Sage Theatre’s 2016-2017 season was the year of messy questions. Very messy like the right to die, sex trade, terminal illness, and the limits of human compassion.
The company wanted to ask the audience questions that they may have never asked themselves or thought of about Canadian contemporary society. Artistic Director Jason Mehmel summed up the season for him as a conversation with the audiences to grapple with bigger ideas:
It’s been a chance for me to explore privilege, gender and race and class, all these big messy subjects, inside the frame of a story that isn’t trying to provide a clear answer. Because I don’t think there are clear answers, I think the way through these issues is to grapple with them, to grapple with myself as I react to them, and to let the audience grapple with it too.
Bea by Mick Gordon
Sage posed their first question in October 2016: Does someone had the right to chose when they die? In Bea, a young woman struggling to find her voice while suffering from a debilitating disease. This powerful drama explores the limits of compassion, the impact of Bea’s condition on those closest to her, and the difficult choice of euthanasia. But Bea wins over the audience with her determination, joy and humour. One audience member said that, “I cried, laughed, and then felt that kick in the stomach and a punch in the heart.”
Soliciting Temptation by Erin Shields
A man enters a room expecting to meet up with a very young woman, maybe too young, for a brief encounter and nothing more. But what happens when the “transaction” doesn’t go as planned and both of them struggle to gain control in this shifting of power. Who is good, and who is bad, and does it matter when it comes to the sex trade? Dan O’Driscoll saw Temptation on opening weekend in February 2017 said, “It delivered what was on the package: Bold, Intimate and Thoughtful. At one point I really wondered what I was doing watching this play, but then I realized I had to be there.”
Shifting Morality, Shifting Perceptions
Response from audience was great to these messy questions, as Sage reported attendance this season was up 20 percent from 2015-2016.
For the audience, however, this was all about the shifting sand under their own biases. Ann Cooney, who attended both Bea and Soliciting Temptation, and said that while both plays were hard to sit through “…it was worth it. I had one idea coming in – a narrow one – of the right to choose your own death. The morality of the sex trade too. But life is not so black and white, and Sage definitely challenged and shifted my binary on these two issues.”
The conversation isn’t over for Sage’s audiences. Tickets are going on sale soon for the bold and intimate Ignite! festival of Emerging Artist June 6-10, 2017. Get updates for the festival, get a preview of the next season’s shows and season passes by subscribing to Sage Theatre’s newsletter.