CANADIAN JEWISH PLAYWRITING COMPETITION
The 2021 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition winning play is Precipice by Winnipeg playwright, Primrose Madayag Knazan. Honorable mentions go to 2nd place winner In Her Madim by Rebecca Ostroff from Toronto, Ontario and 3rd place winner Camp by Naomi Tessler from Toronto, Ontario. The MNjcc, in partnership with the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, will present a “Between Stages” play reading of Precipice. Primrose will also receive $1000, generously donated by the Asper Foundation. The 2021 CJPC jury consisted of representatives from the Harold Green Jewish Theatre of Toronto, the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, Segal Centre for Performing Arts in Montreal, and Neptune Theatre in Halifax.
Precipice follows Sharrah’s conversion story to Judaism, a journey that takes her from her future in-laws’ Seder table to a synagogue in the Philippines. Caught between her Filipino mother’s expectations and her brother’s estrangement from the family, she wonders if she’s ready to walk the path of the Torah.
Winnipeg playwright & author, Primrose Madayag Knazan, writes from a Filipino-Canadian, Jewish, and woman’s perspective. Her plays have been featured at Winnipeg Jewish Theatre (reading of Precipice at the So Nu? festival), Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Where.Are.You.From.), Winnipeg Fringe Festival, Sarasvati Production’s FemFest (Wildflowers & Wallflowers; Breast Milk, Best Milk), and Carlos Bulosan/Theatre Amihan’s Tales from the Flip Side Filipino-Canadian playwright’s festival (Then Comes Marriage). Her plays Shades of Brown and Two Browns Don’t Make a White have been published by Scirocco Drama and Playwrights Canada Press. Her first novel, Lessons in Fusion, was published by Great Plains Publications.
Originally a program run by an independent group of dedicated volunteers, The Toronto Jewish Theatre Committee, the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition was founded in 1989 and operated out of the Bathurst JCC in North Toronto.
In 1999, the MNjcc adopted this program and ran it with a group of jurors from the professional theatre community. Before 2006 there was an average of six plays submitted each year. With more publicity and exposure, up to 20 plays are submitted from six Canadian provinces, the United States and Israel each contest year. The competition is now a bi-annual program.
For more information about Between Stages or The Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition, contact Deanna Di Lello, Coordinator of Arts and Culture, Miles Nadal JCC, email@example.com
2019 Winner: Elijah by Hannah Rittner - Toronto.
In Elijah, Leora travels from Toronto to Halifax to celebrate the days of awe (the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) with her expecting queer-sister Shira and her non-binary Israeli partner Ariel. A play about the transformative power of forgiveness and how it impacts our ability to move beyond the trauma of the past.
hannah rittner 2019
2015 Winner: The Great Divide by Alix Sobler – Winnipeg.
On Saturday March 25, 1911 at 4:45 pm, someone started screaming “Fire!” on the 8th floor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on the lower east side of Manhattan. Within10 minutes 146 workers, most of them young women, most of them recent immigrants from some of the most oppressed countries in the world at the time, lay dead either on the floor of the sweatshop or on the street eight stories below. The Great Divide tells the story of just a few of these doomed workers, the lives they led, and the lessons they learned during their time in the American garment district. Photo of Alix by Matthew Dunivan Photography
alix sobler 2015
2012 Winner: Shiksa by Cairn Moore – Winnipeg
Shiksa tells the story of Emma McTavish, a portrait painter who falls for family lawyer Zack Stein. Zack is a secular Jew and Emma is a non-practising Catholic. When Zack’s overprotective parents discover their only son has secretly married a "shiksa", the honeymoon is on hiatus. Zack’s father declares his son dead, while Zack’s mother goes on a crusade of her own. As Zack moves farther away from his family, Emma finds solace in the most unlikely of places.
cairn moore 2012
2010 Winner: Corpus by Darrah Teitel – Montreal
Megan White is a PHd candidate at The University of Toronto in the Department of Peace and Conflict. She studies genocide and her thesis examines the psychology of the perpetrators of modern genocide. Megan meets Heinrich in a chat room. Heinrich is a squeegee kid living in east Berlin with his grandmother Eva, the ex-wife of an ex SS officer. The illumination of Eva’s story launches Megan’s thesis into unexplored and incendiary territory.
