Bēma successfully opens “The Gates”

GatesBēma was delighted at the response to the reading of the play, The Gates are Closing at Congregation Emanu-El on Saturday, September 21. The reading was followed by Havdalah, and Sliḥot services. The audience of approximately fifty included members of the congregation familiar with Yom Kippur services and others who were intrigued by the subject.

The Gates are Closing was discovered by Bēma team member Annie Weeks, who was so taken by the poem “Home” in the new Lev Shalem Siddur (page 181) that she contacted Merle Feld, the author, to happily find out that as well as being a poet, Merle was also a playwright. Gates is a play that was written specifically to be read by members of a synagogue congregation prior to the High Holy Days. It has been performed since its 1986 première in New York in hundreds of congregations world-wide.

The Gates are Closing takes place during the evening of Yom Kippur, the morning, and the late afternoon of the next day. Through its ten characters, the piece speaks thoughtfully and eloquently to the various struggles that each one of us brings to the forefront of our minds on these days of awe. The voices of the characters are interspersed with highlights of the Yom Kippur service, including the sounding of a shofar at its end.

Members of the Jewish community who presented the reading were: Katya Delancey, Rick Kool, Rabbi Harry Brechner, Howard Herzog, Benjy de la Vega, Eva Stanger-Ross, Danielle Weisz, Barbara Pelman, Miriam Waldman and Aaron Severs. Each reader was outstanding. Direction was provided by Zelda Dean and stage management by Susan Holtz.

As well as the audience taking away insights from the experience, each reader did the same.

“A fine reading of a play that touches on so many human life experiences. The readers were very talented and their stories came alive with each one, humbling me to the scale of our vulnerabilities and struggles. No sugar coating, just real life at the gate.” —Nancy Issenman, audience member.

“This was my first time acting as a character, not writing about one. But I could feel Joan’s pain as my own, and all the others as well. Each story blended into the other. The monologues were powerful, and the voices together felt like a whole community searching for forgiveness, for wholeness.” —Barbara Pelman, reader.

“It was a privilege to be given this opportunity. The play challenged me to do my “heshbon nefesh” (internal soul accounting) in preparation for the Days of Awe. It also reminded me that we come together as a community of imperfect beings, each with our individual and collective issues. Somehow, during this High Holiday period, we manage to find some transformation and answers.” —Aaron Severs, reader.

Bēma initiates our Leil Sliḥot service with a reading of The Gates are Closing

The Gates are Closing Jewish 1000Saturday, September 21, 2019 7 pm — This year Congregation Emanu-El will introduce our Sliḥot prayers for the High Holy Days in an unusual way, a reading of the award-winning contemporary play, The Gates Are Closing. Beginning Saturday, September 21 at 7 pm preceding the traditional Sliḥot service, 10 members of the Jewish community will take the parts of a varied yet inspired minyan of Jews in the synagogue on Yom Kippur as they grapple with issues of identity, meaning, repentance and forgiveness.

This award-winning play had its first staged reading at the Jewish Repertory Theatre in New York in May 1986. Since then it has been presented in hundreds of synagogues and college campuses from Brooklyn to Beijing, including a signed performance by Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf in Arleta, California.

Over the years many rabbis and congregations have treasured the play including Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, who described it as “a drama of great religious insight and nuance, instigating probably the most thoughtfully lively High Holy Day preparation our congregation ever had.”

The playwright, Merle Feld, is a widely published poet whose work frequently appears in anthologies and prayer books including the new Conservative High Holy Day Maḥzor Lev Shalem, the Siddur Lev Shalem, and the Reform Movement Women’s Torah Commentary. She is also the author of a popular memoir in poetry and prose, A Spiritual Life: Exploring the Heart and Jewish Tradition (SUNY Press, revised 2007) and a recent book of her poems, Finding Words (URJ Press, 2011).

Feld is moved and delighted that The Gates are Closing, written early in her career, has retained its urgency and spiritual power for such a vast audience nationally and internationally. “It feels miraculous to me that every fall these characters come to life again—in Philadelphia and San Diego, Youngstown and Nashville, Virginia, Arizona, San Antonio, Australia, and London—and that these characters continue to provide a gateway for Jews across the denominations who are searching for meaning.”

