“Heaven” Gloriously Shines at the NAC

Photo: Courtesy NAC

There is something spectacular about learning more about Canada through the stage. The latest National Arts Centre production, Heaven, by playwright Cheryl Foggo is one such example. It is a well-known fact that in the 1800s, Canada was the final destination of the Underground Railroad in Ontario for those escaping slavery from the South. However, what is not quite as well known, was that in 1910, approximately 1500 African-American women, men and children came to western Canada, answering the call from the Canadian government for farmers to populate the west. They created a handful of communities in rural Alberta as well as Saskatchewan.

Amber Valley, Alberta was the largest of the settlements and it is the setting for this charming, beautiful two-person play by Foggo, who says the play is “motivated by my love for my ancestors.”

Sharp-witted schoolteacher Charlotte, played by Helen Belay, arrives from St. Catharines, Ontario to make a better life for her and her new students. Shocked by the weather (brilliantly created by the set and lighting) and other surprises of rural life in Alberta, she forms an unlikely friendship with widowed, unpolished, awkward farmer Ezra, played by Christopher Clare. A vibrant story develops through their conversations, offering a look at some fascinating characters in their community. And as their relationship develops, a few twists ensue.

The dialogue is fantastic and beautifully written.

Tonight, at 7:00 p.m., the NAC will host a pre-show chat with the award-winning Alberta playwright Cheryl Foggo in the Canada Room. She will offer her perspective and insight into the play, which will only make the theatrical experience all the richer.

The show runs until May 13 at the NAC. Visit www.nac.ca for more information and tickets.