By Mike Cohen, with files from Barbara Ford
Both Claudia Litvak Polachek and Pearl Lottner Rothenberg are children of Jewish immigrants from two very different parts of the world, who came to Montreal under very different circumstances. These two ladies are behind an upcoming Labyrinth Stage Productions presentation called Daughters of Mile End (April 3 to 6 ) at the DB Clarke Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West) of Concordia University
Inspired by true stories, this is a Jewish Montreal-centric creation. Lottner Rothenberg, lived in Mile End as a girl and one of the play’s characters and experiences are loosely based on her and her family. It sounds like a great story, given the strong ties to a local Jewish neighbourhood, children of Holocaust survivors and a look at the immigrant experience which is such a hot topic in the news these days.
Litvak Polachek is a co-founder and the Artistic Director of Labyrinth Stage Productions. Previously, she started the Akiva Players and spent seven years delighting Akiva students and parents with musical productions. She has also worked at the Segal Centre, done voice-over work and acting, has degrees from McGill University (Political Science), Concordia University (Creative Writing), the Institute of Children’s Literature, and is a Wexner graduate.
Lottner Rothenberg’s love of challenges has resulted in her having several careers in her 70 years. From the age of 12 she knew her life’s mission was to become a psychologist. In the journey through her own labyrinth, she first became a wife to Jack and then mother to Robert and Kimberly. Along the way she did Interior Design, opened a financial company with her husband, and finally went back to school to fulfill her dream of becoming a clinical psychologist. She accomplished her goal at the age of 40 and practiced her beloved profession for 28 years. Due to an auspicious meeting with Litvak Polachek the door to her love of writing and theatre/arts opened and another career was born.
The play is about four Mile End girls and the diverse paths their lives take as they grow into adulthood and beyond. The all-female multi-generational cast of 13 is under the direction of Rachelle Glait, with set and costume designs by the multi-award winning John Dinning and Louise Bourret respectively.
With humour, poignancy, and insight, Daughters of Mile End illustrates that despite traumatic family histories, the girls’ shared childhood memories and experiences lead them to a better understanding of their mothers—and themselves—enabling them to live and love more fully.
MIRIAM: “Just because I speak with an accent doesn’t mean I think with an accent.”
“Relationships—with our parents, other family members, our friends and lovers—are the medium through which we develop the tools to meet life’s challenges,” said Lottner Rothenberg. “As a psychologist, I think that a big issue, not only for these women but for all of us, is whether we end up repeating or repairing the traumas of our past. This often keeps us from becoming authentic, well-functioning individuals. In order to not repeat our traumas with others, we need to develop a conscious awareness and understanding of what took place and why. This is not easy to do when there are often so many secrets … a major theme of this play. How different the characters are, despite their seemingly common background. As they mature and their lives become busier and more complex, they still manage to stay connected.”
“Using the specific to explore the universal is where this play excels,”,added Litvak Polachek. “Each woman travels a different road but their combined stories touch on major human dilemmas that we all face at one time or another, from generation to generation. The audience, as silent witnesses, walks away feeling as if they’ve known these women for decades, not just a couple of hours … and in a way they have. Rachelle Glait’s direction, especially the scene transitions, is masterful, and Mike Sinnott’s dreamlike lighting for the memory sequences of the characters as young girls takes the play to a whole new level of awesome!”
Glait also had a personal connection to the story and its locale, one of the reasons she was at the top of the list of prospective directors for the new play. “It’s rare to have the opportunity to direct a production that mirrors one’s own life experiences. Daughters of Mile End examines very familiar territory: women whose mothers, like my own, survived the milchume (Holocaust) and grew up in Montreal neighbourhoods that have their own unique and extraordinary history,” she said. “Audiences will recognize themselves in the characters as they journey through more than fifty years of engrossing reunions. With this wonderful all-female cast, including four remarkable young girls, the production travels well beyond the borders of reminiscence and nostalgia.”
For more information call 1-800-838-3006 or purchase your tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4048627.