A Little Crazy: Bēma at the Fringe

A Little Crazy - NL BemaBēma Productions is thrilled to present their fifth Victoria Fringe Festival production, the comedy “A Little Crazy” written by Joseph Reed Hayes, directed by Zelda Dean and performed by Toshik Bukowiecki & Michael Rodgers.  All performances take place at Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard Street, Victoria.

Thursday August 22, 7 pm
Sunday August 25, 2 pm
Monday August 26, 7 pm
Tuesday August 27, 7 pm
Wednesday August 28, 7 pm
Thursday August 29, 7 pm
Sunday September 1, 2 pm

TICKETS: $11 are available online from at victoriafringe.com or ticketrocket.co or in person at Ticket Rocket Lounge: 10 am–5 pm, Monday to Friday at 1050 Meares Street and at Fringe HQ beginning August 20: noon–7 pm daily at 2–1609 Blanshard (at Fisgard, across from Romeo’s), or at the door.

Bēma Productions: We are the Levinsons

BEMALevinsonsLogo-CEnewsletterMay 9 to 23, 2019, Congregation Emanu-El Synagogue, 1461 Blanshard StreetBēma Productions is proud to present our 2019 Mainstage production, the Canadian Premiere of We Are The Levinsons by Wendy Kout. The story details the phenomenon of the “sandwich generation” — adults caring for both children and aging parents — through the lens of one family’s momentous year. Continue reading Bēma Productions: We are the Levinsons

First Annual Readers Theatre Festival

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Weekend January 26/27, 2019Bēma Production’s next venture is an exciting weekend of Reader’s Theatre in January 2019. The festival will run in the now familiar Bēma “black box” which we create in Congregation Emanu-El‘s social hall. This style of theatre allows the audience to imagine the action from hearing the script read aloud without sets, costumes or props. The readers of the three festival plays have been carefully chosen through auditions from inside and outside the Congregation Emanu-El community. It will be a weekend filled with laughter, sadness and challenges. Please come and enjoy one play, or even all three. Tickets are now available at https://www.ticketrocket.co/event/season/346 Continue reading First Annual Readers Theatre Festival

Bēma Productions & Langham Court Theatre present: Lessons

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November 10 – 12, 2018: 3 performances only — Bēma Productions, in collaboration with Langham Court Theatre, proudly announces a remount of the play Lessons previously presented at Congregation Emanu-El in April 2018.

  • Saturday November 10 7.30 pm
  • Sunday November 11 2.00 pm
  • Monday November 12 7.30 pm

Performances at Langham Court Theatre, 805 Langham Court, Victoria.

Lessons is a thoughtful, compelling play about finding faith and love in a sometimes violent and alienating world. Lessons is performed by Christine Upright (last seen as Edna in Bēma’s Prisoner of Second Avenue) and Alf Small (Horowitz and Mrs Washington). Zelda Dean directs. When Ben finally decides to have a Bar Mitzvah (at his age!) he hires Ruth, a Rabbi who’s lost her faith, to tutor him. The two characters forge a friendship as they each search for healing and forgiveness while wrestling with their own deep-rooted problems. Lessons is a touching, funny and poignant drama that asks the question: Can we find healing and forgiveness when our beliefs are questioned?

“Small and Upright are magnificent as Ben and Ruth, with a naturalistic acting style that compels careful attention—not a moment of this two hour play is wasted.” – Janis La Couvee

Proceeds of these performances will be donated to The War Amps.
TICKETS: $23 – available online at www.langhamtheatre.ca or by phone at Langham Court box office 250-384-2142.

ENQUIRIES:  Zelda Dean zeldadean@shaw.ca  Telephone 250-881-2094

Bēma Productions Audition Call

BEMAlogoSunday, October 7, 1461 Blanshard Street — Our own Bema productions will hold auditions for its newest venture—a Readers Theatre Festival to be held during the last weekend of January 2019. We are looking for readers for the following three plays.