A shot from the rehearsal of Being Here: The Refugee Project, the Belfry Theatre’s filmed play that’s set to open on March 16. (Photo: Belfry Theatre)

A shot from the rehearsal of Being Here: The Refugee Project, the Belfry Theatre’s filmed play that’s set to open on March 16. (Photo: Belfry Theatre)

Victoria’s Belfry Theatre shows filmed play on refugee, sponsor experience

Being Here: The Refugee Project is based off the first-hand accounts of refugees and their sponsors

An upcoming Belfry Theatre play gives audiences a window into the experience of refugees who came to Canada and their sponsors.

Being Here: The Refugee Project has moved to a filmed production due to the pandemic.

The play is based off of interviews with refugees and their sponsors that were conducted by journalist and playwright Joel Bernbaum. Those interviews were recorded and then transcribed with punctuation to reflect the exact inflection, pace and mood of the subjects.

That was done because Being Here is a verbatim play, meaning every word in the script comes from real-world exchanges. Being Here’s director said the play’s actor have never heard the tapes from the interviews, they’ve only seen transcripts.

“The voices of the actual people come through the actors,” said Michael Shamata. “They’re just working from the transcripts, so they’re embodying the people that were interviewed.”

He said the play seeks to show the perspective of what went behind the refugees’ journeys to Canada and the challenges they faced once they got here. That will help put a human face on what Shamata said has become a “blanket issue.”

READ: Belfry Theatre offers ‘rare and unusual wines’ for online auction

“It’s an opportunity to get a first-hand perspective on what has been a major part of the country, forever,” he said. “The reasons that they come here are very different and the experiences are different.”

The show is made up of five major stories, performed by a cast of seven actors that will play multiple roles throughout.

Included in the play is the story of two Ghanaian men who lost their fingers to frostbite after they crossed into Manitoba by foot in mid-winter, with the hope of seeking asylum in Canada.

The project has evolved over the last four years. In the beginning, Shamata said it was specifically going to look at how Syrian refugees were settling into their new Canadian lives. However, the director said those stories were being widely covered by multiple media outlets, so the project eventually landed on the angle of looking at the refugees and their sponsors.

The refugee-sponsor relationships portrayed in the play cover ones where the two parties got along, but also ones that were fraught with challenge.

The filmed play is about 90 minutes and runs from March 16 to 21. Tickets and more information are available at belfry.bc.ca.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:jake.romphf@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Belfry TheatreVictoria

Just Posted

Berwick by the Sea resident Hilda Shilliday, 91, is ready to participate in the Grandmothers to Grandmothers’ Stride to turn the Tide fundraising event that runs April 11-25. Register on the event website for a fee of $20 which goes to support the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s work in Africa, then do any kind of exercise, log the time, distance or whatever and be eligible for a prize package. Photo contributed
91-year-old Vancouver Islander ready to Stride to Turn the Tide

Campbell River’s Hilda Shilliday encourages everyone to support African grandmothers

Exterior of Highland Manor shows at least one broken window, covered with a blanket. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Reclaiming blighted Vancouver Island apartment complex requires more than paint

Improvements to Port Hardy’s troubled Highland Manor are slow and stuck in red tape

Kit Thornton, chief aquarist at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, plays with Wanda, the female Giant Pacific octopus currently residing at the centre. The centre will release Wanda back into the wild next month. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
An octopus named Wanda will soon say goodbye to Sidney

Wanda’s personality is ‘complete opposite’ of previous octopus named after Dr. Bonnie Henry

Carson Grant, general manager of Comox Valley Dodge regularly reaches out to people to assist with vehicles, food, clothes and more. Google Maps photo
Vancouver Islander getting back on her feet thanks to kindness of her community

Woman was living in her broken-down truck in Comox Valley when her call for help was answered

The Town of Lake Cowichan wants to get more people out of their cars. That should be the goal of all of the transportation plans currently under review in the Cowichan Valley. (Gazette file)
Editorial: Time to dream up better transportation options

Vancouver Island needs to ask ‘how are we going to get there from here?’

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

The City of Parksville encourages residents to visit outdoor restaurant patios as part of a social media challenge. (Submitted photo)
Parksville promotes patio patrons to post pictures to support restaurant industry

Patio Challenge: Take a photo of your food for social media

Campbell River’s Repair Cafe is on once again next week at the Sportsplex. It’ll just look a little different than people are used to. Mirror File Photo
Got a broken thing? Repair Cafe is once again looking for stuff to fix

Annual Campbell River service will be a drop-off/pick-up situation due to COVID-19 protocols

Anna Wu, a young golfer from Victoria, came in second at the Masters’ Drive, Chip and Putt challenge at the Augusta National Golf Club on March 4. (Photo courtesy of Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Victoria golfer places second at Masters’ Drive, Chip and Putt youth competition

Anna Wu’s chipping challenge hole out was praised by Masters champ Phil Mickelson

‘Frank Ney’ by Patrick Flavin, ‘Millstone River Upper Falls’ by John Collison Baker, ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’ by MA Molcan, ‘On the Other Side’ by Liana Ravensbergen, ‘December Snow’ by Laurel Karjala and ‘Jacks Point’ by Dana Smiley (cropped, clockwise from top-left) are among the works in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s latest exhibition. (Photos courtesy Nanaimo Arts Council)
Nanaimo Arts Council presents its first online gallery show

Submissions now open for upcoming ‘Ekphrastic Celebration’ show

Most Read