Home Culture Arts & Entertainment Arthur Miller play is a portrait of 1930s America

Arthur Miller play is a portrait of 1930s America

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Phyllis Feldman, artistic director and executive producer of Teatron Toronto Jewish Theatre

Teatron Toronto Jewish Theatre is mere days away from presenting the stage production of Broken Glass, written by Arthur Miller and directed by Ari Weisberg.

“We are producing Broken Glass, a romantic family drama that takes place in the United States in 1938.  Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, is the backdrop which gives resonance to the story,” says Phyllis Feldman, Teatron’s artistic director and executive producer.

“Arthur Miller is one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century. All Miller’s plays do something interesting.  It is that combination of social awareness and delving into the characters that he combines,” she said.

Written in 1994 Broken Glass takes place in Brooklyn, N.Y. and gives a riveting portrait of 1930s America.  The captivating mystery introduces a Jewish married couple, Phillip and Sylvia Gellburg. Following the horrific events of Kristallnacht reported in the newspapers of November 1938, Sylvia, an attractive, level-headed, and healthy woman, suddenly becomes paralyzed from the waist down. The only clue to her mysterious ailment lies in her obsession with the news accounts from Germany.

Sylvia’s health condition is examined by Dr. Harry Hyman who becomes enamoured with Sylvia.  From there, the Gellburgs’ marriage unravels.

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Throughout the play, Miller provokes the audience’s curiosity, questioning Sylvia and Phillip’s relationship through their Jewish culture as their characters have a complex attitude towards their Jewishness. How do the Gellburgs respond to being Jewish at this unsympathetic time in history? And what is Arthur Miller revealing about his own Jewish identity?

“The difference with this play from many or most productions about the Holocaust is that it takes place in the States.  It’s the reaction of a Jewish couple living in Brooklyn after the events of Krisallnacht.  It deals with being Jewish at a very unsympathetic time in history due to the rampant anti-Semitism in both Europe and the United States. It peels back many layers,” said Feldman.   

Cast members include Sam Rosenthal, Ermina Perez, Mark Albert, Leah Charney, Arnold Zweig, and Harriett Rice.

Teatron’s mandate is  to bring great Jewish stories to life by presenting universal narratives that explore the treasures of traditions and values, while also producing contemporary plays that delve into more current controversial themes, in order to enrich and inspire the experience of all theatregoers.

And that’s what Feldman’s been doing since she took over the reins from Ari Weisberg in 2015. This summer, she brought the hit show Jewish Radio Hour – The Musical to Teatron.  The production was based on radio shows that were one of the main sources of information and entertainment for many Canadian Jews from the late 1930s to the late ‘50s.

“There are a lot of excellent stories to be told. They can be current, controversial, or they can be traditional.  We are announcing the 2018 lineup imminently. We plan to bring a whole array of different kinds of plays to our audiences. We want to challenge people; we want them to have the total theatre experience and come out and enjoy,” she said.

Broken Glass runs  from Nov. 7 – 18 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts and is part of Holocaust Education Week.

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