Monthly Archives: January 2020

Supporting material – Rabbi Zalman Schachter’s Years in Winnipeg

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This page includes audio files and other material supporting my application for a SSHRC Insight Development Grant project including research-creation through verbatim theatre.

Storytelling and theatre are different but related arts. My long involvement with storytelling gives me a starting point for engaging with theatre creation. Here are three recent audio recordings of my storytelling.

These are informal performances without the polish of professional theatre. The wording of each story is improvised on the spot rather than having been memorized word for word as in a theatre script. But they are oral performances, like theatre. In the first two, moreover, I am playing a character. Unlike a traditional telling of a folktale, I am not just a narrator recounting the doings of others in the third person; and unlike contemporary personal storytelling, the “I” in the story is not me.

I told this story, “The Power of Storytelling?” on December 13, 2019 at Toronto’s long-running weekly storytelling gathering, 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling. It is my adaptation of an episode in the novel King John of Canada by Scott Gardiner: 

 

This story, “Hanukkah Eggs,” is even more related to theatre in that two characters are involved, one “played” by my spouse, Jane Enkin, and the other by me. We adapted this story from a non-Jewish folktale and told it at an open “Evening of Tales,” organized by the Toronto Jewish Storytelling Guild, on December 15, 2019:

 

This considerably longer story, “Aladin,” is theatrical in that it involves a complicated, dramatic plot and a number of major characters. Following the storytelling traditions I have learned, I do not “act” the different characters or give them each a different voice, but I become each of them to some extent. This is my adaptation of the first known version of the famous story of Aladdin (rather different from the Disney movie!), by Antoine Galland. I told it on November 4, 2018, as part of a storytelling house concert, in which all stories were from the Arabian Nights, as a fundraiser for Crossed Hands Refugee Committee, Winnipeg.

 

Experiences as an amateur actor

On March 22, 2019, I played a lead role, King Achashverosh, in “My Fair Maidel,” a musical Purimshpil (play/entertainment for the Jewish holiday Purim) adapted from “My Fair Lady,” at Temple Shalom, Winnipeg.

On June 17, 2010, I had a lead role, in Yiddish, in the Winnipeg Yiddish Women’s Reading Circle annual skit at the Gwen Secter Centre; the playlet was based on the novel Malke, Malke by Bess Kaplan, and directed by the author.

 

Below is a list of earlier highlights of my storytelling – aside from frequent storytelling in my courses – since taking up my position at the University of Manitoba. Locations are in Winnipeg unless otherwise stated.

November 24, 2017. “When there were No Mirrors in the World,” a Turkish/Sephardi story, as part of a Shabbat service at Temple Shalom

December 4, 2015: “Faithful Zuleika,” a story from Muslim tradition, as part of a Shabbat service at Temple Shalom

November 28, 2015: “Chelm Finds a Treasure,” original adaptation of a Jewish folktale, as part of a CD launch concert by Len Udow, at Temple Shalom – see this article: JewishPostDec92015-10

July 5, 2013: “The Baal Shem Tov Goes to a Wedding,” original Hasidic story at the 21st World Conference of GLBT Jews, Winnipeg Convention Centre. Jane Enkin and I led a “tish” — a Shabbat evening (Friday night) social and religious gathering with a lot of singing. In this spiritual context, we presented an original story about same sex love, in the manner of the Hasidic tales that I have often told and studied. I told it, interspersed with appropriate singing by Jane Enkin. Because we performed together in this way, and because of the length and complexity of the performance and the heightened emotional atmosphere of the setting, this was the closest I have come in recent years to creating theatre.

June 8, 2013: Saturday evening program with stories and teaching, Shaarey Zedek synagogue.
This was the most recent in a series of these gatherings co-led with singer-storyteller Jane Enkin, and usually including one or more guest teachers (visiting rabbis, singers, Indigenous elders): September 25, October 30, November 13, and December 11, 2010; February 19, April 9, and May 7, 2011; January 7, February 4, March 3, and May 26, 2012; January 12 and February 23, 2013.

April 12, 2013: Storytelling in memory of master storyteller Diane Wolkstein, at Stone Soup storytelling gathering, McNally-Robinson bookstore

March 19, 2013: “Laili and Majnun” (the “Romeo and Juliet” story of the Muslim world, which I first encountered years ago in Bangladesh) at World Storytelling Day storytelling concert, at Charisma restaurant

August 5, 2012: “Imagining Reality: Cree and Métis Stories”: Storytelling for children and for adults at Capital Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Victoria BC

March 23, 2012: Hasidic storytelling as “keynote” for University of Manitoba Religion Student Association (UMRSA) annual colloquium

March 18, 2012: Storytelling and Art workshop with Ruth Livingston, Temple Shalom

June 3, 2011: “Spiritual Storytelling”, with Karen Toole at the Millennium Library, part of a series organized by leading Winnipeg storyteller Kay Stone

March 13, 2011: Hosted, and told in, a “Jewish Joke Swap” at Winnipeg Limmud festival of Jewish learning

September 25, 2010: A long story by Rebbe Nahman of Breslov at Shaarey Zedek synagogue, as the beginning of “Nachmanifest,” a festival honouring the 200th anniversary of Rebbe Nahman’s death. This was the first of the Saturday evening gatherings mentioned above, continuing until June 8, 2013.

March 20, 2010: Told in World Storytelling Day storytelling concert, Aqua Books

November 13, 2009: Featured teller at the monthly “Stone Soup” storytelling gathering, at the request of visiting master storyteller Jan Andrews

June 18, 2009: “The Cantor in Hell,” my adaptation from a Yiddish story by I.L. Peretz, Wolseley Art Festival, Neighbourhood Café

March 22, 2009, New York City: Told the conclusion of the Chinese epic “Journey to the West”(“Monkey”) as part of a performance organized by master storyteller Diane Wolkstein. The New York Times announced this event as follows:

MONKEY KING: JOURNEY TO THE WEST’ (Friday through Sunday) Diane Wolkstein and her fellow professional storytellers are prodigious masters of narrative, and in this case you could say that they’re going head to head with Scheherazade: in 18 hours over 3 days they will offer a quasi-marathon account of “Monkey King: Journey to the West,” the 16th-century Chinese epic. Monkey King’s mystical powers rival those of a comic-book superhero, and he has lots of adventures during his travels with a monk, so it isn’t necessary to experience the entire event, recommended for ages 8 and older, to enjoy it. Reservations are advised for one or more of the three days, in which Ms. Wolkstein and 25 other storytellers take turns. Friday from 7 to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; La Salle Academy, 44 East Second Street, East Village, (212) 929-6871, monkeykingepic.com; $40 for three-day admission; $25 for one day.

Teaching update

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I am on sabbatical for the 2019-2020 academic year.

In Fall 2020 I’ll be teaching my most popular course, Religion & Sexuality (RLGN  1424, Monday-Wednesday-Friday 10:30-11:20), and a course in a controversial field, Zionism: Religious Perspectives (RLGN 3400, Monday-Wednesday-Friday 12:30-1:20). Both courses start on Monday September 7 and end on Monday December 7 (no exams).

In Winter 2021 I’m scheduled to teach Introduction to Judaism (RLGN 2140, Tuesday-Thursday 11:30-12:45), and a brand new addition to our Religion curriculum, Atheism (RLGN 2200, Tuesday-Thursday 10-11:15). These courses begin Tuesday, January 5, 2021, and end on Tuesday April 6 (no exams!)

Let me know your suggestions for what to teach the year after that 🙂