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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Seven Jewish Children to have star-studded Toronto Premiere

The first public performance of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children in Toronto features a who’s who of Canadian theatre. Arguably the most controversial and headline grabbing theatrical text of the past year, the ten-minute piece has already caused controversy in the UK and the US with performances at the Royal Court  and New York Theatre Workshop.

Crow’s Theatre will present the Toronto debut at Theatre Passe Muraille as part of the Directors' Showcase & Exchange from May 15th to 17th. The reading will be directed by Rose Plotek who recently directed the Canadian and French language World Premiere in Montreal last month. The Facebook page for the event reads reads:
“Crow’s Theatre will also present staged readings of Caryl Churchill's new play ‘Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza’ – NTS Directing Program alumnus Rose Plotek will direct an ensemble cast that includes Rosemary Dunsmore, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Jeff Meadows & R.H. Thomson.”
If the controversy over the cancellation of My Name is Rachel Corrie by CanStage is any barometer, these performances are likely to become a lightning rod for both sides of the issue. Because it’s important not to be a relativist about everything and take a stand on important issues, we’re throwing it out there that at Praxis Theatre we do not think this play is anti-semetic, and we do think its long overdue for a performance here in the T Dot.

Disagree? Read the text for yourself here, or leave a comment. The best thing about art of this nature is that it has the potential to raise awareness and encourage discussion of important issues.

29 comments:

Travis Bedard said...

For those of your readers who won't have a chance to get to the Canadian premiere I would like to invite them to view Cambiare Productions' World Theatre Day reading of Seven Jewish Children at CambiareProductions.com/sjc.html

Michael Wheeler said...

Thanks for the link Travis. I think Austin Texas and Toronto, Canada have strange parallel lives culturally. You guys have South by South-West, we have North by North-East....

Great idea to video your reading and put it on the web. How did the reading go as art? Was it affective as political protest? Is there any point distinguishing between the two?

J. Kelly said...

B'nai Brith wants David Miller to shut Seven Jewish Children down:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090507.WBTheatre20090507182512/WBStory/WBTheatre/

Michael Wheeler said...

Thanks for the update Kelly. What I find most troubling about the B'nai Brith position is this paragraph:

"We call on Mayor Miller to ensure that our tax dollars are not inadvertently being used for the promotion of a play whose thrust is antisemitic. It is unthinkable that the City would allow this communal theatre to be used as a venue for promoting hatred and discord amongst its citizens, as this play threatens to do.""

Now that the City owns Passe Muraille does this mean that Andy McKim is not a sovereign Artistic Director anymore?

Can the theatre only put on safe work that explores topics everyone agrees on already or the mayor will issue a Presidential veto? I would argue that a "communal theatre" has more of a responsibility to stage works about issues that cause discord.

Finally, Passe Muraille isn't even presenting the play, they are simply renting to Crow's Theatre. In general, should they be policing this work also top guard against material that presents stories that are against the public interest?

Rachel said...

Growing up Jewish, I can think of nothing more frustrating than what it has been like to try to understand the issues surrounding the Israel/Palestine conflict. What have I been told? Who has told it to me? What do I believe? What do I wish I didn't believe? What do I think? What do I feel? Do I dare express any of this for fear that I may alienate my peers, destroy friendships, speak out of turn, or get a fact wrong? These are things that have run through my mind for as long as I can remember. Never before have I read anything that so aptly expressed the barrage of conflicting information, opinions and demands that are presented to Jewish children. The idea that this play is anti-semitic is ludicrous to me. Contrarily it is a portrait of the difficult patchwork of all the opinions, feelings, facts and rumors that anyone who identifies as Jewish and also a human with the capacity for compassion must challenge themselves to consider again and again. In my 23 years on this planet, I have very consciously never expressed anything publicly about what I think regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict, or any controversies surrounding the matter. This piece of writing gave me the courage to do so for the first time in my life. That is precisely the kind of theatre that must be made, against all odds.

Praxis Theatre said...

Wow Rachel. Thank you. Very powerful and clearly from the heart. I will see it on Saturday night and report back.

Also, I might add that this play has never been presented in your current location of Vancouver...

bfg said...

Rachel, thanks for sharing. It's really interesting to hear about it from someone who has a personal stake in the conversation. Not that I don't, but I don't in the same way.

I think what's really great about this play is that it's forcing people to have a conversation. And to talk about many issues that are so frequently taboo. I agree that the play is not anti-semitic. But it has become the catalyst for a conversation about the difference between anti-semitism and criticism. Anything that can encourage us all to intelligently debate such relevant societal issues has value and should be produced.

"I would argue that a "communal theatre" has more of a responsibility to stage works about issues that cause discord."

Here, here, Michael Wheeler...

Rachel said...

To Praxis - Yes, that's one of the first things that occurred to me too...

Michael Wheeler said...

Hi All,

That was me as Praxis Theatre earlier. I forgot to switch accounts when I commented.

Also, regarding earlier stuff, I did some research and the mayor does not have a veto. When Passe Muraille was sold to the city, agreements were put into place that prohibit the the city from influencing programming. So the B'nai Brith position is effectively without any legal merit, not that anyone I have spoken to is taking it very seriously.

Rachel, it would not take much to take it happen. Is there anyone else in Vancouver following along that would like to participate?

bfg said...

Rachel, I don't know if you're on twitter...but many members of the Vancouver theatre community are...and I bet they'd be interested!

Rachel said...

Hey guys -

I actually emailed Marcus Youssef of Neworld, and they are in talks to get a reading going in the fall. Thanks for showing your interest in the west!

Michael Wheeler said...

Incredible. Let us know if more details become available.

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友達募集中 said...

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