Prodigal Son – Media & Reviews

The Pulse of God In Me

READ A FEATURED ARTICLE by Andre Gagne in Ottawa Life Magazine.

“What is good about 9th Hour Theatre Company is their unflinching courage to tackle bold and often sensitive subjects. What is great about them is their consistently challenging and artistic story telling that manages to hold up a mirror to its audience, no matter the topic… George Dutch’s dramaturgy combined with the direction of Jonathan Harris produce nothing short of magic… The whole project is clearly the product of dedicated team work. The connection between actors is so real that it seems more like a glimpse into a private world than scenes at the stage.” ~Capital Critics Circle

READ THE FULL REVIEW by Rajka Stefanovska of the Capital Critics Circle.

“Prodigal Son tackles a topic that is new to 9th Hour and one that is rarely, to my knowledge, addressed on stage… Harris’s direction is rock-solid, but there is one point in the play that had me holding my breath. He manages to portray Young Peter’s ecstatic spiritual experience as totally believable. I’ve never seen this done successfully on stage… it does make you think, no matter where you stand on theology. And my atheist husband enjoys their plays as much as I, a Catholic, do. Looking for thoughtful and polished theatre? Then see Prodigal Son! I’m looking forward to 9th Hour’s next production.” ~Apartment 613

READ THE FULL REVIEW by Barbara Popel of Apartment 613.


“9th Hour Theatre Company did an amazing job with Prodigal Son – I saw it on Sat night and I was blown away. Such a powerful story, and the actors were unreal. Hopefully I’ll get to see more from 9th Hour.”

“Wow! Prodigal Son was a very powerful and moving production. Bravo to all involved.”

Prodigal Son – Artistic Director Message

I Make The World


9th Hour Theatre Company has a mandate to engage theatre in order to explore, examine, and express questions, ideas, and stories relating to faith. With an ensemble approach to telling stories, we strive to challenge ourselves and audiences with the big questions raised from our art, and seek to unpack the rich themes and emotional landscape of these stories.

As soon as I read the play, I was moved and inspired, firstly that the story depicts faith as something beautiful and precious through the lens of a child, and something worth pursuing and recovering in a fresh way, but also the pain and tension that LGBTQ people of faith have historically suffered and continue to face today regarding their own validity and belonging in faith community, even in Ottawa, even in 2017. It’s wonderful that Prodigal Son is a Canadian story, and yet timeless in its themes which can be relevant to any society or religion. As a company that tackles the tough questions and ideas relating to faith, we hadn’t yet presented a story that dove into the super charged topic of sexuality and how it relates to faith. I knew this was the one. I am extremely pleased with the sheer artistry and talent that came on board to tell this story, both the cast and design team. Almost everyone seemed to have some personal stake in the story and passionately wanted to tell it.

We recognize that LGBTQ people of faith are an often overlooked invisibly hurting people in our society, and usually misunderstood in both faith and wider LGBTQ communities due to the historic and ongoing tension of identity related to sexuality and spirituality. We are passionate about telling this story in order to shed light on their struggles and open the discussion to promote understanding in wider social circles. Prodigal Son depicts the often painful journey for LGBTQ people coming from or part of faith communities. Many have abandoned their faith communities or faith itself out of a need for survival or a belief that God or those who represent God are uncomfortable with them or hate them. Sadly, many struggle with mental health or have taken their own lives due to the crippling emotional burden and pain they have had to endure from the loss of community, position, friends, family, identity, livelihood, and hope. Many still thrive and are beacons of resilience, compassion, bravery, and strength, forging forward in their faith and in relationships with others who often would oppose them and even deny them their faith identity or happiness.

It is my hope that you enjoy our non-naturalistic stylized presentation of this emotional story, using the ensemble’s voices, bodies, and collective movement to highlight the themes and entertain you throughout. Each character is complex and human, acting out of their own tradition and understanding. Love is central to the story, a father’s love for the church and tradition, his love for his son with an inability to express it, Peter’s love for God, for his family, and his love for his partner.

There is an enormous gulf and history of hurt between religion and LGBTQ people. It is my hope that Peter’s story brings some hope and healing to those who have been hurt, and that the story of Prodigal Son generates some compassion in the place of judgement that would contribute to what I imagine is only the beginnings of a long and much needed process of reconciliation between religious communities and LGBTQ people.