darrah teitel 2010
2008 Winner: Strange Land by Alexis Diamond – Montreal
Strange Land is set in Montreal’s Jewish neighbourhood on the Main (Saint Lawrence Blvd.) in 1942, during the Conscription crisis. The play is about how the three women of a struggling Jewish immigrant family attempt to forge a place in the New World after the death of the pater familias, only to be thwarted by conflicting aims and the narratives of identity imported from the Old World. At a time of war, rampant paranoia and virulent prejudice, Dinah risks everything to pull out hatred by its roots and rewrite the story of the New World. Photo of Alexis by Ron Diamond
alexis diamond 2008
2006 Winner: Guess Who’s Coming to Sabbath by Phil Pivnik
Guess Who's Coming to Sabbath offers smart and often witty dialogue about Judaism and religion's common stance again homosexuality and same-sex marriage. In the play, a couple anticipates a surprise announcement from their son, Isaac. Peter is Isaac's surprise; he's also Isaac's fiancé. Isaac's normally open-minded father, Morty, is a proud Jewish man and he's furious with his son's choice. Marjory, his dying mother, is doing her best to find joy in her son's happiness.
phil pivnik 2006
2003 Winner: Yahrzeit (Memorial) by Alex Poch Goldin – Toronto
Meyer has had a stroke and lost the use of one hand so the entire world must suffer with him, including his pro-Palestinian son, his Serbian caregiver, and his absent, lesbian daughter. Entrenched in his opinions, Meyer knows how everything should be regardless of what anyone else thinks. Beset by guilt however, he lights Yahrzeit candles in memory of his late wife and is secretly sending money to Israel to plant a forest for her. Meanwhile, his son’s marriage is collapsing, his caregiver is giving him tsuris, his missing daughter shows up with only a bus ticket and a boy scout is on the loose in his building. Sooner or later, something’s going to crack and when it does, Meyer will find that life has a few surprises left in store.
alex poch goldin 2003
2001 Winner: Sara’s Cave by Don Molnar – Toronto
Sara’s Cave is about a woman who hides a Jewish family in her root cellar during the German occupation of Poland. Anna must also billet two German officers. While one is in a desperate struggle with his conscience, the other baits a trap for her, with a sack of potatoes. A man who escaped the German death squad finds Anna’s root cellar and enters looking for help. All this happens during Passover, a time when hospitality, for Jews, means so much.
don molnar 2001
1999 Winner: Einstein’s Gift by Vern Thiessen – Alberta
Einstein’s Gift follows the life and work of Nobel laureate Dr. Fritz Haber, a man who risked everything for a country that never accepted him. Haber, a chemist who worked hard to enhance life, discovered too late that when his knowledge was put in the hands of the wrong people, millions would die and that his efforts to serve humanity were futile against political will, nationalism, and war.
vern thiessen 1999
2017 Winner: The Covenant by Alice Abracen - Montreal.
The Covenant is set in June 1944, as Red Cross dignitaries are marveling at the lively town of Theresienstadt: a haven for the Jewish people in the heart of Czechoslovakia. Little do they know that this paradise is a ghetto and a concentration camp, elaborately staged in order to conceal Nazi crimes against humanity. Forced to participate in the terrible charade, the ambitious politician Peter and the dedicated doctor Hilde find their idealism, their faith, and their love put to a terrible test. Inspired by a true story. The Covenant’s dramaturges were Sarah Elkashef and Brian Drader.
alice abracen 2017
2013 Winner: The Girl Rabbi of the Golden West by Jennifer Wise – Victoria.
Written for the 150th anniversary of Canada's oldest continuously active synagogue, The Girl Rabbi of the Golden West uses comedy and cross-dressing to solve a real-life historical mystery: how did it happen that in 19th-century Canada, an orthodox congregation hired a woman as their rabbi? Throughout the High Holiday season of 1895, Miss Ray Frank of California made history by officiating from the pulpit of Congregation Emanu-El in Victoria, BC. Written for seven female actors who impersonate, by turns, the women and the men of the synagogue, this site-specific comedy celebrates the surprisingly progressive values that brought a woman to the bema in a gold-rush town, and healed a bitterly divided community while inspiring the man who would go on to become Canada's first Jewish judge.
