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Local play explores the ethics of charity work

By Rachel Woodward, April 5 2016 —

Ethical dilemmas and questions of morality are at the centre of Benefit, a play from Downstage Theatre showing from April 13–30 at Motel Theatre at the Arts Commons. Downstage worked with Edmonton playwright Matthew MacKenzie to bring the show to Calgary.


Benefit is playing at Arts Commons downtown. // Courtesy Thivierr

Benefit tells the story of an organization that raises money under the pretense of educating girls in the developing world — and the questionable activity that goes on behind closed doors. The play is set in Lake Louise, where the organization’s fundraising gala is taking place.

“Some secrets come out that call into question the degree of ethics that are involved in the foundation and how they are raising money,” director Simon Mallett says. “It raises the question of the kinds of moral trade-offs that we are willing to make for what we determine to be the greater good. It’s what we are willing to sacrifice of ourselves and others for a good cause.”

This moral ambiguity forms the dramatic core of Benefit. Mallett says the play should make audiences question the world around them.

“Everything we are producing is engaged with some moral and social questions that we are interested in creating conversation around,” he says. “Part of the intent behind the conversation is to bring people together that wouldn’t otherwise necessarily talk to each other on a regular basis. [We are] using the show as a shared experience and a starting point for those conversations.”

Downstage Theatre will launch a new program called Pay-It-Forward alongside their showing of Benefit. The program aims to make theatre accessible for low-income Calgarians.

“The idea is that for every performance of the show, 25 per cent of the tickets will be available for no cost,” Mallett says. “So you are welcome to go in and have the experience. And if it’s an experience that you value, you are invited to pay it forward, either by advocating for the show to other people and inviting them to see it.”

Benefit is playing from April 13–30 at Motel Theatre. Tickets to the show are $25. Pay-It-Forward tickets are available for no cost an hour and a half before each show.

For more information about Benefit and for tickets, visit downstage.ca.

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