Jewish content is being strengthened at Montreal’s Segal Centre for Performing Arts in the coming season, with three of the seven plays in the subscription series featuring Jewish themes, and the return of a full Yiddish production.
Segal executive and artistic director Lisa Rubin is especially pleased to have landed Indecent, the new Broadway drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, which is based on the true story of a scandal that broke out over a Yiddish play almost a century ago.
An English version of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance was shut down and its producer and cast jailed on obscenity charges, when it premiered on Broadway in 1923.
The public was shocked by the depiction of a lesbian relationship on stage and the Jewish community was uncomfortable, to put it mildly, with this tale of a low-life Jewish brothel keeper.
Rubin, who directs Indecent – which will run from April 28 to May 19, 2019 – thinks the play is a tribute to all who take risks in the name of artistic freedom. God of Vengeance was staged at the Segal by the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre (DWYT) during the 2005-06 season.
Earlier in the Segal’s 2018-19 season, which was unveiled on April 11, the off-beat musical Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story – which debuted last year in Halifax, the home of folk musician Ben Caplan, who co-wrote the songs and stars in the production – will be staged.
Old Stock was written by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch, who drew on the experience of her Romanian-Jewish great-grandparents who arrived in Canada in 1908. It’s being put on in association with the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival – a first for the Segal – from Dec. 4-16.
The season will close in June 2019 with a two-week run of A Century Songbook, which will be produced by the DWYT in English, French, Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian.
Written by Edit Kuper and directed by Audrey Finkelstein, this montage of songs and stories was created for Federation CJA’s 100th anniversary and had just four performances last fall.
Rubin said there was fervent demand for an encore and this version will be slightly expanded from the 80-minute original, which looks back at the history of the Montreal Jewish community.
The DWYT will mount an all-Yiddish production of A Bintel Brief in the fall. This beloved show is inspired by the letters sent to an advice columnist in the New York Yiddish newspaper the Forward, which reveal much about the Jewish immigrant experience in the early 20th century.
The DWYT, which is marking its 60th year, is also planning a reading of God of Vengeance, in connection with Indecent and a new Purim Spectacular involving audience participation, similar to its popular Hanukkah singalong.
Other plays in the subscription series include:
- Once, a musical love story set in Dublin, which opens the season (Oct. 7-28);
- A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Nov. 18-Dec. 9), a “sharp and witty” imagined sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s classic set 15 years after Nora literally slammed the door on her stifling marriage. It will be Caitlin Murphy’s directorial debut;
- Children of God (Jan. 20-Feb. 10), Corey Payette’s thought-provoking musical that evokes the shattering experience of indigenous people in Canada’s residential schools; and
- Boom X (Feb. 14-March 10), Rick Miller’s sequel to Boom, which was a hit during the Segal’s 2015-16 season thanks to its multimedia blending of songs and news stories from his mother’s youth. This one picks up from there, travelling from Woodstock to 1995, reflecting the youth of Generation X.
It was also announced that the Segal’s main 306-seat hall will be named the Sylvan Adams Theatre, in recognition of a major donation from the former Quebec real estate developer who now lives in Israel.
Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather also revealed the government’s contribution of more than $650,000 to the Segal, through the Canada Cultural Investment Fund. Housefather said that the Segal will receive $45,000 from the Canada Arts Presentation Fund, as well.
While thankful for the federal support, Rubin noted that funding from all three levels of government represents less than four per cent of the Segal’s budget. Tickets sales cover another 25 per cent, so private philanthropy remains critical to the Segal’s viabilityTwo Segal productions from this season are going on tour: Bad Jews will be at Toronto’s Harold Green Theatre in October and The Hockey Sweater: A Musical is playing at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in December.