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Segal adds French to its theatre season

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MONTREAL — In its continuing effort to attract all Montrealers, the Segal Centre for Performing Arts will present its first French theatre series next season, its busiest ever.

The three plays, two of which have Jewish themes, will be presented on the Segal’s second smaller performing space, The Studio, during 2010-11. French has been heard before at the Segal; a re-imagined Macbeth was presented in French and Haitian Creole there this spring, but it was part of a regular lineup.

“We are setting a broad vision for the centre by recognizing the importance of building bridges through the arts, supporting multicultural projects in Montreal and by promoting partnerships with other arts organizations across the country,” said executive director Manon Gauthier at the launch.

She said the Segal had 65,000 visitors this past year.

The plays are Passages (Nov. 18-27), Catherine Dajczman’s solo performance about a young woman trying to connect with a heritage that includes a Nazi camp-surviving Polish-Jewish grandfather, on one side, and a Québécoise grandmother on the other; The Other Theatre production’s Recovery (Feb. 21-March 11), set in an addiction rehabilitation facility in Antarctica; and the one-night only La Mémoire des Vivants, a staged reading March 20 on the Holocaust by veteran Quebec actor Françoise Faucher, who received a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime achievement in April. The two-part work opens with the writings of survivors and closes with a chapter from Vassili Grossman’s fictional Life and Destiny, in which a Jewish female doctor writes a last letter to her son from a Ukrainian ghetto.

The English plays in the main Segal Theatre next season are the Arthur Miller drama about Italian immigrants, A View from the Bridge (Oct. 3-24), directed by the award-winning Diana Leblanc; the Noel Coward comedy Blithe Spirit (Nov. 21-Dec. 12), with Michael J. Fox’s sister Kelly Fox in the cast; the original Toronto production by Soulpepper Theatre of Billy Bishop Goes to War, with John Gray and Eric Peterson (Feb. 13-27); the one-woman La Sagouine by Antonine Maillet starring another stage legend and retired senator Viola Léger, who has performed the role over 1,400 times (March 7-28); and an original musical version by the Segal’s Elan Kunin of a Canadian movie favourite Lies My Father Told Me, based on Ted Allan’s memories of growing up in Montreal’s Jewish immigrant district (May 1-22).

The latter will be directed by Segal artistic director Bryna Wasserman, and is one of the reasons the resident Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre, of which she is director, will not be putting on its annual play in June as usual. Wasserman will also be busy in June 2011 with the Segal’s second Montreal International Yiddish Theatre Festival. The first, held in June 2009 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the DWYT, gathered together the few remaining Yiddish theatres in Europe, Israel, New York and Australia and drew a large attendance. A similar event, including music, film, lectures and an outdoor event, as well as theatre, is scheduled for June 12-23, 2011.

The Segal’s regular season Yiddish play will be presented by the Israeli Yiddish theatre Yiddishpiel: The Megillah of Itzik Manger, a comedy combining the celebrated Yiddish poet’s words with original lyrics and music. It will run from June 19-July 3, 2011, with English and French supertitles.

The Studio will also be the venue for four English plays by local independent theatres including the season opener, the world premiere of two-time Governor General’s Award-winner Morris Panych’s Gordon, put on by SideMart Theatrical Grocery (Sept. 27-Oct. 16).

The Segal also presents the show Menopause Out Loud! a travelling production designed to entertain and inform middle-aged women from July 21-Aug. 29 this summer.

Wasserman and executive director Manon Gauthier also unveiled a lineup of music, dance, cinema and educational programs for 2010-11 for the Segal, which was officially opened two years ago, as the successor of the Saidye Bronfman Centre.

New among the musical concerts, which take place in The Studio, is a series by the 40-year-old chamber music ensemble Musica Camerata Montreal, now based at the Segal. Returning is the jazz series and the contemporary music series, both featuring mainly Quebec musicians. The latter is held in conjunction with CBC Radio which broadcasts the concerts nationally on Canada Live, as well as streaming them online.

Three contemporary dance performances, choreographed by Montrealers, are scheduled, in conjunction with the Conseil des Arts de Montréal. In the downstairs, 77-seat CinemaSpace, a highlight of the season with be Ecoflix, a documentary series on environmental issues, a fitting choice for a screening room that bills itself as “the world’s first cinema featuring plush hemp-covered seats and repurposed wood floors.”

The Segal’s Academy, which runs workshops in the performing arts and concerts for children and teens, is offering more customized programs for school groups and educators, such as backstage tours and professional development for teachers. Returning is a two-year program in musical theatre for kids aged 7-12 called Broadway Star.

The Segal is introducing its own debit card, “The Key to Culture,” which can be swiped at the customer counter to pay for anything from tickets to refreshments.

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