Ian Farthing – Artistic Advisor

We are pleased to announce that IAN FARTHING has been appointed as 9th Hour Theatre Company’s Artistic Advisor.

Ian is a freelance director, actor and writer. He served for 9 years as Artistic Director of the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott, Ontario. In 2014, he was honored with the Capital Critics Circle Audrey Ashley Award for “the excellence of his continuing contribution to theatre”. He is also an Associate Artist at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver.

In 2013, Ian starred in Jesus, My Boy by John Dowie in a St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival production presented by 9th Hour Theatre Company in Ottawa and Chesterville, Ontario. Ian also performed in 9th Hour’s Hear My Song fundraiser for street engaged youth in 2014. Ian Farthing

Artists, Mystics, and Clowns

Authour Brennan Manning explores the need for artists, mystics, and clowns in expressing the transcendent and spiritual:

Fyodor Dostoyevsky passionately believed that he had embodied the soul of the Russian peasant in Marmeladov, the discharged town clerk and disgraced town drunk of Crime and Punishment – a clown, a buffoon, and the father of Sonia, a prostitute.

In a tavern in St. Petersburg, besotted with booze, Marmeladov engages the young rationalist Raskolnikov in conversation. Though the object of derision and mockery by the locals, Marmeladov insists that he is not to be pitied:

But He will have pity on me Who has pity on all men, Who has understood all men and all things. He is the One. He too is the judge. He will come on that day and He will ask, “Where is the daughter [Sonia] who had pity upon the filthy drunkard, her earthly father, undismayed by his beastliness… He will forgive my Sonia, He will forgive, I know it.

Then He will summon us. “You too come forth,” He will say. “Come forth, ye drunkards, come forth, ye weak ones, come forth, ye children of shame!” And the wise and those of understanding will say: “Oh Lord, why dost Thou receive these men?” And He will say: “This is why I receive them, oh ye wise, this is why I receive them, oh ye of understanding, that not one of them believed himself to be worthy of this.” And He will hold out his hands to us and we shall fall down before Him… and we shall weep… and we shall understand all… and all will understand… Lord, Thy kingdom come!”

Dostoyevsky maintained that at the heart of the Russian peasant life existed an unshaken trust in the unrestricted mercy of God… The author’s contemporary, Leo Tolstoy, published his classic novel War and Peace three years after Crime and Punishment. In a dialogue between the saintly Princess Mary and her brother Prince Andrew, she echoes Dostoyevsky’s ethos. Quoting a haunting French proverb, she says, “We should enter everyone’s situation. Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner” – to understand all is to forgive all.

…And what of the human heart’s capacity to understand God? Here we need the help of passionate visionaries such as Dostoyevsky. Sacred scripture is too important to be left exclusively to biblical scholars. Theology is too vital to be consigned solely to the province of theologians. To explore the depths of the God who invites our trust, we need the artists, and mystics.

Selected excerpts from Chapter 5 of Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God by Brennan Manning.

Read the full excerpt of ARTISTS, MYSTICS, AND CLOWNS

The Persuasion of Beauty

Thornton Wilder (American playwright, authour of Our Town) commenting on some of his short and more religiously themed works, including The Angel That Troubled the Waters at The Davis House, Lawrenceville, New Jersey, June, 1928:

“Almost all the plays in this book are religious, but religious in that dilute fashion that is a believer’s concession to a contemporary standard of good manners. But these four plant their flag as boldly as they may. It is the kind of work that I would most like to do well, in spite of the fact that there has seldom been an age in literature when such a vein was less welcome and less understood. I hope, through many mistakes, to discover the spirit that is not unequal to the elevation of the great religious themes, yet which does not fall into a repellent didacticism. Didacticism is an attempt at the coercion of another’s free mind, even though one knows that in these matters beyond logic, beauty is the only persuasion. Here the schoolmaster enters again. He sees all that is fairest in the Christian tradition made repugnant to the new generations by reason of the diction in which it is expressed. The intermittent sincerity of generations of clergymen and teachers have rendered embarrassing and even ridiculous all the terms of the spiritual life. Nothing succeeds in dampening the aspirations of the young today… –  like the names they hear given to them. The revival of religion is almost a matter of rhetoric. The work is difficult, perhaps impossible (perhaps all religions die out with the exhaustion of the language), but it at least reminds us that Our Lord asked us in His work to be not only as gentle as doves, but as wise as serpents.”

