Theatre Preview: Plotting Hitler’s death spiritually

By Rachel Betts-Wilmott

People go to theatre for various reasons, whether it’s to inject culture into their lives or for the security you’re overcome with in a dark theatre. But it seems rare for those to go beyond the secular and enter a theatre for the spiritual. Fire Exit Theatre is a theatre company wanting audiences to leave their performance with a bit of hope. And this year Fire Exit Theatre does just that, celebrating their third season with Hitler. Or at least his image adorns the poster for their production of Douglas Anderson’s The Beams are Creaking.

Based on the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Beams are Creaking follows the pastor/poet/musician/all around good guy conspiring to kill Hitler. It presents the play with its interesting dilemma. “I love the story of a moral dilemma,” says artistic director and founding member of Fire Exit Val Lieske. “Do you sacrifice one conviction and hopefully save millions from dying or do you hold fast that killing is wrong? This is definitely the kind of stories we love to tell, where it makes you think about how do you integrate you faith into real life when the really hard issues come along. How does that play out?”

In the case of Bonhoeffer, the need to save many wins out and he plots to kill Hitler. What follows is his imprisonment and doubts as to whether he’s made a difference or done the right thing. Faith? Beliefs? Religion? What if all that gives audiences the icks? Well that’s still not enough to discourage Fire Exit.

“I’m not different than any other artistic director, I want to tell good stories,” says Lieske. “Our tagline is ‘hope, challenge, change.’ A little bit of hope, we want to challenge your thinking and we want you to leave here changed. That you laughed a little bit more, that you’re a little bit more pissed off. Whatever. I want you to leave saying ‘wow that didn’t really sit right.’”

The Beams are Creaking is a co-production with the Prairie Bible College and most of the cast is a part of the drama program there. It seems everybody was enraptured by it, and director Blaine McDonald is no different. “I heard about this play five years ago and I read it. It’s been one of my favourite plays ever since,” says McDonald. “But it’s a huge cast, there are 33 characters in all. [It seemed] a mammoth task.”

So remember, if you see posters around with a photo of Hitler on it, chances are it’s not advertising the neo-nazi club starting up on campus. Nor is it suggesting this year’s Christmas pageant at the local church will feature an elf, a reindeer and an out of sorts prospector befriending a giant Hitler who then would get to put the star on the giant Christmas tree at Santa’s Workshop.

The Beams are Creaking plays at the Engineered Air Theatre from Nov. 24–27. Tickets are only $10 for students.

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