Ministry of Grace
Ministry of Grace, written by Tara Beagan, was first produced in Toronto’s Indigenous Arts Festival @ Fort York, June 20, 21 and 22, 2014 at Fort York.
Our protagonist, Mary, finds herself in a great deal of trouble and very far from home. She has departed the Interior of BC and fled to California. Powerless to the law requiring First Nations children to attend Indian Residential Schools, now unable to see her children while they are in the institution, Mary leaves the painful reminder of what was formerly their shared home for foreign climes. Our play opens when Mary has been terminated from her position as a harvest hand on a cotton plantation. She reacted violently to the plantation owner’s sexual advances, and is being detained in a chain-locked barn. A visiting evangelical minister, Brother Cain, intrudes on her captivity, having learned of her penchant for reading to the less literate labourers from the Bible. Mary is soon recruited (in effect, purchased) by the evangelist, to join his “ministry” as the Tamed Heathen. She will become an attraction, a savage reading from scripture on the pulpit stage.
Mary is brought to the ministry tent site, and quickly renamed the less denominationally evocative “Grace” by the ex-communicated former Catholic seminary student, Brother Cain. Pitching crew member and Cree colossus Clem takes a true shine to Grace, becoming her protector and friend. Clem longs to be more, and declares this to Grace, but Grace knows she must return home to meet her children when they are released from school, and her wayward husband if ever he should return. Grace has not previously experienced the tender, altruistic care Clem offers and feels increasingly torn about her feelings for him as his own love deepens. Meanwhile, she combats stage fright and a more profound fear of her own healing gifts as Brother Cain feigns healing gifts of his own for profit. Grace must face her self-effacing fears, and conquer formerly insurmountable hurt in order to start the journey back home, and to actualize as her true self.