TORONTO — I sit in the coffee shop, and when my name is announced in a heavy Hebrew accent, I go to get my coffee.
I’m waiting for three ladies, and the Hebrew tone is appropriate, as we’re going to talk about Israeli culture.
The play He Walked Through the Fields, written by Moshe Shamir will be on stage this month at the Al Green Theatre at the Miles Nadal JCC in downtown Toronto.
I’m meeting with Galya Sarner, director of the Israeli Project at the Schwartz/Reisman Centre, Yael Shamir Feingold, the play’s director, and Tami Berman the producer.
Hamifgash Theatre is known as the only Hebrew speaking theatre in Toronto. Is there a real need for such an institution?
Sarner: The theatre started four years ago, aiming to meet some of the Israeli community’s cultural needs. After two years, we realized that we could bring together other communities to enjoy the Israeli culture, to learn about Israel’s history and its unique needs.
It also helps us to expose other pleasant sides of our homeland.
By adding English subtitle translation, we create the opportunity to open up the performances to a wider audience.
The theatre was established by a group of volunteers, with the support of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Schwartz/Reisman Centre in early 2008. The Mifgash has enjoyed considerable success, having performed all its productions to sold out audiences and rave reviews.
What is He Walked Through the Fields, about?
Sarner: This play reflects, in many ways, the conflict that Israelis are facing, wherever there are. It tells the story of a young man who, upon returning to his kibbutz from his studies, falls in love with a young Holocaust survivor. He soon finds himself torn between remaining on the kibbutz with his family and his love and going off to fight for the new state.
The play paints a vivid and dramatic picture of the new generation of native Israelis prior to the founding of the state.
Rumour has it that there’s a personal side to the production of this play.
Sarner: This year’s production has a special meaning for our theatre group, as our resident director is also the author’s daughter. This year would have been the anniversary of Mr. Shamir’s 90th birthday.
Can the Mifgash Theatre create a bridge between the Jewish Canadian community and the Israeli community?
Berman: Mifgash offers all Jews in the Greater Toronto Area an opportunity to meet and express their diversity on a common ground of acceptance and unity.
Through experiences working specifically with the Israeli Canadian community, they have learned to appreciate the need and desire for special Israeli cultural and community events. The need to express identity, language and culture is not unique only to the Israeli community, but to other communities as well. By creating a theatre for all these diverse backgrounds to give their experience a cultural and artistic voice, they can take important steps toward creating a more unified Jewish community where all backgrounds are embraced.
Would you also welcome non-Israelis to join the cast?
Feingold: Everyone who wants to be an actor is welcome to join us. Of course, it’s voluntary.
Would you consider producing plays with Jewish-Israeli orientation in English as well?
Sarner: The sky is the limit… hopefully we will be able to expand our theatre in the near future, and run plays in English as well.
Talking about Israeli culture feels like jumping to a beloved home for a brief visit. As the waiter asks us in Hebrew if he can clean our table, we all smile and say our goodbyes.
He Walked Through the Fields runs May 20 to 24, in Hebrew with English surtitles, at the Al Green Theatre, Miles Nadal JCC.