Jewish playwright Oren Safdie among the big names set for Infinitheatre’s PIPELINE

By Mike Cohen (with files  from Janis Kirshner)

Every year Infinithéâtre proudly presents a selection of its newest discoveries in PIPELINE, an annual series of free public play readings where the audience takes centre stage, offering valuable feedback that furthers script development and helps choose future seasons. Guy Sprung, Infinithéâtre’s artistic director, invites the public to be part of the excitement and share their views from Thursday, December 5 to Saturday, December 7 at the Rialto Studio and Sunday, December 8 at KIN Gallery. Pipeline is four plays in four days, including the Kevin prize, first place winner from Infinithéâtre’s annual Write-On-Q! script writing competition, named in memory of the late Kevin Tierney, renowned Canadian film producer, Montreal Gazette columnist & Infinithéâtre Board Member. The playwrights will be in attendance.

This marks the 14th year for the Pipeline reading series. In its ongoing mandate, Infinithéâtre seeks innovative and challenging new works by Québec and Indigenous playwrights to bring to the stage. The Write-On-Q! competition feeds much of the series. Submitting their work are not only produced playwrights, but also unknown writers including students in writing programs at universities and theatre schools, along with plays coming from CEGEP & university professors, journalists, editors, actors, screenwriters, poets, directors, novelists and various literary award-winners. The winning and runner-up scripts are selected by an independent jury, chaired this year by playwright/actor Alexandria Haber, which included Gerry Lipnowski, Patricia Saxton and Marianne Ackerman. Juries receive their copies with the names of the playwrights redacted.

Artistic Director Guy Sprung is very pleased with the over 35 high-quality Write-On-Q! entries this year and invites audiences to hear some of Montreal’s finest actors led by talented directors read scripts that could become future local productions, adding relevant, Québécois theatre to the landscape. Over half of the submissions this year are from culturally diverse Quebeckers. Said Sprung, “I’m looking forward to the public readings of four differing, very powerful pieces of new writing. These are potent, pertinent, controversial and fabulously written pieces of theatre for audiences to dissect.”

Pipeline professional readings include the winner of Write-On-Q!’s First Place $3000 Kevin Prize— Jewish playwright Oren Safdie for Colour Blind and the Second Place prize, $1500—Divide and Rule by Vishesh Abeyratne.

Pipeline gives the public a unique opportunity to voice their opinions through lively talkback discussions following each reading—an important part of any play development. Providing invaluable input for the playwrights, talkbacks allow the audience to address questions or issues that the text generates, in a relaxed, open forum with the authors, directors and actors. Pipeline successes include Battered and Book of Bob by Arthur Holden; Oren Safdie’s Unseamly and Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv; Michael Milech’s Honesty Rents by the HourConversion, Progress! and Trench Patterns by Alyson Grant; Marianne Ackerman’s Triplex Nervosa; Michaela Di Cesare’s Successions; Alexandria Haber’s Alice and the World We Live In; and Quebec Writers’ Federation’s Playwriting Prize winner Paradise Lost by Erin Shields.

Oren Safdie

Sat. December 7, 7pm at the Rialto Studio—Write-On-Q! first place winner, Kevin prize

Colour Blind by  Oren Safdie, directed by Philip Akin Cast TBD

Colour Blind is a fictionalized account of the jury deliberations surrounding the selection of an architect for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The Jury ultimately chose David Adjaye to design the building. The play lifts the veil that renders the process of architectural production bewildering, and invites the audience into the usually sealed-off space where critical decisions about architecture are made. The jurors consist of a racially diverse cast of characters that include the museum director and his associate, an architecture critic and starchitect, and the museum’s treasurer and a community organizer. Can they all put their personal politics aside and agree on one design?

