By Rachel Woodward, November 1 2016 —
Since its creation in 1999, Calgary’s Sage Theatre has had a simple goal — to produce bold, intimate and thoughtful theatre.
“We try to do theatre that is intimate in the sense that it’s dealing with what it is to be human and connect with an audience who is experiencing the world today,” Sage Theatre artistic director Jason Mehmel says. “We are very much engaged in connecting with an audience not from a distance, but as closely as possible.”
The company will bring these expectations to light with their 2016–17 season opener Bea, directed by Kevin McKendrick.
Written by Mick Gordon, Bea tells the story of a young woman struggling with a debilitating disease and the impact it has on those around her. The play runs from Nov. 3–12 at the Pumphouse Theatre.
Mehmel thinks the play will evoke a wide range of emotions from audiences.
“I think what makes this story interesting and unique among its subject is that it’s a much funnier, positive story than that description makes it sound like. It’s a punch to the heart and a laugh in your throat,” he says. “In some rehearsals, I found myself laughing and crying in equal measure. It says something that so intense a story and so complicated a choice can still have laughter and happiness in it.”
Bea is the first of two plays produced by Sage this season. Soliciting Temptation — the second show of the season — deals with race and the transition of power. Both shows aim to bring discussion to audiences about controversial topics. Sage describes this season on their website as “the year of big, messy questions.”
One aspect of Bea centres around the relationship of Bea and her mother as the choice between life and death becomes a large factor in their lives.
“This [play] deals with the limits of compassion, what your standards of a relationship are [and] what the demands are,” Mehmel says. “As a parent, is life at all costs more important than the quality of life? As someone who has a hard and fairly terminal road ahead of her, how much can we ask that person to do something that makes us feel better rather than them feel better?”
Mehmel feels that the questions evoked by Sage Theatre’s productions make a perfect match for Calgary audiences. During his two years as artistic director, Mehmel says the community here provides a willing challenge.
“I think Calgary has a cultural community that appreciates being challenged,” he says. “As long as we treat our audience with the respect and intelligence that they are offering when they come see our work, then I’m pretty confident that they’ll engage in these stories and be interested by them.”
Bea will run at the Pumphouse Theatre from Nov. 3–12. Tickets are available online and are $20 with student pricing.
For more information, visit sagetheatre.com