Fire Exit Theatre strives to produce excellent, innovative art that unlocks the soul of its audience and builds:
- A vibrant, meaningful community engaged in a dialogue about faith, and
- A satisfying creative experience for developed and developing artists.
- Hope - Art, at its foundation, should provide hope. Art can and should reflect the darkness of the world, but we refuse to live in that darkness.
- Challenge - We seek to challenge people wherever they are on their faith journey; to re-examine their traditions, their prejudices, and their preconceived ideas.
- Change - Art should generate change and should not simply be entertainment that is consumed and forgotten.
- Craft - There is power is doing something well. We strive for excellence in all of our endeavours.
- Radical Hospitality - We want people to feel like they are welcome and that they belong.
- Integrity - We will be honest, consistent, fair and just in all of our practices; creative, financial, personal and organizational.
- Generosity – We will operate from a place of “open hands”; holding loosely to our resources and our expertise for the greater good of our community.
A Message from the Artistic Director
The new world. I’ll be honest, I’m still holding pretty tightly to the old world. Maybe it’s pure nostalgia, remembering something not completely accurate; the good-old-days. I am missing some things. I’m missing sitting elbow to elbow in a theatre with strangers watching live actors tell us beautiful stories. I’m missing handshakes. I miss hugging my family and my friends. I miss being in rehearsal halls with ridiculously creative people working and playing together. I miss you. Our audience and artists who we create with and create for. I miss listening to you laugh and cry and seeing you nod your head in agreement with the actors when something resonates with you. I miss our crowded lobby where we drink coffee talk about what we just experienced together.
Rest assured we will do this again.
But, admittedly, there are things I do not miss about the old world and need to be cautious about allowing back in to the new one. Excessive busyness. The need to be doing. All. The. Time. I have had some time to simply be. This has been quite uncomfortable for me. I realize how much I am defined by this; by my need to do. This isn’t all bad; I’ve gotten a lot done. But I know that it can also be my shield; what I hide behind. What I use to prevent people from getting a really good look at me. I will be cautious about shopping as a form of entertainment and a way to fill the void. It’s amazing how little you can live with. I will be cautious about surrounding myself with noise; being okay to sit in the silence and let the silence sit in me. I will not take for granted being able to get on a plane to go see someone I love. I will hug more. I will hold my grand plans more loosely. I will try to just breathe.
And I will keep telling stories that matter and supporting art and artists that do this. Friends, our arts community is hurting is right now. They are reeling from the uncertainty of when they will return to work – many of whom will not return to the arts – as well grappling with the hard realities of a race war and what our response should be to the inequities in our world. In our isolation we, are wrestling with – if what we do even matters anymore.
I have spent most of my life based on the belief that art matters. Even in times of financial recession, civil unrest, natural and unnatural disasters, and world pandemics. Art matters because it is foundational to our humanness. To create something from nothing. To squeeze an idea out of our heads and bring it to life. To express our deepest pain and greatest joy. To ask questions that have no answer but to find healing just in the asking. To pull us closer together and to our Creator. This is what art is and does. It was never meant to be on the fringes of our lives, but to be an integral part of our everyday experience. The thing that challenges us and soothes us. That reflects who we are but nudges us to be something else. That highlights the truth by telling us a fable.
I not only love arts, I love artists. I love the people that put their reputations on the line and wear their hearts on their sleeves so that we can live vicariously through them.
Our mandate from the beginning has not only been to produce thoughtful, high quality art we are also trying to make a difference in this community. Whether that be providing paid work for artists or lending out our resources or promoting another company or event or showing up to help take down a set after closing night. Our heart is for the artists.
I hope you know that when you support us you are supporting our vision to have healthy, productive artists creating world class art in Calgary. We are, admittedly, a very small piece of this, but we are a piece. We feel like we are a valuable voice in this cultural landscape that includes many ideas, opinions and world views. We feel we belong here for such a time as this.
Our byline is Hope-Challenge-Change. I feel like the last two will take care of themselves; right now, they are inevitable. The first one is proving to be a little more difficult. I have struggled to muster up hope in the face of an “enemy” that I have little or no control over with no real end in sight. But maybe this is when hope is at its best. When it seems impossible, implausible. When there’s just no way this is gonna work out – this is when hope matters. It gets us through the next hour, the next day, the next season. I love watching mountain climbing documentaries, especially the free climbers – no ropes. No thank you. There’s always that moment when they are clinging to the side of a mountain, thousands of feet in the air, when it looks like there is not a foot hold to be found when they reach out for the most minuet crack in the wall that they slide their pinky in to and it holds their whole body weight. Sometimes that’s my image of hope. It is the smallest sliver to hang on to – that will save us.
In uncertain times it’s lovely to be certain of this – that our patrons will continue to buy tickets, to bring friends, to sponsor, to volunteer, to donate and ensure that we continue to thrive in a world desperate for a sliver of hope.
We love creating with you and for you and we hope to see you in January.