Oren Safdie helmed the Malibu Stage Co. where his off-Broadway/London hit Private Jokes, Public Places debuted. His next play, The Last Word also moved off-Broadway, starring Daniel J. Travanti. Other productions include Unseamly, Checks & Balances, The Bilbao Effect, West Bank, UK, Jews & Jesus and La Compagnie, which he developed into a pilot for CBS. Four of his plays garnered a New York Times Critic’s Pick. As a screenwriter, Oren scripted the film You Can Thank Me Later starring Ellen Burstyn, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Newport Film Festival; and the Israeli film Bittersweet. He has taught playwriting and screenwriting at the University of Miami, Douglas College in Vancouver, and California School of the Arts. His most recent play, Gratitude, will open in New York in 2021.

“Infinithéâtre’s Write-On-Q! playwriting competition has been a great motivator to my writing,” Oren says.  “Color Blind is my 4th play set in the world of contemporary architecture, but has the least to do with architecture, dealing with issues of racial identity that have recently flared up in the United States and Canada. Things that were appropriate years ago—or even yesterday—are highly inappropriate today. There are those who would disapprove of anyone addressing issues in a culture other than their own. I believe there can be value in getting an outsider’s point of view, if done properly. If not, let the writer pay the price; if writers are restricted from imagining, society will pay the price.”

Sun. December 8, 2pm at KIN Gallery

Mazel Tov by Marc-André Thibault, directed by Ellen David

With: Alex Weiner, Patrick Émmanuel Abellard, Elana Dunkelman and Howard Rosenstein

Isabelle is Jewish, Patrick isn’t. They are getting married. During the celebration, Phillip, Patrick’s best friend, makes a gesture that is perceived as anti-Semitic. Several guests are angry, in addition to Isabelle, who strikes Phillip, and seriously harms him. The wedding is not the one we hoped for. The marriage is even worse…

Since his actor’s training at the Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Québec, Marc-André has been very active in theater as an actor, an author, translator, director and producer with the company he created, Théâtre Bistouri. He likes to tell stories that mix humor and drama, and he stands out with his frank plays and his sharp dialogue. He also wrote Tout craché, and translated from English to French, A skull in ConnemaraConversations with my PenisMadraBeing Norwegian and Straight.

On Sunday afternoon, come for the play reading, stay for the holiday party!

PIPELINE 2019, Thursday Dec. 5 to Sunday, Dec. 8, Discussion to follow each reading Thurs. to Sat. 7pm at Rialto Studio, 5711 Park Ave.; Sun. 2pm, at KIN Gallery, 397a Saint-Catherine St. W.

Tickets are free to reserve; a $10 donation at the door is suggested (limited seating).To reserve: 514 987-1774 ext. 104 or RSVP online or by email

Award-winning production Come From Away mesmerizes Montrealers at Place des Arts

By Elaine Cohen

Sheer joy and a strong sense of Canadian pride fueled the atmosphere at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts  on opening night at the Montreal premiere of the acclaimed Broadway musical Come From Away brought to Montreal by evenko and Broadway Across Canada (November 26-December 1 inclusive).

This true story shows how inclusiveness and kindness prevailed in Gander, Newfoundland, when faith in humanity had reached an all-time low following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed thousands, destroyed U.S. buildings and downed airplanes loaded with people from around the globe. As a result, U.S. Federal Aviation shut down airspace forcing 4,000 planes to land at the nearest airport. Despite Gander’s minuscule population and spartan means to feed, house, and meet other immediate needs, residents, along with Newfoundlanders from surrounding regions, rose to the occasion. They welcomed 7,000 weary passengers seated in 38 huge airplanes that had landed at Gander’s aged airport.

Irene Sankoff and David Hein.

This story is brought to life by Canadian co-authors Irene Sankoff and David Hein, who created the book, music and lyrics. The co-authors are married and share Jewish roots. They worked in tandem with Tony award winning director Christopher Ashley and numerous other key players.

Twelve charismatic actors serve as raconteurs on stage adapting accents and dialogue to re-enact actual personalities and situations. They are accompanied on stage by a host of versatile musicians. Moreover, the actors, sing, dance, crack jokes, shed tears, and it’s a fast-paced show. The ambience is infectious and the orchestra brings a resounding conclusion to the performance, when musicians take centre stage and the audience rises from their seats and joins in the action. They united in swaying to the music, humming, clapping incessantly and relishing harmonious vibes.

