Belfry Theatre announces controversial play set in Israel will not be presented

Belfry Theatre announces controversial play set in Israel will not be presented
File photo of graffiti at the Belfry Theatre.

A play set in Israel that has been the centre of a debate will not be presented at the Belfry Theatre, the company announced Tuesday.

The play was initially set to take place during the 2024 SPARK Festival between March 11-17 and 24, but there has been pushback against the play being shown at the Fernwood theatre.

The one-man play, called The Runner, is about an Israeli man named Jacob who works with Orthodox Jewish volunteer force Z.A.K.A. to “find dead and dying people after incidents of violence.”

“Based on a real-life Z.A.K.A member—Jacob grapples with the political and moral fallout after saving a Palestinian woman’s life—and leaving a fatally wounded Israeli soldier behind,” reads the Belfry’s description of the play.

In a statement on Jan. 2, the Belfry said given the current situation in the Middle East, the decision was made to not show the play.

“However, we believe that presenting The Runner at this particular time does not ensure the well-being of all segments of our community,” the statement says.

“Given the current conflict in the Middle East, this is not the time for a play which may further tensions among our community. We will therefore not be presenting The Runner during the 2024 SPARK Festival. This has not been an easy decision, and we are grateful to our community for sharing various perspectives which added to our understanding.”

Prior to this announcement, many people voiced concerns about the play, with a community group launching a petition to have the play pulled from the Belfry’s schedule.

“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,” reads the online petition.

A counter-petition was launched calling for the Belfry to keep the production of The Runner.

“We call on the Belfry Theatre to host the production of The Runner as scheduled in March 2024, in accordance with its mission and principles,” the counter-petition says. “We were informed by the Belfry that in its 46 years of producing theatre, it has never once cancelled a play.”

Last month, stickers and graffiti saying “Free Palestine” were painted at the entrance of the Belfry Theatre and a rally was held at the theatre calling for the cancellation of the play.


-With files from CHEK’s Oli Herrera

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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