Susan Erion – President
Susan works for the City of Calgary in the area of Affordable Housing. She has been a fan of Fire Exit Theatre for many years and is passionate about its mission. She has experience serving on other faith-based board of directors and has also worked in the Calgary music community for a not-for-profit organization. She volunteers with the Centre Street Choir enjoys playing the piano and is currently taking cello lessons as her next musical outlet. Susan believes that the fine arts are what define the legacy of each culture and generation (next to Biblical beliefs, of course) and wants to share what Fire Exit is doing in Calgary.
Michael Wing – Treasurer
Michael is passionate about the local arts and culture scene, from theatre to film, live music, festivals and everything in between. He currently works in strategy and corporate development, and has over 15 years of experience in the financial and energy sectors. Michael also enjoys volunteering with other organizations around the city including Commons Church (where he met his wife, Christi), Calgary International Film Festival, and the local community association.
Glen Hoare – Director at Large
Glen has discovered a new passion in providing behind the scenes support for the arts community in Calgary through Fire Exit Theatre. A graduate of Canadian Bible College with a Bachelor of Religious Education in 2000, he currently works with the Government of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. Glen volunteers his time and talents in a variety of avenues recently including set construction for "Absence".
Joy Robinson – Director at Large
Joy is passionate about spreading hope by way of the arts, whether through spoken word or song. She is a Newfoundland-born, Calgary-based artist performing as an actor and most recently as a singer/songwriter. She has performed on stage as an actor with Fire Exit Theatre and off stage in an Assistant Stage Manager role and is now delighted to sit on the company's board. When Joy isn't creating or performing, she can be found at Centre Street Church where she has worked for the last four years as a worship leader and assistant to worship and live video departments.
Brenda Jonsson – Director at Large
As a child, Brenda dreamed of acting in, directing and producing Nancy Drew movies. But she ended up pursuing, instead of theatre arts, the practical field of business (of all things)! God, in His wisdom, has used that to enable Brenda to become a patron of the arts, including theatre, ballet, opera and symphony. After a two year hiatus, Brenda rejoined the Board and is glad to once again know what goes on behind the scenes at Fire Exit. Brenda considers herself an avid supporter of the arts and Fire Exit Theatre in particular, is near and dear to her heart.
Lisa Congo – Director at Large
Lisa Congo is a lifelong Calgarian. She just recently graduated with her Masters in Christian Studies. Lisa is the Principal Director of Programming and Operations with Sonshine Community Services – a Calgary 2nd Stage Women's Shelter. She loves to read, sing and do competitive knitting. Lisa believes strongly that the theatre arts are a critical tool for communicating truth and the reality of the lived human existence.
Shelia Bettin – Secretary
Sheila is a graduate of the College of New Caledonia’s Legal Secretarial Program and has had many years of administrative experience with various companies and educational institutions in Alberta and BC. She currently works with Calgary Christian School on their Elementary Campus and volunteers with Inn From The Cold as the Lead Dinner Coordinator and is part of a worship team with Centre Street Church. Sheila has been married for 32 years and is a mother to two adult children. Her favourite activities include attending theatre and music performances with family and friends.
Val Lieske – Managing Artistic Director
Val is the founder and Artistic Director of Fire Exit Theatre as well the Director of Theatre Arts with Centre Street Church, instructor with Alberta Bible College and the Associate Director of the Theatre Program at Ambrose Univeristy. She has a BA in Theatre & Speech from Trinity Guild University (UK) and has worked with numerous churches and theatre companies. Val also works as a freelance, writer, educator, performer, and public speaker. Her writing credits include DUTY TO WARN, COFFEE TALK, GOD’S ATTENTION, BRUISED NOT BROKEN, PAST TENSE, FLESH & BONES and ABSENCE winner of 2006 CAT Best Original Script. Directing credits include THE DISEASED VIGNETTE’S, BIBLE LIBEL, WRAPPINGS, INSIDE GALILEE, and Neil Simon’s GOD’S FAVORITE. This season she’ll be directing NATIVITY IN THE CITY. Her book CROSSROADS CAFÉ enjoyed some time on the Calgary Herald’s best-seller list.
Colin Lowe – Technical Director
Colin Lowe has been part of the Calgary Arts and Performance community for over 12 years, it is both profession and a personal passion. He graduated from the Cinema, Television, Stage and Radio program at SAIT in 2001, and immediately immersed himself in film and theatre. Colin has worked as a film and video editor, media relations director, sound designer (both film and theatrical), lighting designer, stage manager, tech operator, technical coordinator, technical director, instrumental musician, vocalist, actor, choral and orchestral director, and musical composer and arranger. This will be the 4th season of Fire Exit that Colin has been involved with since 2005; Fire Exit design credits include Under A Bridge, Along A River, Halo, and Craving. Colin is thrilled to be able to return to Fire Exit Theatre in a professional capacity and looks forward to what is in store for it's patrons, and new theatre-goers alike.