A highlight of the show involves stranded passengers emanating from different cultures following diverse customs and ceremonies. The respectful Newfoundlanders tirelessly scramble and succeed in responding to requests. In one instance, a rabbi seeks kosher food, a scarce commodity in town but people of many persuasions pitch in and the rabbi koshers pots, pans, sources produce and makes it work. The heartwarming Oseh Shalom resonates among the orchestrations that run the gamut from folk and country to popular classics.

Every Come From Away performer, musician and member of the crew merits praise for enlightening and entertaining Montrealers, who thrive on joie de vivre in this cosmopolitan, friendly city.

For information and details visit and





Sat. Nov 23: Dr. David Zukor to lead free  TBDJ Medical Talk on Orthopedics

Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation (6519 Baily Road) in Côte Saint-Luc will continue with its free medical education series on Saturday, November 23 (7:30 pm) as member Dr. David Zukor leads an evening on the topic of orthopedics entitled My Bones and Joints Hurt: What Can I Do About It? 

Dr. Zukor is the chief of Orthopedic Surgery at the Jewish General Hospital. His medical career has already spanned more than three decades. His specialization is hip and knee replacement. He will be joined by Dr. Ruth Chaytor, an assistant professor of surgery at McGill University and the chief of the foot and an

Dr. David Zukor

kle surgery for McGill. She established and is head of the diabetic foot clinic at the Jewish General Hospital, which currently cares for approximately 300 diabetic patients. She is also chief of surgical services at the  JGH.

Rachel Szwimer

The focus of the presentations will be broken down into two themes:  Hip and Knee Arthritis and Treatment and Common Foot Problems.  Like last year, some young TBDJ members presently in medical school will be part of the presentation: Rachel Szwimer, Med I (Supplements and other “Natural” Therapies/treatments for arthritis);   Jack Rudski, Med II (Plantar Fasciitis’) and Alexandra Cohen, Med III ( Injections for Arthritis).

Alexandra Cohen

Dr. Zukor is an orthopedic surgeon whose particular area of interest involves hip and knee arthritis, including both medical and surgical treatment. He has been chief of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the Jewish General Hospital since 1991, is an associate professor of surgery at McGill University and an active consultant at the Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Center. Born and raised here, he attended Hebrew Academy elementary and high school followed by a one year program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  He attended McGill University as an undergraduate and for Medical School, receiving his MD in 1976.  His residency training was at McGill followed by two years of fellowship at the University of Toronto. In addition to a busy clinical practice, he also is very involved in teaching and research.

Jack Rudski

Dr. Chaytor is a founding member and the Canadian representative on the International Working Group on the Diabetic Foot, passionate about establishing multidisciplinary clinics for diabetic foot care and reducing the current amputation rate in diabetics by 50  percent. In 2013, she was appointed Chief of Surgical Services of the Jewish General Hospital.   Dr. Chaytor grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and graduated with Bachelor of Medical Science and M.D. degrees from Memorial University of Newfoundland. She completed a rotating internship at The Montreal General Hospital, McGill University before returning to the east to complete an orthopaedic residency at Dalhousie University. She has a clinical trauma fellowship from Dalhousie, a foot and ankle fellowship from the University of Pittsburgh, and a prosthetics and orthotics fellowship from the University of Montreal. Returning to Montreal in 1995, she initially worked at Notre Dame Hospital and the Université de  Montréal, before moving to the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University in 1997.

Dr. Ruth Chaytor


There will be a question and answer period at the conclusion of the event.

Last year’s event focused on cardiology and attracted a standing room only audience.


America’s Got Talent Winner Mat Franco to perform at ORT Montreal Gala

By Alexandra Cohen

Anybody who has watched the hit television show America’s Got Talent no doubt remains a big fan of 2014 winner, master magician Mat Franco. I was thrilled to hear that he would be the featured performer at the 2019 ORT Montreal Ted Wise Gala for Jewish Education on Sunday, December 8th at Place des Arts.

