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Segal presents full season of Yiddish programs

Tags: Arts
Sam Stein, left, and Aron Gonshor will star in a Yiddish adaptation of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys at the Segal Centre. [Andrée Lanthier photo]

MONTREAL — A full season of Yiddish programming, including play readings, sing-alongs, concerts, films and lectures, was unveiled by the Segal Centre for Performing Arts.

The I  YIDDISH Series, presented by the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre (DWYT), follows on the success of last season’s inaugural programming.

CEO Manon Gauthier said the Segal wishes to celebrate and preserve Yiddish language and culture through a variety of art forms accessible to lovers of Yiddish of all ages.

All programs will be presented in the Segal’s Studio with English supertitles.

Dan Laxer, well-known as a CJAD radio host and producer, is the Yiddish theatre co-ordinator for the 2012-13 season.

The season opens with Aron Gonshor and Sam Stein, DWYT veterans, starring in the staged reading Di Komedyantn, a Yiddish version of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys, adapted by Miriam Hoffman, on Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. Bryna Wasserman, the DWYT’s honorary artistic director, returns to the Segal to direct.

Hoffman, a playwright and Columbia University Yiddish professor, translated the Simon classic by sprinkling the dialogue with idiomatic and syntactic Yiddish and reworked the story a bit.

In this version, the protagonists are two estranged vaudevillians, Fayvish (Stein) and Anshl (Gonshor), who have not spoken to each other for more than a decade.

Anshl’s nephew, Hershl (Ben Gonshor), an actors’ agent, tries to convince the comic duo to reunite for a comeback of their famed “doctor” skit, which they haven’t performed in more than 40 years.

What follows is plenty of verbal thrust and parry between Fayvish and Anshl as they rehash past hurts and grievances.

Next in the lineup is another staged reading, Les Belles Soeurs by Michel Tremblay on  Dec. 3 and 4, translated by Goldie Morgentaler and Pierre Anctil as Di Shveigerins. 

Its presentation marks the 20th anniversary of the DWYT’s celebrated adaptation of this beloved Quebec play.

Directed by Rachelle Glait, Di Shveigerins will feature the original cast.

A Chanukah sing-along will be held Dec. 16, led by DWYT singers and KlezKanada musicians.

On Jan. 13, A Mini Yiddish Film Festival, in collaboration with the Jewish Public Library, screens vintage films restored by the National Center for Jewish Film.

They are East and West, a 1923 black-and-white silent film from Austria starring Molly Picon, among others; the 1928 Soviet film Laughter Through Tears, based on Sholom Aleichem’s Motl Peysi, the Cantor’s Son and The Enchanted Tailor; and Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Light Ahead, a 1939 American production.

An Evening with Maurice Podbrey… in Yiddish on Jan. 22 sees the founding artistic director of the Centaur Theatre read one of the great Yiddish stories, Bontshe Shvayg by I. L. Peretz.

Anna Fishman Gonshor of the McGill University Jewish studies department will give a lecture on Peretz during the same evening, which includes the DWYT singers interpreting Peretz’s poetry in song.

A troupe of young adult Russian Jews from New York come to the Segal on Feb. 25 to perform the 2002 Russian movie Doroga in English. It’s about the Jewish exodus from the former Soviet Union and the immigrant experience.        

This event is in collaboration with the United Community of Russian-Speaking Jews of Quebec and the Jewish Russian Community Centre of Montreal, and in honour of Rabbi Martin Penn, a Canadian leader in the struggle to liberate Soviet Jewry.

Mendy Cahan from Israel, a crowd favourite at both Montreal International Yiddish Theatre festivals held at the Segal, is in concert May 7 and 8. A Yiddish Bouquet is his rendering of Yiddish ballads and the songs of Jacques Brel, Peggy Lee and Leonard Cohen.

The DWYT’s mainstage production opening in June is Tales from Odessa, based on the stories of Isaac Babel and featuring music and lyrics by Josh (Socalled) Dolgin and the direction of Audrey Finkelstein.

The Segal Academy, through its Young Artists for Young Audiences (YAYA), is training the next generation of performers. Its programming allows young people of all backgrounds to explore the Jewish experience and aims to preserve the Yiddish language and culture, while encouraging inter-cultural dialogue.

For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Segal Centre box office at 514-739-2344 or online at

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