By Judy Malkin.
“Let’s pretend!” It’s what every kid does, right? But in my case, I never outgrew it. I was bitten by the acting bug in high school and appeared in two or three productions during those years. The university I went to had a strong drama department, and was home to a thriving community theatre, but I never had the courage to audition.
In the fall of 1994, an article in the Bulletin caught my eye. Several members of Temple had formed a drama group, and were reading a play.
Anyone could join, so I made a phone call and went to the next reading. The play was Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance, written in the 1920s and closed down after 8 performances because it was deemed too provocative. The play is a story of a man who runs a brothel and commissions a Torah scroll to be written, in the hope that the presence of the scroll in his home will keep his daughter safe and prevent her from entering the family business.
That was the start of Stagecraft. We mounted one performance of God of Vengeance, and had a talk-back after the show, led by then-Senior Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Stagecraft’s mission is “to produce plays with Jewish themes and content, and to have fun, too!” Since the spring of 1995, we have produced more than 30 plays, including some new work by Canadian playwrights.
Stagecraft has engaged Temple members in new ways. As we have explored the themes presented in various works, it’s made us think about how we relate to each other, to Temple, to the wider Jewish community. It’s allowed us to live in another person’s skin, at least for a while, and learn how other people think and feel and react to their surroundings – and the audience sees that, too. Theatre in general is valuable in any community because it allows us to explore new ideas in a safe and accessible way. By “making believe” we can get into the skin of the other.
Our non-Jewish audience members have often told us that they have learned a lot about Jewish life, Jewish practice, and Jewish thinking when they come to our plays.
We have grown as a company over the 18 years (chai!) that we’ve been a Temple group. We are always looking for new members and look forward to seeing new faces as time goes on.
Many of the current members of Stagecraft have been with the group since the beginning. We have been there for each other, through happy times and sad times, and have become a family within the Temple.