The Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company, which announced its seventh season recently, has been experiencing a “banner year,” according to artistic co-director David Eisner.
“Subscription has gone through the roof,” said the former stage, film and TV actor who, along with co-director and actor Avery Saltzman, has built up the company’s considerable reputation with the encouragement and support of their patrons, the Green family of Toronto.
In order to assemble a new season, the pair read a lot of scripts and saw a lot of productions. They look to provide “a balanced diet,” Eisner explains, by which he means a mix of music, some thought-provoking fare, perhaps a homegrown component, perhaps an imported production and a co-production with another local company.
The upcoming season starts with And Stockings for the Ladies, a fascinating story about the interaction of the Royal Canadian Air Force with inmates of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after liberation. Written by Attila Clemann, the production began at the Montreal and Toronto fringe festivals – where it won awards as “best play” – and features a single actor, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, in multiple roles.
Catering to the public’s unrelenting craving for the American classical songbook, There’s No Business Like Irving Berlin celebrates one of the 20th century’s most popular and enduring composers, with the aid of performers Sterling Jarvis, Sheila McCarthy, Arlene Duncan and Camilla Scott.
Next comes a captivating courtroom drama – New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation, Amsterdam, July 27, 1656. The recent off-Broadway hit from playwright David Ives re-enacts the true events in the life of the philosopher Spinoza and, says Ives, “asks the big questions, the eternal questions, and asks them dramatically in a human story.”
The fourth offering is Stars of David, a co-production with Angelwalk Theatre that provides a snapshot of Jewish identity told through interviews with Gloria Steinem, Leonard Nimoy, Joan Rivers, Aaron Sorkin and other Jewish celebrities – with original music by Marvin Hamlisch and other composer-lyricists.
The season is enhanced with two optional “add-on” productions. An Israeli Love Story is set in 1942; one of its four performances will be in Hebrew. The second “add-on” is Funny Girl in Concert, a fundraising performance of the iconic musical with “the finest of Canada’s musical theatre talent” and full orchestra.
Eisner will be taking an acting role in New Jerusalem, and Saltzman will be directing There’s No Business Like Irving Berlin.
Eisner and Saltzman both grew up in Bathurst Manor and attended W.L. Mackenzie Collegiate.
All performances at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, North York. The season runs from September to June and subscription tickets, which are now available, begin at $165. Single tickets go on sale Aug. 1. 416-932-9995, ext. 224, www.hgjewishtheatre.com
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Summer Yiddish Concert: Ashkenaz and the Committee For Yiddish present an annual Summer Yiddish Concert featuring Anthony Russell and Kyra Folk-Farber. African-American by birth and Jewish by choice, Anthony (Mordechai Tzvi) Russell has immersed himself in the repertoire of Sidor Belarsky (1898-1975), the celebrated performer of Yiddish folk and art songs. Returning to Toronto after his “show-stopping” appearance at the 2012 Ashkenaz Festival, Russell is joined by Toronto’s own Folk-Farber, with Nina Shapilsky at the piano. Randolph Theatre, 736 Bathurst St. (south of Bloor). Wednesday, June 19, 8 p.m. $10 in advance, $15 at the door. 416-915-6747, www.ticketwise.ca
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Names in the News: Playwright Emil Sher’s Forgotten Voices is a fresh look at the human dimension of the War of 1812. The play is being performed free from July 4 to 14 at various outdoor park settings in south Etobicoke. (Bring your own blanket.) Sher’s previous works include a stage adaptation of Hana’s Suitcase. www.lakeshorearts.ca
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Names in the News II: Toronto-area actor Allan Price plays Hamlet’s ghostly father in the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival’s production of Hamlet; he’s also in the cast of Maid for a Musket. July 13 to Aug. 17. Kinsmen Amphitheatre, 206 King St. W. Prescott, Ont. www.stlawrenceshakespeare.ca
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Why Maimonides Matters: Prof. Kenneth Green celebrates the launch of two new books with a presentation titled “Why Maimonides Matters and a Response by Rabbi Daniel Korobkin.” The new books are Leo Strauss on Maimonides: The Complete Writings and Leo Strauss and the Rediscovery of Maimonides. Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto (BAYT) Congregation, 613 Clark Ave. W., Thornhill. Thursday, June 27, 8 p.m. Free admission.
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Jazz Piano: Jazz pianist Fern Lindzon performs with guitarist Trevor Giancola as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. Chalkers Pub, 247 Marlee Ave. Cover $10. Sunday, June 23, 7 to 10 p.m. 416-789-2531.