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Thursday, July 31, 2014

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Playwright examines Canada's engagement in Afghanistan

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Acclaimed Tarragon playwright-in-residence Hannah Moscovitch has written This Is War, a play slated to open at Tarragon’s Extra Space on Jan. 3.

The play focuses on the Canadian Forces in a volatile region of Afghanistan in 2008 and presents the perspectives of three soldiers and a medic as interviewed by an unseen journalist. The cast features Lisa Berry, Ari Cohen, Sergio Di Zio and Ian Lake.

Moscovitch, who Tarragon describes as “the country’s most produced young playwright,” is one of the writers of the CBC radio drama Afghanada. Her previous staged plays include East of Berlin, The Children’s Republic and The Russian Play.

Born in Ottawa of a Romanian-Ukrainian-Jewish father and Irish-Catholic mother, she went to theatre school and began writing plays after studying literature at the University of Toronto. She has won numerous Dora Mavor Moore Awards and has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award and other prizes.

This Is War is on stage at Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave., Jan. 3 to Feb. 3, with previews beginning Dec. 28. $53 to $27. 416-531-1827, www.tarragontheatre.com

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Rabbi Sam: Teatron Toronto Jewish Theatre presents Rabbi Sam, a one-man comedy by San Francisco performer Charlie Varon, about a rabbi who wants to reinvent American Judaism, beginning with the congregation that hired him; some people love him, some can’t stand him. “Funny, moving, bursting with energy and ideas, Rabbi Sam is a play for Jews, gentiles and anyone who has ever attended a meeting.”

Directed by Ari Weisberg. Toronto Centre for the Arts, Studio Theatre, 5040 Yonge St. Jan. 3 to 13, 2013. $48 to $19. 416-781-5527, www.teatrontheatre.com

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Arts in Brief

• Na’amat Canada presents Anna Shvets, author of Gefilte Fish for the Neshama, at Borochov Centre, 272 Codsell, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 7 p.m. Shvets also appears at Israel’s Books, 441 Clark Ave. W., Thursday, Dec. 6, noon to 2 p.m.

• Jack Newman reads stories by Saul Bellow, Moishe Nadir and M. Nudelman in Yiddish and English. Yiddish Vinkl at Free Times Cafe, 320 College St. Thursday, Dec. 6, 12 noon. $18 includes buffet lunch. www.yiddishvinkl.com

• Pianist-singer Fern Lindzon performs with musicians David French, Trevor Giancola and George Koller at Chalkers Pub, 247 Marlee Ave. Dec. 8, 6 to 9 p.m. Cover $10.

• Janice Segal Weizman, author of the historical novel The Wayward Moon, is interviewed by Globe and Mail writer Michael Posner at a book launch hosted by Hebrew University. Prosserman Jewish Community Centre, 4588 Bathurst St. Tuesday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.

• The Jewish Genealogical Society of Canada presents Varda Hall Berenstein, a Swiss-born Jewish singer who will discuss her book Growing Up as a Jew in Switzerland, 1921-1949. Temple Sinai, 210 Wilson Ave. Wednesday, Dec. 12, 8 p.m. Doors open 7:30 p.m.

• Singer Aviva Chernick is featured in a Chanukah Musical Celebration hosted by Active Seniors & Boomers. $5. Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, Thursday, Dec. 13, 1:30 p.m. Please preregister to 416-924-6211, ext. 155.

• Montreal’s Infinitheatre is preparing to stage Kafka’s Ape, a play based on a Franz Kafka’s short story, A Report to an Academy, as adapted and directed by Guy Sprung. The production, starring Howard Rosenstein, is slated to open in late January. 

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At the Galleries: The Melody Series, a visual and tactile expression of music by Erin Rothstein, is featured in the Miles Nadal JCC Gallery, Dec. 7 to Jan. 1. “Each work is meant to echo the spirit of the musical composition incorporated within it.”

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Passages: Musician and Holocaust survivor Leo Spellman, who died last week in Toronto in his 100th year, was honoured at last summer’s Ashkenaz Festival when his Rhapsody 1939-1945, a symphony of his wartime experiences, was performed at Harbourfront’s Enwave Theatre.

A native of Ostrowiec, Spellman was hidden for 18 months by a Polish Christian and wrote his Rhapsody in a displaced-persons’ camp in Germany in 1947. He immigrated to Toronto in 1948 and worked as a composer, concert pianist and cantorial accompanist. His band, the Leo Spellman Orchestra, performed in hotel ballrooms for decades, and he was the musical director of the Toronto Jewish Theatre. But the score for his Rhapsody lay undisturbed in a suitcase in his garage for 50 years before being revived. The piece was also recorded on a CD. 

Spellman died in Toronto on Nov. 24. He was a cousin of Wladyslaw Szpilman, who was the subject of Roman Polanski’s 2002 film, The Pianist.  

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