jennifer wise 2013
2011 Winner: Haunted by Daniel Karasik – Toronto
When Abby’s husband dies she starts attending synagogue. She befriends David, the young rabbi, and now that friendship is turning into something more. Meanwhile, her daughter claims she’s begun to spend time with her father’s ghost. A play about rational people intoxicated by the unseen.
daniel karasik 2011
2007 Winner: The Bleeding Season by Brandon Marlon – Ottawa
During the First Intifada in Israel (1987-1993) Koby Mandola was an ambulance paramedic and his best friend Talia Gidoli was a police officer. Fresh out of the IDF, they dealt together with the violence and casualties that seemed without foreseeable end. Ten years later arrives the Second Intifada (2000-2005), and Talia is now a Mossad agent who, with her partner Levy Tzion, tracks down a key Hamas operative in Canada who shared his childhood with Koby in Khan Yunis before the uprisings so severely polarized Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. Facing each other under such special circumstances, both sides confront their choices and hold the other to account in a mutual crucible of principle, memory, and faith.
brandon marlon 2007
2005 Winner: Lost Daughter by Tara Goldstein – Toronto
Lost Daughter is an historical drama inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. It is set in the Canadian city of Toronto in the summer of 1933, a summer of intense heat and widespread unemployment. A summer when Gentile youth wore swastika badges to keep the city’s Jews out of public parks and away from beaches. Lost Daughter engages with the themes of Canadian xenophobia and anti-Semitism in the summer of 1933, but also portrays the rich tradition of forgiveness in Jewish thought and culture. In the summer of 2008, on the 75th anniversary of the Christie Pits riot, the play had its Canadian premiere as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.
tara goldstein 2005
2002 Winner: Remember Me by Irene Watts – Vancouver
Marianne Kohn arrives in England on the first Kindertransport allowed to leave Nazi Germany. At Liverpool Street Station she waits for a sponsor. Finally, a woman whose expected young domestic, has not arrived is persuaded to take in the eleven year old refugee. Her refugee status is belittled by her hosts. Only the resident maid and a friend she makes at school, give her some measure of stability. At the outbreak of World War 2, Marianne is evacuated to Wales, and a series of unsuitable billets. Marianne never gives up hope of a reunion with her mother who on the day of the great evacuation, arrives in England on a domestic permit.
irene watts 2002
2000 Winner: Gordin in America by Beth Kaplan – Ontario
Jacob Gordin, a writer, educator, and socialist reformer, is forced to emigrate from Russia to New York in 1891, at the age of 38. He quickly becomes the leading playwright in the heated world of the Yiddish theatre on the Lower East Side and subsequently around the world. Gordin’s wife and many children, who follow later, have a difficult time adjusting to the new world. With his bull-headed zeal, he makes dangerous enemies, one of whom, Abraham Cahan of the Jewish Daily Forward, embarks on a poisonously destructive vendetta. Gordin dies at the age of fifty-six, bitter that his life’s work has been undone. But there is hope a descendent will tell his tale. Jacob Gordin’s eighth child, Nadia or Nettie, was my grandmother. This is the true story, told in brief scenes, of the extraordinary life of playwright and rabble-rouser Jakov Mikhailovich Gordin, known in his time as the Jewish Shakespeare.
beth kaplan 2000
BETWEEN STAGES: PLAY READINGS
THEATRE LECTURES AND DISCUSSIONS
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The free online reading of the 2021 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition winning play, Precipice by Primrose Madayag Knazan, will take place on Wednesday May 18 at 6:00pm EST and will be hosted by the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. To watch the reading click here.
Since 1995, the MNjcc has produced over 40 theatrical readings in an informal workshop environment. “Between Stages” has provided an opportunity for Canadian playwrights such as Dave Carley (A View from the Roof, the first Between Stages reading in 1995) and Alice Abracen (The Covenant, 2017 winner) to hear their work read by professional actors and receive feedback from a live audience.