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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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Historical Israeli play echoes modern themes

Tags: Arts
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The cast of Mifgash Theatre’s A Night in May [Tali Dubrovsky photo]

Mifgash Theatre will be bringing to Toronto a play about a family in Jerusalem on May 22, 1967, shortly before the Six Day War.

The play, called A Night in May, is written by Israeli novelist and playwright A. B. Yehoshua.

It has been very successful in Israel at the Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv, said Galya Sarner, director of the Israeli Canadian Project at UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. She said it’s an honour to produce this play for a Canadian audience.

“We believe it will reflect in a very respectful way the typical Israeli family relationship in Israel despite the fact that it’s about 1967, a long time ago,” Sarner said, adding that it will give Canadians a very realistic picture of Israeli daily life. “The tension, the stress… unfortunately, it does reflect today.”

This is the fifth year Mifgash Theatre has been producing Hebrew plays for a Canadian audience. The theatre aims to integrate Israeli immigrants into the Canadian Jewish community through sharing arts and culture. The Hebrew-language theatre company is part of the Schwartz/Reisman Centre’s Hamifgash program.

“Mifgash” translates into “meeting place,” which Sarner said directly references Toronto. “Literally, we took the name and in many ways it can reflect our vision of putting together a Hebrew-speaking community theatre,” she said.

Over the past five years, their productions have consistently drawn large crowds from the local Jewish community, but also people who aren’t Jewish and simply love Israeli arts, she said.

Although A Night in May will be performed in its original Hebrew, there will be English subtitles to make it an inclusive production.

The cast of the production inclues a mix of professional theatre actors and volunteers. Despite their varying backgrounds, they all share a love of art, Sarner said, adding that the theatre has grown and changed throughout the years.

“Every year, we have new faces, new volunteers,” Sarner said. “I’m getting those phone calls, emails on a regular basis from people who want to support and take part.”

New for this year, Mifgash Theatre will produce a show with young actors aged seven to 14, which expands the company’s mission of engaging and reaching out to the Israeli and Jewish communities, ensuring that everybody feels welcome and comfortable.

The children will perform in the play The Diary of Anne Frank. While the show will be in English, it still fulfils Mifgash Theatre’s goals because it will help these kids identify with various aspects of Jewish history, values and thought, Sarner said.

“We chose this play because it features a young heroine that the program’s participants and young audience should be able to form an emotional bond with,” she said.

Additionally, through the workshops, participants will learn other aspects of producing a play, including set design and lighting.

The children’s performance, which has a cast of 20 kids, will open in May.

Meanwhile, audiences will be able to see some of the young actors in A Night in May.

The show runs on Feb. 23 and 24 at Vaughan City Playhouse Theatre. For tickets, visit mifgash.ca or call 905-764-7817.

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