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The Gift is Where We Are: L’Arche 50th GALA

By Beth Porter

Journey to the Greatest Gift Cast photo
The Journey to the Greatest Gift Cast on stage.

A red foam nose, a flower, a political sign, a finger light, a bubble-blower, a rubber duck, coloured glasses — all in a brightly decorated bag depicting people on a flower-bordered path journeying towards a boat, a rainbow and a large sun in a blue sky — this treasure trove greeted each attendee as we found our seats for L’Arche Daybreak’s 50th anniversary gala theatre presentation, Journey to the Greatest Gift. Had we any doubt from the lively buzz as we entered Richmond Hill’s Performing Arts Centre, we knew for certain now that this was going to be an evening of fun. Audience participation would be key. To begin, we were invited to exchange our flower with someone nearby.


Inside the program, a map illustrated the remarkable terrain and places through which we were to journey with protagonists Mike (Mike Liu) and Lucy (Lucy Virone) as they searched for food and a home. They would pass through a dry oasis (where the audience helped provide “rain”), the City of Amore (where hippies promoted a politics of love), mountains, and a dark forest. For guidance they had a Goldfinch (Mary Bastedo playing her flute accompanied by Belle Hislop, Barb Nastos and Brandon Zak) and Grace, their fairy godmother (Clara Fraschetti) on whom they could call when at an impasse.


The story unfolded with live music and unexpected turns such as Michael Arnett’s landing in a rocket on a far-off planet. Anyone who knows Mike knows he loves rockets. The audience put on their red noses and laughed to provide the CO2 to fuel the rocket’s take off.


The Red Tape Trolls (Justin Colford and Warren Pot) were another example of the perfect casting. Warren with this authoritative voice and Justin rubbing his hands together in glee, demanded a permit or payment of “one million-dollars” for entrance to key locations.


As the lights dimmed and pictures of community members who have died were projected, many of us wept in remembrance. High school choirs lined both aisles leading “Calling All Angels,” and then, as we waved our finger lights, “We are tiny lights … in a world we know is going to be all right.” Next, a surprise video of Jean Vanier putting on his coloured glasses.


Exhausted, just before Mike and Lucy reach their home at L’Arche Daybreak, they have a falling out and need Grace’s help to cross the Sea of Forgiveness. The entire cast joins them on stage for the finale, “The Gift is Where We Are.”


Everyone who wanted to, was encouraged to be in the gala. Thanks to the commitment, imagination and love of Stephanie Sandberg, Anna MacLean, Evangeline Whitlock, Lisa Nackan and a host of others who designed and sewed costumes and puppets, built sets, shared musical talents, and worked behind the scenes. 


The Journey to the Greatest Gift theatrical performance was video recorded and is now in the editing process. It will be live-streamed on October 16, 2019 (L’Arche Daybreak’s birthday) world-wide. Stay tuned for more information.


Browse the gallery of photographs from the Journey to the Greatest Gift. Many thanks to Tomasz Sewilski from Best Dream Photography and Kevin Diamond for the beautiful photographs.