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Yiddish Theatre

CTE photo
Mirele Efros, directed by Bryna Wasserman at the Yiddish Theatre, 1996

Theatre company founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1956 by Dora Wasserman.

Wasserman worked closely with many of the writers who presented works at the company or whose works were adapted by Wasserman herself for the theatre, including Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer.

In 1967 the company was invited to come to the new Saidye Bronfman Centre and, with composer Eli Rubenstein, Wasserman presented a musical in the new home called A Shtetl Wedding (which has been revived since).

Under Wasserman, three generations of amateur actors have passed through the house presenting classics and original works, dramas and musicals. These are now available to non-Yiddish-speaking theatregoers through simultaneous translation.

Some of the milestones of the company were productions of Fiddler on the Roof (for the first time in Yiddish, 1993) and a translation of Michel Tremblay's Les Belles-soeurs (1992). In 1995, after Doris Wasserman suffered a stroke, her daughter Bryna Wasserman took over the artistic directorship. Bryna Wasserman's 1997 production of Old Wicked Songs was a highlight of the theatre season. Depicting the relationship of a young disillusioned American pianist and his teacher whose therapy is to teach his student to sing German lieder, it took the company in new directions from its populist roots.

In September, 2000, the company's production of The Great Houdini won the Montreal English Critics Circle Award for best production, amateur or semi-professional.

In honour of its founder, the theatre was named the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre in 2003. In 2008 it celebrated its 50th anniversary with a nine-day festival. The Montreal International Yiddish Theatre Festival was the largest international gathering of Yiddish theatres, with companies from Poland, Romania, Israel, USA, Canada, France, Austria and Australia, and including musicians, scholars and filmmakers. A second highly successful Festival took place in June 2011.

The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre (DWYT) mounts mainstage theatre productions and year-round programmes. It also offers Young Actors for Young Audiences courses, and houses the DWYT Archives.

The company is avidly supported by the Jewish population of Montreal.

Website: www.segalcentre.org

Profile by Gaetan Charlebois and Anne Nothof

Last updated 2016-12-12