Described as “a Jewish Nobel Prize,” a new international award has been established that will be given to Jews who gain global recognition for their exceptional achievements in the arts and sciences, the sponsoring agency of the prize announced last week.
The Genesis Prize is being financed by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which also funds the Taglit-Birthright Israel program and other initiatives in support of Jewish identity worldwide. Genesis founder Mikhail Fridman announced the prize last week in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.
Netanyahu will award the first prize at an annual ceremony close to Passover. “The prize symbolizes Jews’ great contribution in human development and will be a source of pride for young Jews around the world,” he said. Sharansky is to head the prize selection committee, which will consist of retired judges, community leaders from the Diaspora, and representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Genesis Philanthropy Group.
“The Genesis Prize emphasizes the contribution of the Jews to world history,” Fridman said, adding that it reflects “the Jewish People’s natural aspiration to improve the world and to its desire to pass its moral values on to coming generations.”
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John Hirsch Subject of Play: Hirsch, a new one-man show about the life of Canadian theatre legend and former Stratford Festival artistic director John Hirsch, is now in previews and opens July 12 at Stratford’s Studio Theatre.
The play was conceived of by actor Alon Nashman, who performs it under the direction of Paul Thompson. It presents Hirsch as a trailblazing artist and unique personality whose mark on the world of Canadian theatre endures to this day. Hirsch was also the subject of the recent book A Fiery Soul: The Life and Theatrical Times of John Hirsch, by Fraidie Martz and Andrew Wilson, which won a 2011 Canadian Jewish Book Award.
The Hungarian-born Hirsch arrived as a Holocaust refugee in Winnipeg in 1947 and subsequently went on to found the Manitoba Theatre Centre. He became head of drama at CBC and served stints as both associate director and artistic director at Stratford. The play chronicles his life from his childhood in prewar Hungary to his premature death in 1989. www.stratfordshakespearefestival.com
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Mini Theatre Review: In the summer of 1936, playwrights Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman bashed out a new play, You Can’t Take It With You, in less than a month. Focusing on the eccentric but blissfully happy Sycamore family, the play’s point, as Kaufman once commented, was simply “that the way to live and be happy is just to go ahead and live, and not pay attention to the world.” The play enjoyed a long and successful run, and won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
Soulpepper’s impressive recent production of You Can’t Take It With You seemed to reproduce this pleasing period piece in its true comic spirit, with little of the ominous big-business-is-evil overtones that crept into Frank Capra’s 1938 film (starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur and Lionel Barrymore). Many critics contend that You Can’t Take It With You, which was Moss and Kaufman’s third and most effortless collaboration, set the tone for modern American comedy and even television sitcoms, with its quick one-liners and set-up situations rooted in character and real feelings.
Soulpepper presents four more outstanding classics in its summer season: David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Royal Comedians (Molière), and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. www.soulpepper.ca
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Seeking Jedwabne Photographs: Barbara Kirshenblatt Gimblett, the former Torontonian who is the program director of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, says the museum has an “urgent need” for photographs of Jews in Jedwabne from before the Holocaust. “We would be enormously grateful if anyone with any such photographs would allow us to make copies for the exhibition.” Contact Kirshenblatt Gimblett at email@example.com or www.jewishmuseum.org.pl.
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Graphic Novels: Explore the Jewish relationship to the graphic novel, from the superhero comics to modern innovations in graphic storytelling such as Maus and The Rabbi’s Cat. A new series, titled People of the Comic Book: Jews and the Graphic Novel, with Keith Friedlander, begins July 19 with a history of Jewish contribution to comics. $45 for the series or $12 drop-in; students $6. Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, July 19 to Aug. 9, Thursdays 6:30 to 8 p.m. Registration, 416-924-6211, ext. 0.
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Arts in Brief
• Fern Lindzon Trio performs at the Cherry Street Restaurant, 275 Cherry St. Thursday, July 5, 8 to 10 p.m. Cover $10. 416-461-5111.
• Toronto Transformed, a series of retouched black-and-white photographs by Harry Enchin, shows evocative scenes of old Toronto overlaid with elements in colour from the same street scenes in more modern times. The exhibit is on view at Booth 45, Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, Nathan Phillips Square, July 6 to 8. www.torontomomentsintime.ca
• Morris Panych is director of the new Canadian musical Wanderlust, featuring the poems of Robert Service, the famous “bard of the Yukon.” The 15-person musical is now in performance at the Tom Patterson Theatre of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. www.stratfordshakespearefestival.com