Opening the heart in Leave of Absence

With February being the month of love, it seems appropriate that Leave of Absence‘s Director, Alix Reynolds hopes Walterdale’s production will “push someone in the direction of love.”

But that’s not meant in the cheesy sense of hearts, chocolate and candlelit dinners. Instead, what Alix means is more in the realm of love towards one another. “I want people to come out of the theatre starting conversations, asking questions and looking at their own lives and saying why do I do what I do? How can I love more fully and treat people with dignity and respect?”

A young girl sits in a church staring up at a pride flag.
Lilly Hauck (Blake) in Leave of Absence. Photo credit Henderson Images.

In Leave of Absence by Lucia Frangione, a young woman named Blake is suspected of being gay and bullied by her classmates. Alix explains, “The show is about a young girl who is growing up in a very religious community. It’s described as being a bedroom community outside of a booming Canadian city… The play focuses on Blake and her struggles to explore her sexuality. She doesn’t really associate herself as being gay – she doesn’t really have the opportunity to figure it out. The play focuses on the tragedy that befalls her, but it’s important for me for people coming into the show they see the possibility and hope of all the things she could be.”

“I think this show makes a point of looking at relevant topics and paints the world as imperfect and the characters as really well-rounded. This show does a good job of showing all the sides of a multifaceted, complex issue that is affecting our audience members here in Edmonton.”

One of the key questions the play asks is around the supports available to LGBTQ+ youth, especially in religious communities, following the same-sex marriage rulings in Canada. Alix says the play tackles the tension between some religious leader’s traditional teachings about homosexuality at the same time Canadian society is making strides to become increasingly more accepting. The central character, Blake, is caught in the pull of these two forces but Alix says the question is simple and revolves around the love and support adults offer to children.

A man stands in the foreground gazing angrily while four people are in the background staring in various directions.
The Cast of Leave of Absence. Photo credit: Kristen Finlay.

“The show does a good job of asking parents to look at what they’re doing for their children and asks if they are doing enough. In the case of Blake, everyone knows there is a problem. Everyone knows that there are concerns, but no one knows how to address them properly. No one can give her the space she needs to grow and explore and discover who she is. She’s smothered into a prison one way or another. The play asks the question are we doing enough? Are we loving fully enough? Are we accepting our children for who they are or are we demanding they fit into some sort of box, whether that’s gender, sexuality, religion or any other box?”

While the play will no doubt be controversial, Alix says to her that controversy means the content is relevant and space for dialogue needs to be opened up. ” If your walls are up, you can’t ask questions and you can’t grow. For me, the ability to ask questions and challenge beliefs is key to moving forward as a society. I want people to look at their lives and just start, just take one step on that journey. If I can have one person start thinking that ‘you’re welcome in my church, you can pray next to me even though you also walk at the pride parade’ – this play has done its job.”


Leave of Absence by Lucia Frangione plays at Walterdale Theatre February 6 – 16. Tickets are $15 – $20 at the door or through Tix on the Square. Thursday, February 7 tickets are 2-for-1 at the door and Tuesday, February 12 tickets are pay-what-you-will at the door.

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