Heaven — An UnsolicitedReview
I should start this off by saying I am not a certified reviewer. Instead, I am someone who has always loved the experience of the theatre. Although young, I will always pick a play, opera, symphony or even an improv show over a bar for drinks.
I just find the whole experience mystifying.
I marvel at how a few people on a stage can capture your attention and transport you to another world.
Last week I had the pleasure of viewing Heaven at the Edmonton Citadel Theatre. This short play connected the experience of Alberta’s first black settlers while sneaking in a romance. Heaven touched on the trauma, tragedy, perseverance, hope, and love experienced during the early 1900s. And although based in a time before I was born, I resonated with the main character (Charlotte Williams).
Charlotte Williams was brazen, adaptable, passionate. Yet, like so many trailblazing black women, she felt lonely, isolated, and cast away (not just because it was -30 and they did not have cars). As a mixed-race woman, I understood her. I understood wanting those around her to have fair and just access. I understood running from past expectations. I understood the self-doubt. But I also understood her resiliency, perseverance, and dedication to her profession. Helen Belay played the role of Charlotte Williams, but in many senses, she became Charlotte and every single childless female today.
Helen not only became the role she adapted to showcase connection. Prior to the play beginning, Helen delivered a touching Land Acknowledgement that spoke of unity and hope. It spoke to the tragedy but built a bridge between the past and today. In complete honesty, Helen had me ready to cry just from that delivery. And although it was partially her delivery, it was also the pride I felt in our arts community for taking a moment to do something so unique when it is not required of them. See Edmonton’s art community and supporting venues use their influential power for positive change, which can so often be overlooked. But for me, it is felt.
I also felt emotion through the set. Although small and simple, it amplified the characters and their stories. I found the unique placement of trees above captivating as their arrangement allowed lighting and props versatility. When you arrived, the stage looked like it represented one room, but you felt as though you explored so much more. Personally, the right costumes, lighting and props are what can amplify the story. The right set can make a story so much more, and this is what Heaven did.
Heaven encapsulated a small portion of the Amber Valley journey in a way that creates a curiosity to learn more about Black Albertan history. Heaven reminds you about the connection between others. It also reminds you that men have the best intentions even when they create chaos and more work!
I don’t want to write about too much more and ruin the magic for you.
Go support local.
Go support the arts.
Go find the magic that existed before the silver screen.
Go have an educational experience that leaves you wanting to know more about history while feeling all the feelings of love.