All The World’s A Stage
Howard Lichtman is an Alumnus of the Wexner Heritage Program in Toronto. Howard is President of The Lightning Group, which provides two primary services: “Paths to New Revenue” strategies and “Virtual Chief Marketing Officer” services. The number of volunteer organizations that Howard has worked for and with are numerous. He is currently President of The Harold Green Jewish Theatre. Howard can be reached at email@example.com
Three years ago we formed a professional Jewish Theatre in Toronto called The Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company. As our mandate, we embrace and celebrate the Jewish story — stories about our history, stories about our beliefs, stories about our struggles and triumphs. These stories have been 5,000 years in the making; they have universal application. At the same time, they reflect so much that they generate pride in our heritage. These are stories that have to be told and need to be seen. It’s our responsibility and privilege to share them with the world through professional theatre. The theatre company creates an important forum for education, discussion and sustainability of our traditions and values.
Our first play of this season was “SHOLOM ALEICHEM: LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS”, a biographical look at the Yiddish writer’s life starring Academy Award- and two-time Tony Award-nominee Theodore Bikel.
Our upcoming play is “TALK”. In this humorous, riveting production, a long-term friendship is torn asunder when the wrong word enters the conversation of two best friends for the first time. It’s a witty and thought-provoking look at clashing views about the Middle East conflict and how differing views can become conversational minefields. One of the protagonists is Jewish and the other is not. The non-Jewish friend returns from abroad, having fallen in love with a woman who is an advocate of Palestinian rights. It’s an interesting play written by a Canadian. As part of the play, we have created a program called “Talks After Talk”, which explores a number of the issues raised in the play. We don’t get into the politics but we do explore other aspects of the play and the drama.
Our final play of the season is “The Soul of Gershwin” — the musical journey of an American Klezmer. It is a “Rhapsody in Blue” — a theatrical concert featuring 23 songs of one of America’s greatest composers. The show takes the audience on a journey through the musical and ethnic influences that stoked his genius all played to the accompaniment of an incomparable klezmer band and powerhouse vocalists.
Next season we will present “A Night at the Old Marketplace” which is a musical adaption of the 1907 play by Yiddish writer I.L Peretz. It is a sprawling Jewish ghost story reflecting 100’s of years of Jewish life and folklore. We will also be bringing the Nefesh theatre from Israel to Canada to present “One of a Kind” – about the Falash Mora Ethiopian migration. There are several other plays which are under consideration.
Interestingly enough, one of our future plays is called “The Children’s Republic” by Hannah Moscovitch a renowned Canadian playwright. I was privileged to have visited Poland with the American and Israeli Wexner group. During our trip we visited the home of Janusz Korczak. This prolific hero was one of the world’s first advocates of children’s rights. And on August 6th, 1942 he stepped into legend. On that day, this Polish-Jewish doctor, writer, and educator was forced to gather together the two hundred orphans under his care in the Warsaw Ghetto. Refusing all offers for his own safety, he led them with quiet dignity to the train that would take them to Treblinka death camp – where he perished with them.
Although Korczak is renowned throughout Europe, he is virtually unknown in North America and to this generation. It was he who introduced the first progressive orphanages – both for Jewish and Catholic children – into Poland, founded the first national children’s newspaper and testified on behalf of children in juvenile courts. In fact, through his tireless belief in the voices of children, the UN adopted his rights for children on all accounts. Hannah’s play reveals the man behind the legend: a man who died as he lived, the welfare of children uppermost in his mind.
So why am I telling you about this? It struck me that there are other communities across North America that could benefit from one or several of these productions. Instead of having each community reinvent the wheel, we would be delighted to partner with a Wexnerite to bring in one of these plays to their local market. Your city may already have a professional theatre company. If not, we’ll have done a lot of the heavy lifting and your community can benefit from it.
Professional Jewish theatre can have an impactful role in your community. It can inspire, put a positive spotlight on the Jewish story, and reflect pride in our heritage. It can stimulate conversations of Jewish importance and provide the ability to share the Jewish story with our children and grandchildren. Many of our subscribers bring their elderly parents, creating a further bridge between generations. It can also serve to fight Anti-Semitism and to unite the community.
If partnering with the Harold Green Jewish Theatre is of interest to any of our fellow Wexnerites, I’d be happy to discuss further. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org