Saturday, June 15, 2024

Activists launch petition urging Belfry Theatre to drop play told from Israeli perspective


A group of local activists who have been calling for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Hamas conflict have launched a petition in order to sway the Belfry Theatre to drop a play from its schedule for the new year because it is written from an Israeli perspective. 

The Runner, by Toronto-based playwright Christopher Morris has won several awards and has been critically well-received.

The play follows a member of an Orthodox Jewish volunteer force whose role it is to collect the remains of Jews killed in conflict. 

In the story, the volunteer decides to treat a wounded Palestinian woman instead of tending to the Israeli soldier she may have killed and this is a life-changing moment for the Israeli protaganist.

In The Runner’s description, it claims to be a “powerful thriller that explores the beleaguered psyche of a noble man charged with attending to the remains of harrowing acts of savagery.”

Local activists, ‘lekwungen 2 Palestine’ discovered that this play was in the Belfry’s 2024 schedule and have since launched a campaign to have it removed from the theatre’s roster in the new year.

They claim that the play “features violent and racist rhetoric of Zionism from an exclusively Israeli perspective.”

Zionism is a Jewish nationalist movement with the goal of creating and supporting a Jewish national state in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jewish religion and Peoples.

“It is shocking to see the Belfry decide to host The Runner, a story of Israeli settlers in a dehumanizing exercise of whether Palestinian and Arab life is of value,” wrote lekwungen 2 Palestine activists in a social media post

“We are currently witness to the ongoing genocide in Palestine that has killed 20,000+ people including 7,800+ children, and we struggle to understand why the Belfry would choose to center the voices of the oppressors instead of the oppressed.”

The group of activists included an excerpt from the play in their post which the Belfry Theatre say was taken unfairly out of context and is not indicative of what The Runner attempts to convey. 

The following is the excerpt lekwungen 2 Palestine posted:

“And there’s only three ways for this to go for the Arabs around here: those who want to accept our rule can accept, the ones who want to leave can leave, and those who want to fight can fight, but we’ll defeat them. Every encounter between a soldier and enemy must end with an unequivocal decision.”

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Since this post came out and the petition was launched, the Belfry Theatre told Victoria Buzz they will take time to consider the complexities of going ahead with the production or cancelling it. 

The Runner is supposed to be part of the programming the theatre’s Spark 2024 festival lineup.

“We thank those of you who have expressed your convictions, and we are listening. We value and respect these conversations in the community,” said the Belfry Theatre in a statement.

“As a result, we have been having many complex conversations about the production, it’s content, and its impact on the community.”

They said they will wait until the new year to announce how to move forward in regards to The Runner, but in the meantime, invite anyone who is curious about the play to stop by the theatre and read the script—which will be available after January 8th. 

As of this publication, the petition to have the play removed from the Belfry’s schedule has 650 of 1,000 signatures. 

Curtis Blandy

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