Roots Among the Rocks: theatre and theology

Last week when I was at General Synod in Halifax, we were treated to the debut performance of a unique theatre project written and performed by group of five young people. Coming from various church backgrounds, this theatre troupe has created a production built around the stories of some 70 people from across the Canadian church. By turns funny, poignant and provocative, “Roots Among the Rocks” takes its audience on a searching tour through questions of life, faith, doubt and struggle. The troupe will be in Winnipeg on July 3.

Roots Among the Rocks:
Young actors break open deep truth and big questions.

Park Theatre, Winnipeg, Saturday, July 3, 7:30 pm

$10.00

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ow do we find life, faith and authenticity in an ever-changing world, where faith, religion and ‘going to church’ are questioned on every side? Who is Church? Why do we continue to gather in this way? Roots Among the Rocks, a brand new play, explores some of these questions and opens up a whole lot more.

The show has been built using a process called collective creation, where the performers gathered stories from over seventy people, ages 11 – 95 from all over Canada. The stories were gathered from people in church, out of church, people who have stayed or left or struggle to find answers to deeper questions in life. Five actors and two directors have spent a month in the collective theatre process listening and talking, praying and laughing to bring to you the stories that they have heard.

Each actor plays a wide variety of roles; no small feat for a company whose ages range from 19-22. The characters tell their stories around a kitchen table, friends whisper in church pews, get distracted while praying and bare their souls to us. Some choose to leave and others choose to stay. The performance journeys through the themes of Sunday Morning, Identity Crises, Resilience and Grace, Confession and Absolution, and Finding Home.

The company of Roots Among the Rocks is anchored by Jenny Salisbury, 26, and Peter Reinhardt, 30, who both work in youth ministry, and in performing arts; Salisbury as a director and playwright in Toronto and Reinhardt as a recording artist and composer based in Vancouver. After the opening in Halifax on June 8th, the audience was buzzing with excitement. “It was fantastic,” commented one “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this blew me away.” The performance was also simultaneously webcast, and viewed by people across Canada and around the world, generating instant on line reviews and comments. Dawn Leger of Antigonish, NS wrote on the ‘twitter’ feed “Roots Among the Rocks. I have no words. Thank you.” Matthew Cutler, watching from his office in downtown Toronto tweeted “Major shout out to Roots Among the Rocks who did a fantastic job!” The Anglican Journal’s headline read “Compelling play touches hearts” and noted “…it was a packed house and at the end of the performance, the whole crowd was on its feet in a rousing standing ovation.” Following the opening in Halifax, the company goes to Newfoundland for two performances, then travels from Montreal to Vancouver Island over the next several weeks for shows in churches, theatres and outdoor performance spaces.

Roots Among the Rocks features Melissa Glover (Prince George), Karyn Guenther (Vancouver),Carolyn Pugh (Guelph), Magdalena Jennings (Halifax), and John Daniel Steele (Victoria). For information, reviews and more background, head for the company’s blog.

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