Being from Montreal, perhaps one should be adept at least at walking, if not skating, on ice. However, in 2013, I slipped and broke my ankle. Determined to make the most of my time holed up, I tried to use the time to take some of those “backburner projects” we all accrue over our lives, and deal with some of them. Making the best of situations seemed to be something effective leaders do and I tried to summon my best “Wexner” spirit and get something done.

I’d met a woman named Pearl Rothenberg at a social function recently and was taken with her. As a psychologist, Pearl had an ear for dialogue and a rich reservoir of
experiences from which to draw, but didn’t know anything about structuring a play. Conversely, I had
writing experience as a writer/director with a theatre ensemble group called the Akiva Players, but needed original ideas. We started collaborating and, even though I was back up on my feet, we kept meeting, and within a year we had first drafts of two plays, one of which was
Queen of Chesed. We decided to found a theatre company; Pearl retired from her
psychology practice; and Labyrinth Stage Productions was born. 

Queen of Chesed is inspired by New York Brooklynite Faige Jacobson and her makeshift homeless shelter. I first became aware of Faige through her son, the prominent Montreal Rabbi Asher Jacobson. The more stories we heard of Rabbi Jacobson’s home life growing up, the more intrigued we
became with Faige and the ad hoc shelter she’s been running for four decades. We wanted to tell a positive and uplifting story about Jews dealing with adversity.

Starting a new company and producing our first script has been a surreal and thrilling experience, requiring many leadership skills (including a robust sense of humor). Founded in 2016, the goal of Labyrinth Stage Productions is to produce original English-Canadian plays. The
labyrinth, an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness, is a metaphor for life’s journey. It represents a
circuitous voyage along a meandering and purposeful path to one’s own center and back out again into the
world, with some degree of personal transformation having taken place in the process and perfectly represents
the psychological and spiritual themes of the plays Labyrinth wants to produce. 

Queen of Chesed makes its world debut on November 15th and you can bet I will be telling our cast to “Break a Leg.”

Claudia Litvak Polachek is a Wexner Heritage Alum (Montreal) and a fulltime writer. She has two BA’s: one from McGill University in Political Science; and one from Concordia University in Creative Writing and English Literature. She is also married to WHP Gary Polachek (Montreal).