Following critical acclaim in Norway, New York City and San Francisco, award-winning Fabrik: The Legend of M. Rabinowitz, will make its Canadian debut in Toronto.
Created by Wakka Wakka Productions, Fabrik opens Nov. 5 and runs though Nov. 16 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.
With three professional puppeteers in multiple roles, Fabrik is based on the true story of a Jewish family in Norway in the years leading up to the Holocaust.
The story is told through the work of masterful and unique puppet artistry and musical numbers such as the The Only Jew In Town, that will transport audiences through a delightful and haunting theatrical experience.
Norway may not be the first place one would think of as the setting for a Holocaust drama, but that’s where Moritz Rabinowitz, a Polish Jew who immigrated to Norway, built and owned a large clothing factory and store in his town.
Originally from the small town of Rajgrod in Poland, he was sent by his parents to Norway in 1901 to escape pogroms and persecution. In Haugesund, a small fishing village on the west coast of Norway, he discovered a land rich with opportunity.
Fabrik chronicles Rabinowitz’s life in Norway in the 1930s and ’40s from his rise as an entrepreneur to his private life as a family man, and his courageous moments as an outspoken denouncer of anti-Semitism.
Featured during Holocaust Education Week, Fabrik is produced by Sara Schwartz Geller Productions, in association with the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company.
As one of the only independent female theatre producers in North America specializing in Jewish content, Sara Schwartz Geller is thrilled to be back in her hometown, Toronto.
She has been producing shows from as early as age four.
“I started directing my cousins, sister and brother in my own little productions around the house, taking what’s inside our heads and using it to get people outside of their heads. I have had this fascination since I was a little kid,” Schwartz Geller said.
She attended an arts-focused high school to study theatre, and then continued directing, producing and choreographing shows while studying journalism at Carleton University.
She worked at Canada’s National Arts Centre in an administrative capacity, and found herself drawn out of the office and into the theatre.
“I saw every theatre production at the National Arts Centre over six years. I realized my passion was really inside the theatre,” said Schwartz Geller.
Moving to San Francisco, Schwartz Geller worked for 10 years in several capacities, including that of executive director, with The Jewish Theatre San Francisco, formerly called A Travelling Jewish Theatre. “Dybbuks, puppets, soul music, relationships, prayer, psalms, hip hop, Israel, love, hate, drama, laughter, depth. Oh, what a journey it was!” Schwartz reflected.
The theatre, at one point the largest and most prolific professional Jewish theatre company in North America, she said, recently closed.
Schwartz Geller moved back to Toronto and decided to start her own independent theatre production company.
“What I am doing are performances that have a different esthetic, that are a little bit more experimental in form and content, not necessarily traditional fare.
“The next three pieces I have chosen all have Jewish content ranging from hip hop to puppetry to children’s theatre,” Schwartz Geller said.
Having produced Fabrik twice before with great success and audience response, Schwartz Geller told The CJN, “I always felt like it wasn’t possible to get lost in a show the way you can get lost in puppetry. There is something very disarming about it. As a producer, one thing that I really look for is how powerful the piece is.
“You can do many things with puppets that you can’t do with people. Puppets are sweet and vulnerable, and that is why we are able to go to really dark places with them. They take you somewhere completely different and surprise you,” said Gabrielle Brechner, one of the three producers of Wakka Wakka Productions.
“This is a tremendous piece of theatre. To be able to use it as a vehicle and tell a story about the Holocaust is very rewarding,” Brechner added.
“I like watching the same face twice. I observe when somebody first walks into the theatre and then again on the way out. That’s how I know I’ve done my job: when I see two very different faces.”
“That is definitely what you see after watching Fabrik,” said Schwartz Geller.