won multiple awards after running in New York last year.

And a rather offbeat entry for Spark is, in a way, not here at all.

Anita Rochon, the creator, actor and director of Pathetic Fallacy aimed to “create a show with no environmental footprint,” explains Shamata. Rochon appears by video, while local individuals cast in a guest spot will appear in front of a green screen and react to prompts. They wind up interacting with her and exploring the line between ancient weather gods and our present-day climate crisis.

Anita Rochon, the creator, actor and director of Pathetic Fallacy aimed to “create a show with no environmental footprint.” Courtesy Belfry Theatre

“It’s really playful and fun to just watch this person who is kind of doing it in the moment, sort of unrehearsed. It’s a sweet, very clever and witty piece,” Shamata says.

The decision several years back to limit the festival to a two-week period has helped create even more of a buzz around Spark, he notes.

“Doing that compressing and having shows in both spaces created a real excitement in the lobby, having both spaces active at the same time.”

On top of the main presentations in this year’s festival, Spark also features a number of “mini-plays” – this year there’s a virtual reality aspect to a couple of them – plus professional development workshops involving the writing and theatre departments at UVic that include the reading of plays in development.

Spark closes at the end of March with a one-off performance by high school students enrolled in Belfry 101. They come from public and private schools across the region and they always create a gem of theatre.

In general, it’s a busy time for this thriving theatre company.

“It took a little while to catch on, but now Spark is a pretty exciting time for us. We all spend a lot of time here during the festival,” Shamata says.

Tickets for festival events can be purchased online at belfry.bc.ca , where you can also find more information about various presentations.

editor@mondaymag.com

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Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, starring klezmer musician Ben Caplan, tells the story of the grandparents of modern-day playwright Hannah Moscovitch and their move to Canada from Europe in 1908. Courtesy Belfry Theatre

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