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Mikveh

An Israeli play to honour Israel's 70th Birthday



Written By:
Hadar Galron

Directed By:
Liza Balkan

Starring:
Jessica Greenberg
Brittany Kay
Rosa Laborde
Niki Landau
Maria Ricossa
Sadie Seaton
Alice Snaden
Theresa Tova
Theatre:
The Greenwin Theatre
Toronto Centre of the Arts
5040 Yonge Street

Dates:
Apr 14 – May 6, 2018

Running Time:
2 hours and 20 minutes, with 15 minute intermission

Production Sponsor:
Murray Goldman

Supporting Sponsor:
Leading Ladies

Please Note: This play contains partial nudity.

Call 1-855-985-2787 to
request tickets today

 
About the Show Show Dates Press Reviews Public Reviews Photo Gallery

The Show

Inside the secretive world of the ritual bath, eight women's stories unfold in this sensitive depiction of religious observance and evolving feminist consciousness. An insightful examination of traditions and ritual, this hit Israeli play explores the ever-evolving position of women in Israeli society.

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Show Times

Show times will be available soon. When they are, please click on any show time below to see available tickets for that performance:


 

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Interview

Hadar Galron
Playwright Hadar Galron
(Photo: Ilan Bsor)

AN INTERVIEW WITH PLAYWRIGHT
HADAR GALRON ON MIKVEH

BY JOEL MARKOWITZ

Joel: What is Mikveh about?

Hadar: On the basic story-level Mikveh is about women living in an orthodox community, their stories and secrets intertwining. Eight women, eight stories and one wave of courage that breaks the closed community’s codes – bringing them all together. The ‘scenery’ and sole location is the Jewish ritual bath – the mikveh – where women come to purify themselves once a month in order to be permitted (once again) physically, to their husbands.

Joel: The mikveh is considered a holy and private place for all orthodox Jewish women who go there to cleanse themselves. Why did you choose the mikveh as the setting for your play, knowing it could be controversial to do so?

Hadar: I’m not afraid of being controversial – and I don’t believe that I’ve taken any holiness away from the mikveh by putting it on stage. On the contrary – the beauty of immersing is fully shown, through its beautiful set and scenery. The physical exposure lies in perfect contrast to the strictly guarded secrets with which these women have learned to live.

Joel: I grew up in an orthodox Jewish family and saw some of the physical and emotional abuse that you address in Mikveh. Did you encounter any of this behavior when you were growing up in London, and after you made Aliyah to Israel?

Hadar: This question throws me to the oldest, most complex, beautiful, difficult, and rewarding relationship – my relationship with God.  Growing up I received two very different faces of religion and orthodox life. The first was the face of a kind recipient God who sends good dreams to fearful children, who listens to every prayer. The second was the face of an “Angry God” who watches over every single step – forever punishing disobedient children (like myself!). I was confused  – forever negotiating with Him. It took me years to understand that the fears and punishments were man-made inventions for inflicting power – and that sometimes the gap between ‘belief’ and ‘religion’ is so wide  that there is no connection at all.

Joel: What do you think causes so much tension among orthodox couples? Is it Halachah? Is it societal? Is it family pressure? Is it due to the lack of social skills? Is it arrogance?

Hadar: I don’t know whether there is less or more tension among orthodox couples than other couples. Each society has it’s own rules and people will be people – but I think that the fact that in religion (not only Jewish religion) a woman is ‘bought’ by her husband and ‘belongs’ to him, causes much of the unbalanced relationship. Woman’s status in Jewish law is something that demands a change, and I believe that only women can make that change – first of all by understanding that they deserve more.

Joel: How much responsibility should be placed on the women in the orthodox community who stand by and do nothing to change the way they are mistreated, and turn their backs when they see another woman in their community abused?

Hadar: I’m not looking for anyone to blame. Mikveh is firstly a play about people. What happens around us is merely a reflection of ourselves. When we are able to look in the mirror honestly – we are ready to change. It’s much easier to point at others than at ourselves.

Joel: Why do you think orthodox women don’t stand up more to their husbands, and husbands to their wives – when the emotional, and physical unpleasantness occurs?

Hadar: Once again, there are abused people in all societies. What makes things more complex in this particular society is the estrangement that can occur from ‘matchmaking’ when the couple hardly know each other – and the expectations, rules, and confinements of a closed society that makes every deviation a threat to the whole.

Joel: Do you know of any real events where women did confront their husbands and the male leaders of their community, and positive changes were made because of their actions?

