A folk musical about peace seems just up the alley for a church group looking to stage a play. In that vein, Elmira Mennonite Church will this week stage Selah’s Song.
The group behind the production is Theatre of the Beat, which works to inspire people to talk about tough issues.
The story is of a young girl who questions the war narrative of her village and her music inspires the entire village to work for peace.
The play will be taking place at Elmira Mennonite Church on November 6 at 2 p.m. Attendance is free.
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“We just want to welcome our community with open hands. We’ll have refreshments. There will be an opportunity to donate if you thought it was worthwhile, after the show, but absolutely no requirement to do so,” said associate pastor Charleen Jongejan Harder. “We want to give this to our community.”
Selah’s Song was written in 2014 as a 40-piece community musical ensemble and performed in Stouffville, but it was adapted to become a travelling show with a main cast of four who perform with puppets.
Cedric Martin is the production manager of the play and originally from New Hamburg. “What’s interesting to me, is that back in 2014, is when Russia decided to annex Crimea, and here we are in 2022, and Russia has again invaded Ukraine. So we’re thinking about more-so than just here everyday Canadians, but how do we talk to our children? How do we sit down at the family dinner table and think about what peace could look like? We need these stories of hope that even a single voice can make a difference.
“And it’s not just what’s happening in Ukraine. There’s also stories of what’s happening in Iran right now. Where young girls and people are also being banned from similar things. In our show, there’s this sort of King that has this rule that people can’t sing any songs but the songs that they create. And that’s actually very similar to what’s happening in Iran too. So there’s, there’s a lot of modern-day parallels, and we need this story of peace, I think, more than we thought a few years ago, even.
Martin said he feels puppets are the perfect medium for a play about peace.
“Well, puppets have been used for centuries for social change. They’re a safe way to share messages that might not be as easily accepted if a person were saying them.”
Typically, Theatre of the Beat tackles difficult issues such as sexual abuse in the church or domestic abuse. This is the group’s first family-friendly, all-ages musical.
Jongejan Harder says Selah’s Song will resonate with people in Elmira. “I think that Elmira has a strong cohort of people from the peace church tradition. So the Mennonite background of the community has had a long history of the peace position. This is a way of tapping into that long tradition, and trying to examine it in 2022.”
Theatre of the Beat is touring Selah’s Song around Canada. The cast, gear and equipment all fit in a minivan and a small trailer. Along with being the production manager, Martin built the set, does the sound and lighting and also plays a small part in the play. He first became involved with Theatre of the Beat in 2019 with a production called Yellow Bellies, about conscientious objectors during the Second World War.
Each time the cast and crew of Selah’s Song perform the play at a new location, they must arrive well in advance to set up the entire set. Then they perform the show and conduct discussions after, before tearing down to move to the next stop.
During the interview, Martin was speaking from Winnipeg. The tour will be coming to Ontario next, and stops will include Kitchener, Elmira, Waterloo, London, Toronto, Stouffville and New Hamburg.