Tamar Ilana & Ventanas play at the Rothstein Theatre Feb. 3. (photo by Ali Wasti)
The Chutzpah! Festival and Caravan World Rhythms co-present Tamar Ilana & Ventanas on Feb. 3, 8 p.m., at the Rothstein Theatre. Founded in 2011, Ventanas interweaves flamenco, Sephardi and Balkan music and dance. They have released three albums and have toured extensively throughout North America. They have been nominated for four Canadian Folk Music Awards.
The six-piece Toronto-based music ensemble is fronted by vocalist and dancer Tamar Ilana. They perform in more than 20 languages, including Ladino, Spanish, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Hebrew, French, Romani and Arabic, drawing inspiration from worldwide themes such as migration and the questioning of one’s identity.
Ventanas’ band members are from across the globe and, together, in true Canadian fashion, they and Ilana intertwine their musical cultures to create an all-encompassing world of their own in which they lead audiences down the less-traveled paths of the Mediterranean, mixing in contemporary interpretations of ancient ballads, original compositions and new choreographies, inviting audiences of all backgrounds into their music.
For tickets to Tamar Ilana & Ventanas ($40 regular, $34 senior/student), visit chutzpahfestival.com or call 604-257-5145.
Josh “Socalled” Dolgin leads an evening of Yiddish songs as part of Chutzpah! 2021. (photo from Chutzpah!)
The Chutzpah! Festival returns this November, presenting music, theatre, comedy and dance that reflect the joy of coming back together. For more than two decades, Chutzpah! has been an annual highlight of Greater Vancouver’s arts season. From Nov. 4 to 24, artists will once again grace the stage of the Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre, the festival’s hub, and share their work in person and online. Tickets go on sale Sept. 15.
The 21st Annual Chutzpah! Festival will include a variety of performances, paired with conversations and opportunities to interact with the artists. Audiences will have the chance to attend in-person shows, with COVID safety protocols in place, or enjoy digital streams from their homes. With an emphasis on artists from across Canada, the festival will also present work from Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom.
“Artists and arts enthusiasts alike have been eagerly awaiting our chance to come back together to share our stories,” said Jessica Mann Gutteridge, artistic managing director. “With the joy of reconnecting comes the knowledge that our lives have profoundly changed over the past year-and-a-half. The Chutzpah! Festival will explore and celebrate the many ways we tell stories now, with a variety of ways to experience and participate in the work.”
The festival opens Nov. 4 with a screening at the Rothstein Theatre of the Marx brothers classic A Night at the Opera, during which City Opera Vancouver will sing the operatic music parodied in the film. The 1930s cinema experience will include festive treats, glamour and a costume contest.
In the comedy realm – all in-person performances at the Rothstein Theatre – Canadian-born, New York-based stand-up comedian, storyteller and writer Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR’s comedy and trivia show Ask Me Another, performs Nov. 10. Israeli-American stand-up comedian Avi Liberman is joined by special guest Jacob Samuel and host Kyle Berger on Nov. 20. And Iris Bahr, who impressed Chutzpah! audiences in 2020 with her festival hosting and her solo show DAI (enough), performs her new solo show Nov. 23.
The dance performances at the Rothstein will be in-person events, as well as digitally streamed. Nov. 6 and 7, a Project inTandem double-bill features the works of Calgary producers and choreographers Sylvie Moquin and Meghann Michalsky, which explore the themes of female struggle and empowerment. Nov. 13 and 14, Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art return to Chutzpah! as resident artists with the third “chapter” of Kuebler’s research that began in 2018, after he read about the United Kingdom hiring a minister of loneliness. On Nov. 16 and 18, Ballet BC artist in residence Alexis Fletcher, who was 2019 and 2021 Chutzpah! resident artist, returns to the festival with a solo integrating movement and the visual art of Vancouver painter and HIV/AIDS activist Tiko Kerr, while 2020 and 2021 Chutzpah! resident artist Ne.Sans Opera & Dance, led by Idan Cohen, returns to showcase a new solo drawing inspiration from the myth of Orpheus and Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice, with co-creator Ted Littlemore (aka Mila Dramatic).
Theatre works featured are Lilach Dekel-Avneri and the Pathos-Mathos Company’s The Eichmann Project – Terminal 1 on Nov. 8 (digital stream available); The Flame – An Evening of Storytelling on Nov. 17, under the stewardship of artistic director Deborah Williams, featuring storytellers including Stephen Aberle, Glenda Zenoff, Eleanor Lipov and Helen Schneiderman, with musical guest Anton Lipovetsky; and Halifax-based Surplus Production Unit’s A Timed Speed-Read of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Trial Transcript on Nov. 21 and 22.