Hadar: Women today are gaining power – as awareness grows. I know of a few cases in which Rabbis have turned the Halacha inside out in order to correct a specific situation.

Joel: Mikveh ran for many years in its Israeli production at Beit Lessin, and was honored with many theatre awards, and, as you mentioned, has been produced outside Israel. So it was obviously successful.
Two orthodox Jewish men who I met on press night told me that they felt your portrayal of orthodox men was one-sided, that they and their wives and children have healthy and loving relationships. Other religious theatregoers I know refuse to attend the show because they have heard that orthodox men are not portrayed in a positive light. Did you get any similar reactions in Israel?

Hadar: As the play has no men in it at all – it seems strange to say that. The critique I have is against the institution that refuses to change and not against men. I don’t see the play as a ‘men v. women’ play – although it is very much a feminine play. Regarding the first part of your question – the problematic Halachic status of women will not be a problem in a good healthy relationship. It is when there is a crack that everything floats.

Joel: You were raised in an orthodox family. Was going to the mikveh part of your religious life?

Hadar: Of course. I don’t think I would have made the mikveh the setting of the play had it not been part of my life. As years went by, I stopped going to the traditional mikvehs and instead went with Daniel ( my husband) to the sea or to natural springs. It became an enriching experience instead of what was often a degrading one.

Joel: Did you base the events and characters of Mikveh on the women and experiences you encountered at the mikveh, or on real-life stories of people you heard?

Hadar: The mikveh of the play is a micro of society. Mikvehs of today are less social places (I mean women’s mikvehs). The stories, however, are all based on true stories.

Joel: How much of Hadar is in each of the characters of the play? Which character do you relate to the most?

Hadar: Shira and Miki are mostly me. Although never actually an outsider, I often felt like one. When writing, I felt each of the characters, identifying with them all in certain places. I suppose the main conflict of my play is my main conflict in life – the need to change opposed to the fear of throwing away the good roots together with the dry leaves.

Joel: Hebrew is such an emotional language, especially when speaking words with the letters “Chet” and “Chaf”, which are not in the English alphabet. Did any of the emotion of the Hebrew text get lost in the English production at Theater J?

Hadar: I feel much of the emotion in the language is conveyed via the Yiddish words and expressions, which are well kept in the English version.

Joel: Do you believe that if Chedva had gone to the Bet Din, and/or the local city police –  and they saw the bruises on her face and body – they would have done nothing to make her husband stop the physical abuse, or would have not found her a safe haven?

Hadar: I cannot speculate on ‘what would have happened if’. It depends who is standing on ‘the other side’. But from the moment Chedva herself is willing – truly and deeply – to change her life, her life changes.

Joel: Would the male modesty police have physically harmed the women in the mikveh if they stormed them?

Hadar: The modesty patrol have physically harmed many women. They are merely thugs using ‘religion’ as an excuse to pour out their abusive natures.

Joel: We hear about Shoshana’s daughter leaving the community. Why are women so afraid to leave the community and why do so few leave?

Hadar: Leaving the ultra-orthodox community is basically cutting one’s own umbilical cord. The community – fearful of change and outside influences – will force the family and friends to excommunicate the ‘straying soul’. So someone who ceases to believe in this way of life will not necessarily leave, it is something that takes a lot of courage.

Joel: Are you working on any new plays? Will there be any other productions of Mikveh in the near future?

Hadar: Where should I start? Mikveh is currently on stage in 4 countries Thank God! I’ve written some screenplays, acting and directing since, including two films: The Secrets with director Avi Nesher, andBruriah co-writer and director Abraham Kushnir. My one-woman stand-up satirical show Pulsa is still on stage, and I’m currently working on two new screenplays, including one for Mikveh.
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Interview

Liza Balkan
Director Liza Balkan

AN INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR
LIZA BALKAN ON MIKVEH

As the director, what are the elements of Mikveh that you found intriguing?

Liza: It is a thrill to have the opportunity to work on a play that has a cast of 8 women. Eight women! That fact alone was totally intriguing and enticing - and all too rare.

What is your personal connection to this play?

Liza: Hadar Galron has written a story that draws us into a very private woman’s world of orthodox practice and ritual - one that I knew little about prior to beginning the process. I adore research. In this case, the research demanded gaining greater understanding of Jewish spiritual and religious practice. My own upbringing was quite secular. This play has been offering a window into a sacred practice. It opens up my own awareness of a culture and tradition and a way of life of which I had prior only minimal connection. Both as a director and as a woman, it demands that I be fearless about entering into the beauty, the questions and the complexities of this world; it demands I be as fearless as the characters in the play themselves. This is a gift.

