Ignition Theatre wraps up on controversial note with Corpus Christi

Ignition Theatre has opted to serve up a controversial production about a Christ figure set in 1950s/60s Texas for the troupe’s final theatrical offering.

Corpus Christi, written by Terrence McNally, runs June 7-9, 14-16 at City Centre Stage. Curtain is 7:30 p.m.

McNally’s Christ figure is a character named Joshua, a man born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas in the early 1950s. Different from the other boys because he is homosexual, Joshua grows up in isolation and torment. He flees Corpus Christi in search of a more accepting environment, gathering a group of ‘disciples’ by his message of love and tolerance. Returning to Corpus Christi, he is betrayed by his lover, Judas, and crucified in front of the jeering throngs who hated him as a boy, and still do. His plea, that we look upon all souls as equal in the sight of God, falls unattended.

“I never really consider controversy as a pro or con when selecting a play,” explains Matt Grue, artistic director. “Certainly I am aware of the controversy that swirls around this production, but to me this is a compelling script, something that challenges perception, something entertaining, something that will resonate with audiences and something that wouldn’t ever be seen in Red Deer if not for Ignition Theatre.”

Grue said the opportunity to tackle material by one of this generation’s most influential playwrights also made it a compelling choice.

“We encourage audiences to not be afraid of the play simply because it explores homosexual themes in a religious context, but rather trust that after seven seasons, Ignition Theatre has proven itself and is dedicated to producing theatre with integrity. We sincerely believe in not only the play itself, but in its relevance to the ongoing civil rights movement that is more a part of today’s political and social landscape than ever before.”

Grue said he believes the biggest misconception about the play is that people assume McNally is attempting to rewrite history. “We are not suggesting Jesus was gay. We are using the story of Jesus as a framework to tell a ‘what if’ story. We are not set in biblical times, but in 1950s and 1960s Texas/New York. The story is familiar, it is an updated, sometimes exaggerated re-telling of the New Testament story. Some people believe it should be off limits and that we should not be able to reinterpret or use the story in any way other than in a literal or traditional sense. I am not one of those people,” he said.

“Our play, as I personally believe, is reminding us that at its foundation, the message of Jesus was/is about love, tolerance and compassion,” he added. “Theatre is an opportunity to challenge perceptions. I cannot control those who have already labeled this play as offensive having neither read nor seen the production. I think they are misguided and are doing themselves and those they speak with about the play a great disservice by dismissing it as offensive or blasphemous.

“It would be an easier pill to swallow if they saw the play and still felt that way, though I think they would be hard-pressed. At least then we could have an intelligent conversation/debate about the merits of the production and its message.”

The production also marks the end of Ignition Theatre after seven seasons. “It was pretty emotionally overwhelming to suddenly realize what our impact was on this community. Truthfully, we always wonder if our work has any lasting impact. We’ve learned that it has more lasting impact then we could have ever expected. It’s satisfying and something that has made it substantially harder to walk away.”

Meanwhile, directing Corpus Christie has certainly been a learning experience as well a creatively challenging but exciting project for Grue.

“What I have learned is this – or what I believe is this – Jesus was a man who had doubts, fears, questions, appetites just like the rest of us. I feel as though he may have been uncomfortable being recongnized as a divinity but assumed that responsibility. I believe that what he wanted to instill in us was a message of love, he wanted to teach us how to be tolerant and compassionate. He wanted us to know that despite our shortcomings, or poor choices, there is always an opportunity for redemption. There is always somewhere to turn for help.

“Our cast has been willing to explore, has been willing to challenge themselves, have been willing to challenge me. We are navigating this play together, learning things about ourselves, about our beliefs that maybe we had never considered.”

Tickets are $25 for adults and $22 for students and seniors and are available at Ticket Central (4922 49th St.) They can also be purchased by phone at 403-347-0800 or online at www.ticketcentraloutlet.ca.

The play carries a discretionary warning for coarse language and mature themes.


Just Posted

UPDATED: Red Deer will officially be the home of the Canadian Finals Rodeo

CFR has potential to bring in an economic impact of $20-30 million

WATCH: Innisfail’s Berkley the bear celebrates first birthday

Discovery Wildlife Park’s newest Kodiak is excited for life this winter

Tyler Steenbergen etches his name into Canadian hockey history

Sylvan Lake native scores huge tournament-winner at World Juniors

City council supports $25,000 for Downtown Community Development Committee

Funding supports stakeholders in developing programs enhancing downtown safety

Red Deer’s Gord Bontje gives $500,000 to A Better World

Co-owner of Laebon Homes gives the gift to celebrate 60th birthday

WATCH: Red Deer Entertainment Awards honours Red Deer’s burgeoning talent

The awards looks to become more inclusive of the entire entertainment scene in year three

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag for Canada at 2018 Olympics

The pair earned a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games

Diplomacy on agenda at North Korea summit in Vancouver

Foreign ministers from 20 countries are meeting Tuesday to discuss security and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Kids chained in Calif. house of horrors; parents arrested

Authorities say an emaciated teenager led deputies to home where her 12 brothers and sisters were locked up in filthy conditions

‘Reprehensible’: Trudeau abortion policy raises ire of U.S. right

“This man is reprehensible,” tweeted former White House staffer Sebastian Gorka

‘I shouldn’t have to have a husband:’ Winnipeg woman criticizes men-only club

Jodi Moskal discovered the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club continues to ban women as members, as it has done since opening in 1909.

Japan public TV sends mistaken North Korean missile alert

The false alarm came two days after Hawaii’s emergency management department sent a mistaken warning

Toronto girl dies after being pinned between vehicles while picked up from school

Police say an SUV with no driver in it rolled forward and pinned the girl against her father’s car

Most Read