Montreal’s Josh “Socalled” Dolgin, accompanied by a local string quartet, leads an evening of rediscovered Yiddish songs, with stories and perhaps a little magic, on Nov. 19, and Israel’s Guy Mintus Trio’s performs A Gershwin Playground Nov. 24. (Digital streams available for both shows.)
Nov. 8-12, Chutzpah! Festival favourite, U.K.-based theatre artist Tamara Micner, transforms her theatrical work-in-progress (workshopped in the 2020 festival) into an audio installation. Audience members will be invited into the Zack Gallery to listen to Micner’s reading of letters written to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, reflecting on how their music informs her feelings about friendship, activism, Jewishness and art. There will be opportunities to “meet” the artist via video stream for conversations about her work and ideas.
Throughout the festival, Bahr converses with festival artists, featuring her stand-up and a wide-ranging cast of characters.
Due to COVID-19 safety processes, all tickets must be purchased in advance and will not be available at the door. Visit chutzpahfestival.com starting on Sept. 15 or call 604-257-5145.
Sandra Bernhard performs at the Chutzpah! Festival Oct. 31. (photo by J. Graham)
The Chutzpah! Festival returns during a new late-fall time period – from Oct. 24 to Nov. 24 – with performances at the Rothstein Theatre, Vogue Theatre, Rickshaw Theatre and the WISE Hall. Here are some of this year’s offerings.
Opening night, Oct. 24: Multi-award-winning, London-based songwriter, broadcaster and musical storyteller Daniel Cainer performs the Canadian première of his internationally acclaimed Gefilte Fish and Chips. Based on personal stories of what it’s like to be Jewish – and British – then and now, it includes travelers’ tales, feuding tailors, a naughty rabbi, family fables, and foibles. All of the human condition is here, lovingly and intelligently depicted in a remarkable collection of stories in song.
Quick Sand, Oct. 31: Sandra Bernhard is always three steps ahead of the crowd. She has to be. She’s “quick sand.” In these fast-paced times, a lady can’t stop moving. You never know what you might encounter next in this fun house world we’re living in. So, performing with a three-piece band, Bernhard takes control, bringing a mélange of musings, music and whimsy – “never boring, j’adoring” is her motto, covering the waterfront of the outrageous, quotidian and glamorous.
The Trombonik Returns to New Chelm, Nov. 1: Taking inspiration from the traditional comic tales of Jewish folklore about Chelm, songwriter Geoff Berner and writer, performer and satirist T.J. Dawe, along with friends Toby Berner, Tallulah Winkelman and Jack Garten, present a klezmer musical set in Depression-era Saskatchewan.
A wandering con artist posing as a rabbi becomes entangled in the Prohibition-era whiskey trade. This production combines the social critique of Berner’s decades of activist songcraft with the comedic zaniness of Mel Brooks. Following this performance is a celebratory full-on drinking, dancing Klezmer Punk performance with Berner and his co-conspirators, along with special guest and renowned clarinetist Michael Winograd, to mark the release of Berner’s new CD, Grand Hotel Cosmopolis.
The Diary of Anne Frank LatinX, Nov. 6-9: Everyone knows the story of Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager hidden away while Nazis hunted down Jews during the Holocaust. One American-Jewish director, Stan Zimmerman, adds a modern-day twist to the production, which will see its Canadian première at Chutzpah! Zimmerman said, “When I learned there are over a dozen Safe Houses in the L.A. area hiding Latinx families from ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], it got me wondering – How do these families survive with so little money and needing to remain in the shadows? How do they not lose hope? What are their lives like on a day-to-day basis? Do they see the parallels to Anne’s story?”
DAI (enough), Nov. 12-13: Iris Bahr is an award-winning writer, actor, director, producer and host of the hit podcast X-RAE and she is bringing her critically acclaimed, award-winning solo show DAI (enough) to Vancouver.
AvevA, Nov. 14: Chutzpah! presents the West Coast première of Ethiopian-Israeli singer and songwriter Aveva Dese. A rising star in the Israeli music scene, AvevA’s music fuses traditional Ethiopian sounds and groove with her soul-pop songs; she sings powerfully in both English and Amharic about society, freedom and love. Opening for AvevA is B.C.-based Leila Neverland with Mountain Sound.
