Aspaklaria Jewish Repertory Theatre launched its inaugural event at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, the first of its kind in North America.
The celebration was attended by rabbis from the Israeli Jewish community and by Canadian and Israeli officials, and included broadcasts of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely, who wished the new branch great success.
Like its Israeli counterpart, the Toronto branch will be mobile, meaning it will go to clients’ venues such as community centers, synagogues, and schools, where it will set up and perform.
“After years of performances around the world we responded to the request to open a branch in a community in America, the branch will operate in the same fashion as it does in Israel and will deliver Jewish culture to Jews and non-Jews alike," said Rabbi Hagay Lober, who founded Aspaklaria in Jerusalem in 2001.
“Toronto is one of the theatre capitals of the world,” said Joseph Fackenheim, founder of the North American branch, stressing that Aspaklaria wants to appeal to diverse audiences and “hold up a new window on Israeli culture so people in North America can see aspects of Israel they wouldn’t otherwise in the media.”
Fackenheim said that the company’s plays have been “localized” in the sense that a scene that originally took place in Jerusalem's Zion Square might be changed to Central Park.
The debut performance, The Odds, is a dramatic comedy that has been running successfully in Israel for the past six years. The story follows a couple’s therapist who decides to hold a workshop exclusively for men to work out their relationship problems in an emotional and humorous journey that unfolds as three men work with the therapist to unpack their marital issues.
“A few of the characters are Jewish and their journey is very much inflected by their Jewishness. Overall, I think the outlook on relationships presented in the play is very Jewish,” explained Fackenheim, who himself plays a character.