What is the play Mikveh about?

Liza: Galron’s funny, biting and deeply moving script, written in 2004, couldn’t be more relevant. It is adding to the present public discourse about courageous women who are finding their own voice and daring to speak up and out. It is adding to the present public discourse about courageous women who are daring to speak up and out. In Mikveh we find a group of women of all ages who are struggling with the reach toward uniting the acts of honouring, loving, and respecting tradition while also honouring, loving and respecting one's self. The setting is an orthodox community in Israel, but these women are totally familiar to us here. It could just as easily be set in Toronto, Montreal, and Winnipeg…The challenge of creating a way in which to offer, theatrically, this most private of worlds: The Mikveh was also highly compelling! Let’s just say that there were hours of rich discussion between David and Avery, the designers, the production manager and myself around discovering the ways in which to create this most sacred pool of water for the audience!

What would you like audiences to leave with after seeing the play?

Liza: Galron’s play is about community and female empowerment. It is about Judaism.  It is about women. It is about men. It is about courage. It is about asking hard questions. It is about change.
My hope is that it will create a vibrant conversation that will extend beyond the theatre’s walls. These are among the many reasons I feel honoured to be directing Mikveh.

Can you share with us your thoughts on the cast?

Liza: It is rare to be surrounded, in rehearsal by such a large and powerful group of women. I include our stage management team in this, as well as the women – and men – who comprise our design and production team. We have all ages in our room and decades of experience. Our sense of community grows daily - as we continue to explore the intimate community of women that inhabit the play itself. Our rehearsals are filled with laughter, tears, joy of discovery, hard work, good playing, respect and most definitely: lots of chocolate and great snacks – essential food groups...
The ritual of theatre and its practices meets the ritual and practices of the Mikveh. The interweaving of the two is proving to be a rich, fierce complex and buoyant journey.

 

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Talkbacks

Sunday April 15 - 2:00 PM
Nora Gold, Writer-in-Residence at the Centre for Women’s Studies in Education at OISE/UT and the editor of the prestigious online literary journal Jewish Fiction .net

“The Portrayal of the Mikveh in Four Short Stories: What the Mikveh Symbolizes for Some Contemporary Jewish Women Writers.”

Sunday April 22 - 7:00 PM
Jewish Child and Family services York Region 
Together, Greta Reiss (M.S.W., RSW) and Janice Shaw (M.A., M.S.W., RSW), will break down the myths surrounding woman abuse in the Jewish community.

Tuesday April 24 - 8:00 PM
Cast talkback

Wednesday April 25th - 1 PM *Pre-Show talk
Victor Vazquez, Cultural Affairs Officer Consulate General of Israel
Highlighting Spotlight on Israeli Culture in Toronto

Thursday April 26 – 8:00 PM (Young Jewish Leader Night)
Penny Krowitz, Executive Director Act To End Violence Against Women.  
We all want and deserve healthy relationships. Learn about red flags of dating abuse and your role in ending violence against women.

Tuesday May 1 - 8:00 PM
Cast talkback

Thursday May 3 - 8:00 PM
Penny Krowitz, Executive Director Act To End Violence Against Women.
‘He didn’t hit me so I am not being abused’. Learn about the subtleties of abuse and its insidious nature.

Sunday May 6 - 2:00 PM
Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, Rabbi at the City Shul *In the Lobby following the performance
What do non-Orthodox Jewish feminists have to say about the mikvah? Are there alternative understandings of this mitzvah? Rabbi Elyse Goldstein will react and speak after the show about her non-traditional experiences of mikvah.

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Press Review

"PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR"– 2004 ISRAELI THEATRE ACADEMY AWARDS

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Photo Gallery

STARRING

Jessica Greenberg
Brittany Kay
Rosa Laborde
Niki Landau
Maria Ricossa
Sadie Seaton
Alice Snaden
Theresa Tova

Photos by Joanna Akyol

J.Greenberg, T. Tova, M. Ricossa, R. Laborde
Sadie Seaton & Niki Landau
Theresa Tova & Alice Snaden
Sadie Seaton & Alice Snaden
Brittany Kay & Theresa Tova
R. Laborde, A. Snaden & S. Seaton
Rosa Laborde
Theresa Tova & Brittany Kay

T. Tova, S. Seaton, A. Snaden, R. Laborde
Alice Snaden & Brittany Kay
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