Rossland -Musical offers insight to Mennonite smuggler

The production "Mennonite Mafia" will play Sunday & Monday August 12 & 13 at the Miner's Hall in Rossland.

What evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Or better yet, what would make a non-violent group of people steeped in a peace-loving faith turn to a life of organized crime?

Those are the questions explored in the message behind the medium of Rossland’s Iron Mountain Theatre’s latest musical theatre offering, Mennonite Mafia: The Untold Story of Abraham Harms.

Opening for two nights Sunday and Monday (7:30 p.m.) at the Miners’ Hall, the musical mixes history with mystery as it explores why a devote Mennonite in Abraham Harms—a Protestant faith dedicated to non violence—would find his life’s calling in the crime world.

Harms was the first Mennonite ever arrested for drug smuggling, said playwright and star of the musical, R. J. Peters, who co-wrote the play with Mark Pollard (with music by Nadine Tremblay).

“I wondered what would make someone from a Mennonite way of life take such a drastic U-turn and become a drug smuggler?” said Peters about his idea for the script. “And not only that, but pass the new family ‘business’ onto his sons who remain, to this day, major players in Mexican organized crime.”

The question marinated for eight years before Peters brought a script to life one year ago when production of the musical took shape.

Using a group of six professional actors, along with live musicians— including banjo virtuoso Gabe Gaudet—the story follows Abraham Harms, who moves with his family from Ontario to Mexico, because of differing beliefs with the government at the time.

Peters said the play was inspired by true events, but since there were so few articles written on him, some elaboration was needed to fill in the gaps.

“Abraham was the first guy to have the idea of smuggling marijuana across the border in the furniture that he had made,” said Peters, who plays the main character. “In 1989, he was also the first person to be busted.”

The show starts out very light, with comedic elements, then heats up in the second part as the reality of the nature of their work catches up with them, Peters explained.

The shows runs for two nights, Sunday, Aug. 12  and Monday, Aug. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Miners’ Hall in Rossland, with a third night Monday, Aug. 20 at 8 p.m. in the Warfield Community Hall.

Tickets are $15 and are available at Rossland Pro Hardware, by phone at 250-364-3823, or at the door before the show.

The story

Mennonite Mafia tells the real life story of Chuatemac resident Abraham Harms, a practicing Mexican Mennonite.

Abraham brought his family from Canada to Mexico to escape new laws from Canada that were not in line with his beliefs.

Upon arrival, he discovered his new home of Chuatemac to be stricken by a longstanding drought, and when new trade relations between North America and Mexico came to fruition, Abraham found himself unable to farm or sell his handcrafted furniture across the border.

With times as desperate as they can get, Abraham decides to team up with a local drug cartel in the transportation of “goods” across the border and forms the first ever Mennonite Mafia.

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