The struggle between finding yourself and finding your place in the world will play out on the stage of the Belfry Theatre, as its new play Gracie
explores one of Canada’s most notorious communities.
The run at the Belfry will be the world premiere of the play, the latest from renowned playwright, and Victoria local, Joan MacLeod (The Hope Slide, The Shape of a Girl). Produced in partnership with the Alberta Theatre Project, the cast and crew will be Calgary-bound after the Victoria run to perform the play there.
Gracie is set in BC’s infamous polygamous community Bountiful and centres on a young woman who is torn between faith and family and must make a choice as she struggles over a need for personal autonomy and a strong desire to belong.
“It’s something that I think we can all relate to,” said director Vanessa Porteous. “Our need to belong is so strong, but our need to be ourselves is also so strong, and sometimes those things really come in conflict.”
The play is a solo performance, with over a dozen characters brought to life by the Vancouver-based actor Lili Beaudoin, who was selected for the part after a nationwide search. Porteous said after auditioning multiple young performers from across the country, when Beaudoin walked through the door she knew she had found the right person.
Porteous has tackled directing solo shows before, and said while the basics of theatre are always the basics, there is a level of detail and a degree of collaboration that you don’t often get if you’re directing a show with a full cast.
“You get to invent, with the actor, a whole world,” Porteous said.
“You’re scrutinizing every single moment and there’s a ton of creation and invention and imagination. … There’s no end to how deep you can dig.” This is the first time Porteous has directed a work by MacLeod, a playwright she has long admired.
“I think her special gift is to delve so deeply into the specific … that it becomes universal,” she said. “The people she writes about are ordinary Canadians, they’re normal people, like us, and it’s by getting really intimate with them as a writer that she opens them up. …I find her work extremely emotionally compelling.”
Also a first for Porteous is directing a play at the Belfry, which she said has been a rewarding experience.
“It’s so wonderful. The Belfry has a reputation across the country as being one of the very best places to work,” Porteous said. “And it is.”