The infamous polygamous religious community of Bountiful, B.C. forms both the emotional and the societal backdrop for the latest staged-reading presentation of Peninsula Productions, the one-woman show Gracie, by Canadian playwright Joan MacLeod.
Lili Beaudoin – the actor who originated the role of Gracie in the play’s first production in 2017 in Victoria – stars in the newest version, which launches Peninsula’s 2021-22 season in a limited run Sept. 24 to Sept. 26 at its black box theatre in Centennial Park.
The dramatic monologue tells the fictional coming-of-age story of a girl who leaves the U.S. with her family, at age eight, to to move to Bountiful.
It invites the audience to see life through Gracie’s eyes at five different ages— from the simple childhood exhilaration of taking a bike ride through the country, to becoming a girl of 15 who must face up to the oppression of her community’s values.
Beaudoin – who just came off of a successful run of I, Claudia, by Kristen Thomson, at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver – went on to win Calgary’s Betty Mitchell award for her performance following her breakthrough Victoria debut in the play.
“Lili is an incredible performer – sharp, engaging, intelligent,” said Guy Fauchon, artistic director of Peninsula Productions.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled that she said yes to our staged reading, and that our audiences get to experience such incredible local talent.”
In the play, Gracie and her mother, brother and sisters move to Bountiful because her mother has been assigned a new husband in the fundamentalist community; she is to become his 18th wife.
As Gracie, Beaudoin also gives voice to 13 other characters, including her older sister Celeste – who becomes a wife at 16 and a mother at 17 – and her brother Billy, who is forced out of the community just a few years after the family arrives in Canada.
It’s a challenging and thought-provoking drama, not least because – while it examines practices that are abhorrent – it veers away from pronouncing obvious judgments to present a convincing portrait of a girl who lives in a complex world and is maintained by her love for her family and her strong faith.
MacLeod – who has become oneof Canada’s foremost playwrights – is also a B.C. talent.
Raised in North Vancouver, she teaches creative writing at the University of Victoria, and has received high praise from the likes of Alberta Theatre Project’s Artistic Director, Vanessa Porteous.
“[MacLeod’s] writing feels like the tide coming in,” she has written.
“Gentle at first, it gradually sweeps you up, leaving you moved and changed.”
Gracie will be presented for limited-seating houses, with social distancing, vaccination proof and marking required.
“Peninsula Productions adheres to all provincial health orders and expects all patrons to do the same,” said Peninsula executive director Janet Ellis.
Gracie runs for only four performances, all with limited seating: Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.; Sept. 25 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. at the company’s indoor theatre space in Centennial Park (14600 North Bluff Rd./16 Ave.). Tickets ($25) can be purchased online at www.showpass.com