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News Release

The Wise Men of Chelm
May 2008

The Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre & Reitmans (Canada) Limited

The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre Production of
The Wise Men of Chelm

By Abraham Shulman
Music by Eli Rubinstein
Directed by Bryna Wasserman/Audrey Finkelstein
Musical Director Nick Burgess
Choreographer Lorna Wayne

Presented in Yiddish with English and French Supertitles
June 11 - July 3, 2008

"You must make people laugh, dance, cry- all the pleasures and passions
must be there."
- Eli Rubinstein, composer

MONTREAL May 2008 – Don’t miss the close to the 2007-08 season at The Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre with one of The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre’s most beloved musicals. This heart-warming, humourous and musically rich production is a loving tribute to an enduring icon of Eastern European folklore- the town and people of Chelm.

It is said that after God made the world, he filled it with people. He sent off an angel with two sacks, one full of wisdom and one full of foolishness. The second sack was much heavier and, after getting caught on a mountaintop, all the foolishness spilled out and fell into Chelm.

The Wise Men of Chelm is a funny valentine to a simpler, pre-cell phone time. Progress and industry might be imminent, but it won’t come easy into that dark, bumbling night. As noted in The History of Clowns for Beginners by Joe Lee, the people of the imaginary town of Chelm represent the Jewish Clown in Lee’s range of fools from mythical trickster figures to new vaudevillians. It is the stylized, physical comedy in this production that appeals to Co-Director Audrey Finkelstein, who literally grew up in Dora’s Yiddish Theatre.

The Wise Men of Chelm was an original creation by writer Shulman, composer Rubinstein, and shaped and edited by Dora specifically for her Yiddish Theatre. It played to rave reviews locally in the 70’s and 80’s and toured to cities in Russia, Europe, Canada and the United States. We are excited to continue the tradition of sharing the Theatre’s stories with the next generation by offering this version, renewed and updated by Bryna Wasserman, Artistic Director of The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre. Bryna comments on Rubinstein’s timeless compositions, “Eli Rubinstein created the most popular and unforgettable music by melding traditional Yiddish folk melodies with modern rhythms. Together with Dora he ushered in the golden age of the Yiddish Theatre.”

This production is truly a family affair with no fewer than six families on stage acting and singing together, including audience-favourites the Finkelsteins, the Steins, the Ravivs and newcomers, the Brownsteins, the Kaplans and the Gutmans. Returning performers include Michelle Heisler, Aron Gonshor, Jesse Krolik and Bronna Levy among many others in this cast of over 40 people.

Past Yiddish Theatre successes include Lies My Father Told Me, The Threepenny Opera, The Great Houdini, On Second Avenue, God of Vengeance, Fiddler on the Roof and Those Were the Days.

The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre is approaching 50 years of presenting moving, uplifting, enlightening traditional and contemporary productions that are embraced by everyone.

The live orchestra consists of Maxime Bégin on piano, Sophia Gibbons on violin, Peter Freeman on clarinet, Henri Oppenheim on accordion and Liam O’Neill on drums.

Taking us back in time, the imaginative design team includes set designer, Guy Neveu; choreographer, Lorna Wayne; sound designer, Ace Martens; costume designer, Angela Vaags and lighting designer, Jacques-Olivier Dupuis. The stage manager is Amanda Corber.

The MEDIA CALL for The Wise Men of Chelm will be held on Wednesday, June 11 at 12:30 pm for still cameras and 1:00pm for video cameras. This is an occasion for camera footage, interviews and still photography.
Please confirm by Monday, June 9 to Janis Kirshner.

Janis Kirshner, Publicist (514) 287-8912 jkirshner@sympatico.ca

Tickets and Media Information

Previews: June 11, 12, 16, 17, 18 8:00 pm
June 15 1:30 pm and 7:00pm

Opening Night: Thurs., June 19 8:00pm

Run: June 11 – July 3

Monday-Thursday 8:00pm
Saturday, June 21 & 28 9:30pm
Sunday 7:00 pm
Matinées: Sunday 2:00 pm

Box Office:
(514) 739-7944

(514) 790-1245

The Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre
Segal Centre for Performing Arts at the Saidye
5170 Cote St. Catherine Rd.

