Saturday, May 18, 2024

Victoria’s Belfry Theatre to premiere Christine Quintana’s play exploring connection


Belfry Theatre regulars and lovers of theatre, this is a play you’ll want to catch!

Kicking off on Tuesday, February 13th (formerly Tuesday, February 6th) is playwright and actor Christine Quintana’s play, As Above—a beautiful commentary on grief, addiction, and the power of familial connection.

The Belfry Theatre released an official statement yesterday to confirm the delay in production was due to a serious family emergency one of the cast members has needed to attend to.

This led to the subsequent decision to have Quintana herself play the role as they’re unsure when the original cast member will be coming back.

Delaying the opening night will give her time to learn the lines, the blocking, and the many technical aspects of the show.

If you purchased tickets for the dates that have since been canceled/delayed, the Belfry Theatre’s Box Office will contact you to rebook you for one of the new dates. 

(As Above poster / The Belfry Theatre)

As Above was commissioned by the Belfry Theatre in 2019, this feature play is directed by UVic alumni Meg Roe and will star Gabrielle Rose, Hrothgar Mathews, Sereana Malani, and Quintana as the active understudy.

In an interview with Victoria Buzz, Quintana explained that the story follows a woman in her sixties named Jo, who is entering her eighth year of sobriety. She’s attempting to rebuild her life after the death of her husband, becoming estranged from her daughter, and losing her job as a botanical researcher.

She begins dating a new man named Rick, who opens up a new way of thinking for her just as she coincidentally begins to experience these strange physical symptoms that she believes are distress calls from her daughter.

Anyone that is familiar with Quintana knows that all of her works are unique from one another, making each and every storyline an unexpected treat to behold. 

As Above will tease genres such as mystery, drama, and science.

“It’s a blend of the commentary on the science of trees and how [they] are key to the interconnectedness of the forests like we have in the Pacific Northwest, and how different things in our society—like trauma, addiction, and disconnection from land—can cause us to become disconnected from each other,” Quintana said.

“It’s about imagining another future where we heal through connection.”

She added that it was in part inspired by a podcast episode of NPR’s Radiolab, featuring a BC-based famed scientist, Suzanne Simard. The episode dives into the astonishing networks trees use to connect with each other and communicate. 

Using the idea of trees’ fungal networks and their ability to relay vital survival elements through these bonds, she wanted to tie in themes of addiction and sobriety. 

Having experienced addiction in her family and friends and seeing what an incredible feat it is for those who are able to work towards sobriety, it’s something she’s always wanted to try and bring into her work. 

We asked her about the delay between 2019 and its 2024 showing at the Belfry Theatre, which largely had to do with the COVID-19 pandemic and timing. 

“Obviously the pandemic was a big slowdown for everyone in the arts community…[and] as I grow and change the play has grown as well…but I made sure to honour the themes I originally came up with.”

She was able to witness As Above receive a reading at an off-broadway theatre in New York City last year, so she’s all the more thrilled to finally bring it to Victoria after the five-year wait.

As mentioned above, a unique element to this writing experience included Quintana’s dive into science—conducting her own research and talking with groups like the Mother Tree Project out of UBC. 

They confirmed what was correct and gave suggestions regarding how to make the jargon more accessible to general audiences, so it could be entertaining and educational in a theatrical setting.

“I love when artists and scientists can work together, it’s really exciting.”

Additionally, another key member in the development of this play was Tasha Faye Evans, an Indigenous artist and educator, who brings in traditional knowledge about cedar trees, which predates western colonial knowledge here.

Her inclusion was vital, and coincided with Quintana’s wish to ethically represent the presence of Indigenous knowledge in this play as well as explore how non-Indigenous people can form good relationships with the land “in the midst of the colonial project that is Canada.”

“I’m really grateful I got to work with her.”

Another source of excitement she highlighted was who she casted as Jo, who she believes will absolutely thrill Victoria audiences. 

“I’m really excited about…Gabrielle Rose, [she] is literally a Canadian treasure and is so phenomenal,” Quintana gushed.

“This is her debut at the Belfry!”

She noted that all three cast members, Rose, Mathews, and Malani are perfect for the roles and the director, Roe, has made it come together beautifully. 

To catch the play and experience it for yourself, tickets are sold on a pay-what-you-can basis and can be purchased on the Belfry Theatre’s website. 

As Above at the Belfry

  • Where: Belfry Theatre, 1291 Gladstone Avenue
  • When: Thursday, February 8th to Sunday, March 3rd—showtimes vary

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