Future unclear for Israel-set play at Belfry Theatre after backlash

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People rally at the Belfry Theatre calling on the theatre to not show The Runner play.

The Belfry Theatre in Victoria says it’s mulling some community members’ concerns about an upcoming play set in Israel that was previously scheduled to run in the theatre next year.

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.

Many people have voiced concerns about the play, however, 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.

As of Dec. 27, the online petition garnered more than 1,100 signatures.

“It is unacceptable that this story is being told while Palestinians are being killed and displaced by the Israeli Defense Forces in plain sight for the world to see,” the petition reads.

Similarly, a second petition calling for the play to go on as schedule reached more 1,400 signatures by Dec 27.

“Those cancelling playwrights solely because they are write Jewish characters, spent time in Israel and write about the Israeli experience, are not good enough reason to cancel a play,” reads the petition.

On Friday, a rally was also held outside the theatre condemning the production, with demonstrators surrounding the front entrance of the building. Theatre organizers hosted a community consultation to discuss the future of the play.

The rally followed a statement from the theatre posted on Tuesday, which said the Belfry was contemplating the future of the play.

“We thank those of you who have expressed your convictions, and we are listening. We value and respect these conversations in our community,” reads the statement.

“We have been having many complex conversations about the production, its content, and its impact on the community.”

The theatre says it is still figuring out its next steps but expects to have an update early next year.

It adds that copies of the script will be available in the Belfry box office starting January 8 for anyone who wants to read it.

READ MORE: Vandals target Belfry Theatre amid controversy over upcoming play

Following the protest, the steps of the theatre were vandalized, with stickers and graffiti reading “Free Palestine” plastered all over.

Victoria Police say that the demonstration only lasted 30 minutes. CHEK News has asked if a vandalism investigation is underway.

“The Runner” creator, Christopher Morris, redirected CHEK News’ request for comment to the theatre.

CHEK News has sent out multiple requests to the Belfry, rally organizers and organizers of both petitions for comment

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