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Fire Exit Theatre produces award-winning Sacrament

Fire Exit Theatre produces award-winning Sacrament

by Laureen F. Guenther


Fire Exit Theatre is producing the world premiere of Sacrament by Edmonton-based playwright, Gilbert da Silva. The show runs May 8 to 12 in Calgary’s Engineered Air Theatre. The script of Sacrament won Fire Exit Theatre’s Scripts on Fire Playwriting Competition in 2017.

Val Lieske, artistic director of Fire Exit Theatre, is directing the show. Trevor Matheson and Christi Dos Santos are performing it.

“It’s a very different style for Fire Exit Theatre, in the sense that it’s almost like a thriller,” Lieske says. “A post-apocalyptic sort of world.”

“It is set in a city that is experiencing some sort of plague. They don’t know what it is. It’s killing thousands of people. Somehow there are people that have taken refuge in this Catholic church. And they’re either not getting sick or if they’ve already gotten sick, they’re not dying.”

The government wants to find the cure for the disease, so they want to know what’s working inside this church.

“One of the government scientists has decided it’s something in the Eucharist, because they do Mass every day,” Lieske explains.

“They think there’s something in the wine that’s inoculating people, so they’re coming to take some of the wine, and have it tested. And the priest won’t let it go because he doesn’t think it’s (just) wine. (To him) it’s the blood of Christ. He believes in trans-substantiation, so it actually becomes the blood of Christ.” The priest believes the blood of Christ is what’s saving people. He’s also afraid that, if scientists prove it’s just wine, he’ll lose the faith of his people.

The faith versus science argument is partially what drew Lieske to the play, she says. “It’s two smart people in a room having a discussion, which I like a lot,” she says.

And it’s intense. “This can be a bit of a firehose (in intensity),” Lieske says. “It happens in real time, in one scene, and the army is outside. So there is immediate threat. She has to get that wine and he is not giving up that wine.”

People send Lieske many scripts about various faiths and religious beliefs, she says, including many about the Catholic Church. But Sacrament stands out.

“What I’m so tired of is all the priests (in the plays) are pedophiles, or they’ve fallen in love with a woman and they leave the church,” she says. “It’s like priests’ sexuality is the only t hing that we talk about.”

Though Sacrament has one male and one female character, this play isn’t about romantic dynamics.

“Can’t they just be smart people?” she asks. In this case, “Smart people having an argument.”

“Any time there’s a great argument and people actually stay in the room and argue, that’s also interesting, because we don’t do that anymore,” she says. “We just defriend people on Facebook and carry on.”

“Anytime we can argue and still stay in the same place is a win. I’m interested when we can portray two sides of an argument that are treated with some respect.”
As the play challenges audience members to respectfully consider a point of view that’s different from what they usually believe, Lieske hopes it will also strengthen their empathy for real-world relationships.

“(That) you will empathize with both of these characters and say, ‘I’ve never been this, but I know people who are this. So I want to understand them so I can love them better.’ Not so I can build ammunition as to how to be right.”

“I hope that people will just come with arms uncrossed and be ready to enter in to the story,” she says. “And in the midst of that, hopefully, to be entertained as well.”
For tickets to Sacrament, go to