Jonathan Goodman

The event will feature a cocktail dinatoire at 6 pm, followed by his performance at 7:30 pm. Honoureees this year are community leaders Jonathan Goodman, Jeff Hart, Dean Mendel and Gideon Pollack.

For close to 140 years, ORT has supported more than three million students around the world, helping to unleash the potential of young people so that they can lead fulfilling lives and have a positive impact on the world around them.  Today, ORT is active in 35 countries across five continents, providing a staggering 300,000 plus students annually with the skills, knowledge and confidence to become successful members of 21st century society, economically self-sufficient, and imbued with the values needed to support others. In addition to supporting ORT activities across the globe, the 2019 ORT Gala will help raise urgently needed funds for the following schools and programs in Montreal: Akiva School, Azrieli Schools Talmud Torah/Herzliah, CBB Ottawa, Chabad NDG, Ecole Maimonide, Hebrew Academy, Hebrew Foundation School, JPPS-Bialik, JPPS ONE, March of the Living Montreal, and Solomon Schechter Academy.

Mat Franco is Montreal-bound.

As for Mat Franco, he takes an innovative approach to magic-making that’s driven by pure joy. Almost entirely self-taught, the 29-year-old Rhode Island native began staging his own shows before the age of 10 and quickly cultivated a performance style that highlighted his natural warmth and wit. Following a triumphant victory on America’s Got Talent and his first-ever primetime TV special, Mat Franco’s Got Magic, Franco is now headlining his own show, MAGIC REINVENTED NIGHTLY at The LINQ Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Named “Best Show” by Las Vegas Weekly and twice voted “Best Magic Show” in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Best of Las Vegas Awards, MAGIC REINVENTED NIGHTLY has continued to receive rave reviews from fans and critics alike, paving the way for the renaming of the LINQ Theater to The Mat Franco Theater in summer 2017.

Growing up in Johnston, Rhode Island, Franco first became fascinated with magic at the age of four. “I basically spent my whole childhood teaching myself by taping magic shows off the TV and watching them over and over in slow motion, trying to figure out all the tricks,” says Franco. At age 12—after years of sharpening his craft by practicing for his family and friends and delivering on-the-fly performances at his older brothers’ wrestling matches and football games—Franco headed to Las Vegas to join a three-day program that allowed him to study under a host of magicians previously featured on NBC’s The World’s Greatest Magic. Thanks to an act he developed on his own and honed through an ever-growing number of gigs at local events and parties, Franco returned to Las Vegas three years later and took the stage at the Riviera Hotel & Casino as part of the Society of American Magicians National Convention.

After finishing high school, Franco began studying business at the University of Rhode Island, balancing his coursework with a steadily flourishing career powered by word-of-mouth marketing. In performing for his peers during his time as a student, he soon discovered that the college crowd provided a perfect audience for his humor-infused take on magic. “When I was younger I was a little more serious, partly because I was trying to emulate the magicians I saw on TV, who tended to have a dark, mysterious element to their act,” he says. “But after a while I found my own voice as a performer and moved toward a style that’s much more lighthearted, where I’m interacting with the audience in a laid-back way that lets those more comedic moments happen.”

Over the next four years, Franco toured the country performing for colleges and universities, fast earning recognition as an in-demand act and eventually winning the 2013 Male Performer of The Year award from Campus Activities magazine. Then, in early 2014, he decided to expand his reach even further by auditioning for America’s Got Talent. “People had been telling me to try out for years, and finally I just auditioned on a whim,” he said. “I had no intentions of actually getting on the show—mostly it just seemed like a fun challenge to try to put together a piece of material that could work for a live audience but also engage the people watching at home.” Noting that his time on America’s Got Talent went a long way in fine-tuning his performance skills, Franco says he hopes that his triumph over 100,000 aspirants might have a broader impact on his chosen field. “To be honest, I didn’t expect to see any magician win the show,” he admits. “Magic requires a different kind of attention than what’s needed for something like music, and sometimes it can be a challenge to get people to connect. My hope in all this is that I’ve done something that will help move the art of magic forward.”