Closing night, Nov. 24: Celebrates a week-long inclusion project of sharing, exploring and creating through art. Internationally renowned disability and mental health advocate and stand-up comedian Pamela Schuller and Brooklyn-based professional dancers and choreographers Troy Ogilvie and Rebecca Margolick will perform stand-up and solo dance work, respectively, in a shared evening of dance and comedy. The show will also present Ogilvie and Margolick’s new movement dance work created, directed and performed with members and guests of the inclusion community of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.
In addition to these and many other shows, the Chutzpah! Festival will pay tribute to the JCCGV and celebrate the 25th anniversary of its long-standing and renowned musical theatre summer camp created by Perry Ehrlich – Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance!; present a Shticks & Giggles comedy night with local comedians Ivan Decker, John Cullen, Lisa Person, Yisrael Shurack and others; and host multiple workshops as well as creation residencies for artists in dance and theatre in urban and rural B.C. settings.
David Broza, left, and Ali Paris will perform in concert. (photo from Chutzpah! Festival)
Tickets are now on sale for the 17th annual Chutzpah! Lisa Nemetz International Jewish Performing Arts Festival, which will run from Feb. 16 to March 13, at venues including Rothstein Theatre, York Theatre, Scotiabank Dance Centre and the Biltmore Cabaret.
“We are all excited for another year of presenting an electrifying array of internationally acclaimed dancers, musicians, comedians and theatrical artists to our audiences in Canadian, Western Canadian and world premières. We’re headed for an energizing and thrilling journey from stand-up comedy to theatrical drama to rich global music to explosive and elegant dance!” said Mary-Louise Albert, Chutzpah!’s artistic and managing director.
As it does every year, the 2017 Chutzpah! Festival dance series presents some of the most sought-after contemporary choreographers in the world. This year’s performances include the return of Italy’s Spellbound Contemporary Ballet with their full-length Carmina Burana; Israel’s Yossi Berg and Oded Graf Dance Theatre with their acclaimed 4Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer; and Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion (United States) brings a mixed repertoire of some of Kyle Abraham’s most popular works in their Western Canadian première. Vancouver’s Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art première their completed and full-length version of Telemetry, while local choreographer and performer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg and Italy’s award-winning Silvia Gribaudi navigate the role of comedy as a catalyst to questions of gender, culture and language and understanding – this is world première presented with the Dance Centre. As well, in Chutzpah! Plus (May 13-14), there is Birds Sing a Pretty Song (Canada/United States/Israel/Argentina), an exploration through dance, film, interactive media and live music created by Rebecca Margolick and Maxx Berkowitz during a yearlong fellowship in New York City with LABA: A Laboratory for New Jewish Culture.
Among the Chutzpah! Festival 2017 musical highlights is Grammy-winners the Klezmatics 30th Anniversary Tour (United States). In concert together will be David Broza, whose music reflects the three different countries in which he was raised (Israel, Spain and England), and Ali Paris, who fuses Middle Eastern and Western music styles, and plays the qanun, a rare 76-string zither that dates back to the 14th century. Also in concert together will be Shalom Hanoch – touted as “the King of Israeli Rock” and compared to musicians such as Neil Young and Mick Jagger – who will be joined on stage by his longtime music producer, partner and keyboard player Moshe Levi.
Now based out of Chicago, Marbin, founded by Israeli guitarist Dani Rabin and Israeli saxophonist Danny Markovitch, is a progressive jazz-rock band, and MNGWA [ming-wah] opens their performance, mixing elements of psychedelic rock, dub, African rhythms, and vocals in four languages. Israeli singer Maya Avraham, who is known by Chutzpah! audiences from her performances with the Idan Raichel Project, comes to Vancouver with her band of Israeli and American musicians, and Lyla Canté (United States/Israel/Japan/Argentina) also joins the festival – exploring the intersection of Sephardi, flamenco and Ashkenazi music. For Chutzpah! Plus (April 2), composer Landon Braverman and Friends put on an evening of musical theatre – while currently based in New York, Braverman is originally from Vancouver.
With respect to theatre, one of this year’s Chutzpah! highlights is Wrestling Jerusalem, created and performed by Aaron Davidman. Set in America, Israel and Palestine, the play follows one man’s journey to help understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Davidman’s solo performance is a personal story that grapples with the complexities of identity, history and social justice.
Another theatre draw is Folk Lordz, high-speed and multicultural improv featuring two members of Edmonton-based Rapid Fire Theatre, which was co-created by Todd Houseman and Ben Gorodetsky and brings together the unlikely combination of Cree storytelling, Chekhovian character drama and spontaneous comedy.
