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Sexuality centre stage in Listening for Grace

By: Ian Froese

Posted: 10/7/2015 9:25 AM

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Ted Swartz (right) brings the production, Listening for Grace, to Steinbach on Oct. 17.

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Ted Swartz (right) brings the production, Listening for Grace, to Steinbach on Oct. 17.

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A thought-provoking play tackling the often fraught relationship between the church and homosexuality is coming to Steinbach this month.

Ted Swartz’s newest production, Listening for Grace, is a one-man show about a widowed father whose son has come out as gay. The shocked father takes the audience on a journey as he wrestles with the love he has for his son and his faith.

The play was invited to Steinbach after a diverse collection of community members, from clergy to educators and civic leaders, worked together to bring a play to the city they thought is a necessary conversation-starter.

Val Hiebert is a part of the group and an associate professor at Providence University College.

"We care about this issue, we care about trying to open up a graceful dialogue in this community about the issue," she said of the play, which will run at the SRSS theatre on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Hiebert explained a desire to bring the popular play locally stemmed from a shared reality.

"Lots of members of the group have experiences of their own, in their own families, in their own communities and they’ve seen people in painful circumstances where they felt things could have been done differently," she recalled. "I think each of us have witnessed circumstances where we thought, ‘Wow, maybe there’s a safer way to do this, to have this dialogue.’"

Hiebert cautions the play does not present clear answers to the questions posed. Instead, it encourages all to become part of a constructive discussion communities around the world are engaged in.

"This group is not wanting to criticize Steinbach in any way, that is not our desire at all. This is a complicated issue across Canada and we think it’s important as neighbours and communities to have a positive dialogue about it in ways that leave everyone feeling safe," she said.

The subject of homosexuality made national headlines during the contentious Bill 18 debate in early 2013, when many objections were raised against new provincial legislation to allow gay-straight alliance groups in schools.

Hiebert said there are people in the Southeast on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to issues of gender identity and relations, which isn’t any different than other communities.

She did not believe Steinbach was any less accepting.

"No, actually, I wouldn’t," she said. "I think maybe they’ve been picked up more by the media, but I don’t think so actually."

Hiebert has seen the play herself. She raves it does a good job raising questions from a variety of perspectives.

"That’s probably what so great about the play," she said. "It poses questions in really thoughtful and intelligent ways and says ‘Here, what do you think,’ and the audience isn’t told what they should think but they’re given lots of information to think with."

Tickets sales are brisk. An Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. showing at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School theatre is almost sold out, so a 3 p.m. performance has been added. Tickets are $10 apiece and can be purchased by calling the Steinbach Arts Council at 204-346-1077.

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