Claiming his victory in mid-September 2014, Franco went on to host the America’s Got Talent Live show at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas later that month. Along with appearing on shows like Today, Live! with Kelly and Michael, and Access Hollywood Live, Franco also immediately set to work on refining brand-new material for his headlining act with MAGIC REINVENTED NIGHTLY. With the aim of taking his audience on a “shared adventure,” the full-scale production allows Franco to execute his magic with a grander sense of spectacle than ever before—all while maintaining the easy intimacy that’s long been central to his performances. “One of the most important things to me as a performer is really connecting with the audience, so it’s like we’re all just hanging out in a room together,” he says. “I love to change things up as I go and let the crowd guide what we’re doing. That way it keeps it fresh for me every night, and makes it so each show is special for everyone in the audience.”

For ticket and sponsorship information  log on to, email or call 514-481-2787


JPPS Bialik to host free information session on Jewish genetic health

Julie Kristof’s life changed drastically when in 2008 her 18-month old daughter Miriam was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Familial Dysautonomia. She quickly learned that this condition occurs only among the Jewish population who descend from Eastern or Central Europe.

Both she and her husband are carriers of this genetic mutation and with each pregnancy there was a one-in-four chance that the baby would be affected. The sad part is that Julie and her husband could have been tested but were never told to do so. And, Julie was tested for Tay Sachs in high school so thought she was “safe.”

Julie Kristof

Like many communities who are descendants of very homogeneous groups, the Jewish community has a higher propensity for a number of genetic conditions that potentially impacts children of a carrier couple or the person who inherits the faulty gene. Individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ) ancestry have a 10x higher frequency of BRCA mutations than the general population. In the case of Familial Dysautonomia, 1-in-32 Ashkenazi Jews are carriers and it is not carried by anyone outside the community. There is a long list of hereditary conditions including cancers that are more likely to impact Jews who hail from Eastern Europe, Morocco or the Middle East.

Fast forward to the fall of 2018, Julie went on a trip to Israel called Momentum with a group of women from her son’s high school (JPPS-Bialik) along with hundreds of women from around the world. Julie has been heading up an organization call the Montreal Jewish Genetic Disorder fund for a number of years and has done many presentations on her experience and her daughter’s condition. What she didn’t expect is how many questions the women on the trip had about their own genetic health – how Jewish genetic health is unique? How can one know if they’re a carrier?

How to talk to their children about hereditary disease? What options there are for testing? How should they decide whether to get tested? Are direct-to-consumer tests good options? Etc.

Upon returning to Montreal, this group of mothers decided that the community should have the opportunity to get some guidance and answers to their questions. The educators at JPPS-Bialik also saw this as a perfect fit with their mission to educate.

As Kristof pointed out, “There are so many things that are outside our control when it comes to our health. In the case of many of these genetic conditions, an individual can gather information for themselves and their families that can help them make decisions about their health. Information is power. Why roll the dice?” She continued, “I wish I had asked more questions. I wish I had known… I feel guilty every day that my daughter suffers the way she does.”

On Monday, November 18 (7 pm), a panel of experts will address a range of questions about Jewish genetic health – medical, Jewish law (hallacha), privacy and the impact on the lives of those affected at free lecture to be held at Bialik High School (6500 Kildare Road) in Côte Saint-Luc. Suppliers of services related to genetic testing or fertility will also be present to provide information.

Dr. David Rosenblatt

The panelists are:

Dr. David Rosenblatt: Professor, Department of Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University

Rabbi Avi Finegold: Founder, Jewish Learning Lab

Eta Yudin, Vice-President, Quebec, CIJA

Joanne Miller-Eisman, Founder, Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Foundation

Julie Kristof will be the moderator.

RSVP to the event on the event Facebook page (“Why roll

the dice? What’s hidden in your Jewish genes”) or at