Religion and science aren't always the most comfortable of partners, but they come together in the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), a Jesuit priest and paleontologist who firmly believed in evolution.
The man and his studies inspired The De Chardin Project, Adam Seybold's new play for the Quickening Theatre Company, a group whose work includes Fish Face and Mister Baxter.
"His story is surprising both in what he believed and in his own life," says Seybold. "Because I was raised in a small community and in the Presbyterian church, I understand the importance that ideology can play in a person's life.
"I was taught that one can believe either in science or religion, evolution or the Bible. You have to choose between [evolutionary biologist] Richard Dawkins or [conservative Christian] Pat Robertson."
De Chardin, a devout Jesuit, was a "both/and" rather than an "either/or" thinker.
"He saw the two views as complementing rather than contradicting each other," notes the playwright, who plays de Chardin in the production. "Teilhard looked at how human beings got to the place where they are and why they did so. In his writings, he stated that evolution had a direction of increasing complexity and consciousness, culminating in a human world linked to the Divine."
Those writings were quite contentious in the early part of the 20th century, though at the time they never got further than his own religious order. Forbidden to publish or speak of his ideas, de Chardin, a scientist as well as a priest, was banished to China in the 1930s. He was part of the team that discovered the skull of Peking Man, a milestone in evolutionary science.
De Chardin's writings were finally published after his death; The Phenomenon Of Man became a bestseller.
"He was a fascinating person, a religious figure who refused to leave his order, who had a platonic relationship with a female artist and never lost his belief in the science that was central to his life."
De Chardin's ideas may be stimulating, but how does Seybold make them theatrical?
"Yes," he laughs, "there's the potential for a really bad play here, with Teilhard in a room debating someone about beliefs and scientific findings. I've chosen to look at the man at the moment of his death, with a Guide replaying his life for him and giving the audience a context for what the man has done.
"There are only two actors onstage, myself and Kate Fenton, who plays the Guide in various incarnations. As the script developed, the show's theatricality became tied to Teilhard's philosophy that links matter and spirit, a duality that echoes the pair onstage. The former is science, the here and now; the latter is the guiding, changing force of evolution toward a greater consciousness."
Psycho Bitch, community mental health worker Tamara Lynn Robert's autobiographical solo show, aims to raise awareness about mental illness.
The central character is "a mood disordered, medicated, sweetheart of a mess" fighting internal demons, pills and a big monster called Stigma. With the help of her guardian angel, Geraldine, she fights them all in a serious but at times comedic tale about living with mental illness.
The three performances (Friday to Sunday, February 8 to 10), directed by Laura Anne Harris, raise funds for Youthline, an organization that promotes the mental health of queer and questioning LGBTQ youth in Ontario.