~Thornton Wilder (American playwright)


This article was originally posted in April, 2013

Beauty In Brokenness

Producing Artistic Director, Jonathan Harris, shares some thoughts on finding beauty in brokenness and conveying such beauty through the art of story telling:

“Is there something beautiful to be found in that which is broken, damaged, shattered, or in disrepair? Is there something desirable in the unwanted, something redeemable in the seemingly useless? Can something magnificent come out of things or events that are heart breaking, painful, and tragic? Can anything good come out of suffering and pain? Henri Nouwen in his book, “Life of The Beloved” shares some thoughts on the subject:

As I write you now about our brokenness, I recall a scene from Leonard Bernstein’s Mass (a musical work written in memory of John F. Kennedy) that embodied for me the thought of brokenness put under the blessing. Toward the end of this work, the priest, richly dressed in splendid liturgical vestments, is lifted up by his people. He towers high above the adoring crowd, carrying in his hands a glass chalice. Suddenly, the human pyramid collapses, and the priest comes tumbling down. His vestments are ripped off, and his glass chalice falls to the ground and is shattered. As he walks slowly through the debris of his former glory—barefoot, wearing only blue jeans and a T-shirt—children’s voices are heard singing, “Laude, laude, laude”—“Praise, praise, praise.” Suddenly the priest notices the broken chalice. He looks at it for a long time and then, haltingly, he says, “I never realised that broken glass could shine so brightly.”

Perhaps brokenness points to deeper meaning in life, to a need for something beyond ourselves, to a transcendent experience, or to an inexpressible joy. Perhaps brokenness provides a special quality to something or someone, a unique perspective, an intriguing angle, a distinguished imagination, or a lovable characteristic. Perhaps the wounds we all have credit us with a special strength we would otherwise not possess, a strength that may be of benefit to someone else, or for something else we are unaware. In the words of American playwright Thornton Wilder in his short play “The Angel that Troubled the Waters“, “Without your wound where would your power be?” 

So much can be expressed through imagination and creative story telling. It is such a privilege and challenge to share and experience stories through theatre and real life that reveal this often hidden beauty in a wound. We usually have to look really hard to find it, but through stories, it becomes more apparent. These stories have the potential to bestow upon us an otherwise inaccessible and intangible gift, which ultimately allows us to touch and change the lives of others through the power of our very own wound or brokenness.

In the Japanese art form, Kintsukuroi, broken pottery is fixed with a lacquer resin sprinkled with powdered gold, thus increasing the overall value of the creation. I wonder if such a simple and fascinating technique can reveal to us something magical about the human life, human condition, or human spirit as well.”

~Jonathan Harris (Producing Artistic Director)

This blog was originally posted in April, 2013

Creation Business – Media


Director JONATHAN HARRIS and Ensemble Cast member and Dramaturge GEORGE DUTCH discuss the play with RABBI BULKA on “Sunday Night Live With Rabbi Bulka”, July 12, 2015 on 580 CFRA radio. LISTEN TO THE FULL DISCUSSION

Message from the Director JONATHAN HARRIS on the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s website about staging the play. READ THE BLOG

Review of the play by Rajka Stefanovska for the Capital Critics Circle. READ THE REVIEW

Ottawa Magazine’s article by Amy Allen and Matt Harrison about the play, featured in the Weekender of “6 things to do on the weekend”. READ THE ARTICLE

Ottawa Life Magazine’s article by Kate Tenenhouse about the play “9th Hour Brings Comedy and Conflict to the Stage” READ THE ARTICLE

Review of the play by Jennifer Hartley for Ottawa Life Magazine. READ THE REVIEW

Review of the play by Jennifer Cavanagh for Apartment 613. READ THE REVIEW

Review by Daniel Bezalel Richardsen for Herd Magazine. READ THE REVIEW

Ivan and Adolf – Media

May 20, 2015 interview segment with Producing Artistic Director JONATHAN HARRIS on 580 CFRA “Late Night Counsell” with John Counsell. LISTEN TO SEGMENT (May 20, 2015 intro of podcast and at time index 20:30)

May 28, 2015 interview segment with actor playing ‘Adolf’ DAVID PLOUFFE and guest discussion panelist RABBI BULKA on CBC radio’s “All In a Day” with host Alan Neal. LISTEN TO SEGMENT

June 4, 2015 review by Allyson Domanski for Newswest On-line. READ REVIEW

Summer 2015 magazine “Power and Influence” by The Hill Times READ ARTICLE