Bryna Wasserman - Director
Bryna is Artistic and Executive Director of The Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre. A graduate of New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of Fine Arts, her extensive career includes work at the American Place Theatre, The Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Centre, the Mercer Street Theatre, the Vancouver Opera Company and the Folksbiene Playhouse. Recent credits with the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre include God of Vengeance, Lies My Father Told Me, Fiddler on The Roof, The Golden Land, Double Identity, The Dybbuk, On Second Avenue (the Drama Desk Award-nominated, historic co-production with New York’s Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre), Those Were the Days and most recently as part of the Segal’s English season, Houdini. In 2000 she was awarded the Montreal English Critics Circle Award (MECCA) of Distinction for her contribution to the development of the Montreal theatre scene.

Audrey Finkelstein - Co-Director
A veteran of the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre, Audrey works as a performer, director, stage manager and educator. Most recent Yiddish theatre credits include assistant director on God of Vengeance and Fiddler on the Roof. Other credits include Knot of Nots (Tangente), Peacemaker (Geordie Productions), Ur-Hamlet (European tour directed by Eugenio Barba), creating and performing The Whisper (Edgefest) and her solo show In Conversation with Crows. Audrey holds a BFA from York University and an MFA from Dell'Arte International. She has trained with Odin Teatret (Denmark), LUME (Brazil), Sue Morrison (Toronto) and Robert Lepage.

Eli Rubinstein - Composer
Eli Rubenstein was a prolific composer during his lifetime. Aside from writing the music for The Wise Men of Chelm, other Yiddish productions for which he composed the music are: The Adventures of Menachem Mendl, The Ball, Benjamin the Third, Hershele Ostropolier, Hotsmach, The Innkeeper (1992 production), The King and The Cobbler, The Little Shoemakers, The Lottery (1988 production), Papineau, Sender Blank, Shlemiel I, A Shtetl Wedding, Simha Plachte and Wandering Stars, A Tribute to Yiddish Theatre. He also wrote the music for Broken Glass, Green Fields, In My Father’s Court, Reflections of Life and The Unseen.

Abraham Shulman - Book and Lyrics
Abraham Shulman was born in Warsaw, where he studied journalism. After graduating, he worked as a magazine editor and writer in Melbourne, Australia, then in Paris and finally as a staff writer for The Jewish Daily Forward in New York, in which, he published a regular humour column among other things. He published several books including a series of three called The Old Country, The New Country and The Promised Land; a non-fiction study of a group of Jews caught in a Warsaw hotel entitled The Hotel Polski; and The Anthropologist and the Girl, a novel about Nazi procedures in the pursuit of discovering anthropological differences between Aryans and Jews. He wrote two books published in Yiddish; collections of essays on the various communities he visited in his travels around the world; and published a translated collection of some humorous works entitled Adventures of a Yiddish Lecturer. Other plays he wrote for the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre include A Bintel Brief (A Bundle of Letters, based on the “Dear Abby” letters to the editor), Benjamin the Third, Ellis Island, Papineau and he adapted The Jazz Singer into Yiddish. In 1967, Shulman received a prize from the Jewish Cultural Congress for The Wise Men of Chelm.

Nick Burgess - Musical Director (and role of Menachem)
Nick Burgess is a graduate of both McGill University and The Royal College of Music in England. He has musically directed and played piano in Sweet Charity, Les Miserables, West Side Story, The Last Five Years, Guys and Dolls, Bringing Concert Home: The 50th Anniversary of JPPS/Bialik, Copacabana and Annie Get Your Gun. Nick has also been the musical director of Y.A.Y.A (Young Actors for Young Audiences) with the youth division of the Yiddish Theatre for the past year and a half. The Wise Men of Chelm marks his debut as a stage actor and he is very grateful for the experience.

Lorna Wayne - Choreographer
Lorna's credits include cabaret shows for: the Caf Conc, Montreal; Condado Hotel, Puerto Rico; Frenchman's Reef Hotel, St. Thomas; as well as choreographies for CBC Television, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Holland America Cruise Lines, both the Montreal and Lac Leamy Casino's and most recently, for the 1940's revue Till We Meet Again. Lorna has also worked with The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre on Those Were the Days, The Golden Land, Double Identity, The Threepenny Opera, The Great Houdini, The Dybbuk, Fiddler on the Roof, Lies My Father Told Me and On Second Avenue, which was performed in Montreal, New York and Los Angeles.