Leave of Absence poster

“I believe in God the Father and/or Mother, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and the big bang theory.” In Pacific Theatre’s world premiere of local playwright Lucia Frangione’s Leave of Absence, Blake is an fearless young girl who sees life in a different way than her peers at her Catholic high school: she prays to the female divine, a God who lives equally in squashed worms and skyscrapers, and is discovering that she likes girls. This intersection of the spiritual and the sexual begins to cause conflict with her peers as her story eventually tears her community apart.

In light of recent local tragedies, the brutality brought to the forefront in Leave of Absence proves not only timely, but necessary. “Most of us would say we have done nothing to cause a child serious harm.” Adds Lucia Frangione, “We read about Amanda Todd or James Hubley and can’t imagine participating in such horrific persecution… I have washed my own hands clean all my life until I started asking: what have I not done to protect a child? How have I been absent?”

Despite trying to face these tough questions, Artistic Director Ron Reed points out, “Leave of Absence is really not an issue-driven play. It just happens that Lucia is fearless, so it goes there. She’s exploring what life is like for that priest and for that girl, and the people around them.” It is this quality that sets Leave of Absence apart from other, similar stories.

Research shows that sexual minority youth experience more emotional and behavioral difficulties, higher levels of depression and externalizing behaviors, greater rates of bullying and sexual harassment, and less social support.

It is not sexual minority youth who are inherently at risk, but the pervasive societal culture of homophobia and heterosexism that threatens their health, safety, and well-being.

Leave of Absence is not an examination of bullies and their victims or the conflict between religion and sexuality. It is a play about a community filled with equal parts soaring humour and gutting tragedy, with hope and beauty that rivals the terror in the dark.

Leave of Absence is directed by Morris Ertman and stars Lucia Frangione, Tom McBeath, Craig Erickson, Marie Russell, and Karyn Guenther.

Leave of Absence

Dates: January 25 to February 16
Venue: Pacific Theatre, 1440 West 12th Avenue at Hemlock, Vancouver
Tickets: $17.99 to $29.99 (plus HST and fees); available online or via phoning 604.731.5518.

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