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Thursday, August 28, 2014

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Art and religion conflict in Teatron season opener

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Geoff Kolomayz, in the role of Asher Lev, paints Rachel, played by Tracey Beltrano, as Mark Albert, who plays Lev’s father and the rebbe, looks over.

My Name Is Asher Lev, a play about a young Jewish man torn between his chassidic roots and his desperate need to fulfil his artistic promise, marks the opening of Teatron’s 10th season of Jewish-themed plays.

Adapted by Aaron Posner from the Chaim Potok novel of the same name, the show is directed by Teatron Toronto Jewish Theatre founder Ari Weisberg. It runs at the Toronto Centre for the Arts Studio Theatre from Nov. 7 to 18.

The play stars Toronto actor Geoff Kolomayz in the title role. Kolomayz, who previously appeared in Teatron’s A Tiny Piece of Land, shares the stage with actors Mark Albert and Tracey Beltrano.

Kolomayz says one of the reasons he was drawn to the play was that although it is about the artist figuring out what he needs to do about himself in respects to family and tradition and the community where he fits, it’s a struggle that is truly universal.

“It is not unique to the artist. Whether you are going to grow up and be a lawyer or grow up and be a factory worker… you need to figure out where you are going for yourself and that challenge sits in respect to your exterior influences,” Kolomayz says.

“Your parents may want you to be a lawyer, but if you want to be a doctor, you may have to struggle to face those challenges of not being a lawyer in their eyes. In this story, it is depicted through the very high stakes of a genius of an artist who is in a community that doesn’t support his art to the level where it is actually against his religion.

“The greatest thing audiences should get out of this is story, first and foremost, is that they should enjoy themselves,” says Kolomayz. “The bigger picture that I would like an audience to receive is the ability to discuss, to reflect back and hopefully make strong choices for themselves and feel satisfied about their choices.”

Kolomayz says he can relate to Asher since as an actor he faced struggles that every artist faces in general. But, Kolomayz adds, he was fortunate in that although his family sometimes questioned his career choice, they were supportive of him.

Kolomayz says playing Asher is challenging since much of the play is a monologue. “This role is so demanding of me. I’ve done one-man shows before where you are on stage for about 45 minutes. This is a different beast. It is a two-hour show that I don’t leave the stage for, and much of it is presented in a monologue format, so it is a challenge to keep all this in my head and follow the story through, and in the end, as an actor, hopefully be able to present this to an audience who will understand the story that we’re putting up on the stage.”

Kolomayz, a graduate of University of Waterloo’s drama and theatre program, is recognized for his character work, including in the role of Templeton Rat in Charlotte’s Web, all five roles in The Adventures of Mazel and Schlimazel, the barkeep in Six Reasons Why and Jesse in Sundance. He’s also the co-artistic director for Mirador Theatre and the co-director of films for the Mississauga Independent Film Festival.

For more information about Teatron Theatre’s production of My Name Is Asher Lev, visit www.teatrontheatre.com.

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