A scene from one of the end-of-class performances by the Hebrew-language theatre group for women at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. Director Orly Naim is also teaching an English-language course this year. (photo from Orly Naim)
One of the new courses at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver is Community Theatre. The classes, which start Sept. 15 and run Thursday evenings to June 15, will “use theatre methods of movement, role-playing, improvisation and other out-of-the-box routines” and help “individuals and the group to find new ways for self-expression.” They will also prepare participants for an end-of-course public performance.
The instructor, community theatre director Orly Naim, has previously taught at the JCCGV. In fact, the other course she is leading at the centre – a Hebrew-language theatre group for women – picks up where she left off when she went on maternity leave last year. Those classes start Sept. 12 and run Monday nights to June 19, also ending with a public performance by participants.
For both theatre groups, Naim teaches and facilitates throughout the year, and writes the end-of-class play based on material that is brought up in the group sessions.
But Naim’s experience extends well beyond the JCCGV. After graduating from Tel Aviv University with a degree in theatre, Naim, who is passionate about community theatre, worked in Jaffa with marginalized groups, such as Arab women and drug addicts, during the winters, and traveled to the former Soviet Union during the summer to work at Jewish youth camps. In Israel, she was involved in many different social and educational projects, not all of which were theatre-oriented. Her life changed when her partner got a job offer in British Columbia and the couple landed here with their children.
In her new environment, Naim searched for new groups with which to work. The JCCGV’s Israeli culture department gave her program a chance and the women’s Hebrew theatre group was formed. It had run for two years when the Independent spoke with Naim last summer, as she was starting maternity leave.
“As a social person by nature, I have found the immigration process to be very challenging,” Naim told the Independent. “You think you are prepared, but, once you land, reality is different from what you expected. Not surprisingly, most of the women in our group had similiar experiences and the group helped them to express these stories on stage and out loud. The group started slowly, but the rumor spread fast and we grew rapidly, to 15 women, in just few months. Our group is very diverse and each woman has her own unique experience. Since I love to write and direct, I collected the stories and we turned them into our first show.”
Naim said, “The nature of community theatre is finding a common denominator, and here it was our language barrier and the fact that we are all immigrants. We all face the same personal conflicts with our families back home and how to keep in touch with them, and all these issues were addressed in this stage play [that ended the classes]. It might look personal at first, but it was actually based on other women’s experiences.”
For Naim, the “Hebrew group have turned out to be my extended family and I miss all of them during this time off. The dynamic we created there was unique and special – you can ask anyone who was involved. You can’t hide true passion, and I’m so glad we were able to find it.”
For those wanting to try the new Community Theatre course, which is given in English, it is open to men and women 20+ years old and no previous experience is necessary; the Hebrew-language group is for women 20 and older. For registration and cost information on both programs, visit jccgv.com.
Shahar Ben Halevi is a writer and filmmaker living in Vancouver.