Comedy highlights include Mark Schiff (United States), who has headlined major casinos and clubs and has appeared many times on both The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with David Letterman. He has had HBO and Showtime specials, was a featured act at the Montreal Comedy Festival and regularly opens for Jerry Seinfeld.
Also on the comedy front, there is a double bill: Ali Hassan and Judy Gold. Canada’s Hassan appears in his one-man show Muslim Interrupted; Hassan is a stand-up comedian, actor, chef and radio and television celebrity, and is the host of Laugh Out Loud on CBC Radio and SIRIUSXM. Gold’s (United States) most recent TV appearances include guest-starring roles on Louie, Broad City, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Inside Amy Schumer, and she has a recurring role on the upcoming series on TBS Search Party. Gold has had stand-up specials on HBO (Cable Ace Award), Comedy Central and LOGO and was twice nominated for the American Comedy Award for funniest female comedian.
After the success of Chutzpah’s first literary event in 2016, this year’s Chutzpah! features author Christopher Noxon in Hollywood Stories, a special pre-festival event. Noxon is an author, journalist and illustrator and his humorous and unflinching Plus One is a novel about an interfaith family set in contemporary Los Angeles. Noxon is married to television writer and producer Jenji Kohan, creator of Orange is the New Black. This event is presented with the Cherie Smith JCC Jewish Book Festival and will take place on Feb. 5.
Single tickets for Chutzpah! range from $23 to $50 and are on sale now from chutzpahfestival.com, the festival box office, 604-257-5145, or Tickets Tonight, 604-684-2787. Chutzi Packs are also available – see four different shows for $94 – and new this year is a special five-show dance pack for $115.
Tickets will be available in-person starting Jan. 30 at the on-site festival box office at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. For hours and other information, visit chutzpahfestival.com.
Tickets are now on sale for the 16th annual Chutzpah! Lisa Nemetz International Jewish Performing Arts Festival. The 2016 festival will run from Feb. 18 to March 13, and it will once again showcase theatre, comedy, music and dance performances and workshops by international, Canadian and local artists.
The Chutzpah! Festival’s Dance Series includes Canadian and North American premières from Italy’s Spellbound Contemporary Ballet; Israeli dance company Maria Kong performing their much-lauded Open Source; and New York-based Gallim Dance in their repertory work Wonderland by choreographer Andrea Miller, which Dance Magazine praised as “Gutsy. Wild. Smart. Original.” New to the international scene, New York City’s all-male company MADBOOTS appears in a double bill with a world première from Chutzpah’s resident dance company, Shay Kuebler Radical System Art; and Ballet Kelowna presents works by artistic director Simone Orlando, James Kudelka, Heather Myers and John Alleyne, with Toronto’s Continuum Contemporary Music accompanying (Chutzpah!PLUS, May 4-6).
The global landscape of music presented this year showcases performers from Israel, Mexico City, New York City, Canada and Cuba. Highlights include Israel’s sister group A-Wa; Juno Award-winners Odessa/Havana; trumpeter and composer David Buchbinder and Grammy-nominated Cuban piano master Hilario Durán joined by a team of jazz and world musicians; Mexico City band Klezmerson; Baladino’s interpretations of Sephardi and Ladino melodies, with Mediterranean-Gypsy grooves, electronics, improvisation and vocals; and Israel’s Victoria Hanna’s ongoing experimentation with the vocal and conceptual boundaries of language, presenting sacred Hebrew texts and spirituals in a modern context, integrating music, spoken word and video. Also on the music roster are Israel/New York jazz artists Rotem Sivan Trio; mandolinist and clarinetist Andy Statman from New York with Jim Whitney (bassist) and Larry Eagle (drummer and percussionist); and Israel’s Avishai Cohen Quartet, featuring award-winning trumpeter Avishai Cohen, described by the New York Times as “an extravagantly skilled trumpeter, relaxed and soulful … deftly combining sensitivity and flair.” (Chutzpah!PLUS, May 7)
Chutzpah!’s theatre and comedy lineup includes a world première from Israeli-Canadian B.C.-based playwright, performer and lighting designer Itai Erdal in collaboration with Maiko Yamamoto (Theatre Replacement) and Anita Rochon (Chop Theatre). The audience will enter the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Dayson Boardroom for a humorous and moving play, A Very Narrow Bridge, that reveals the complexity of living between cultures and family relationships. Erdal re-lives a trial in order obtain a get (religious divorce). Joining him are local actors Patti Allen, Tom Pickett and Ryan Biel.
The festival also features two separate stand-up comedy performances from New York City comedians Jessica Kirson and Jon Steinberg, a perennial favorite on CBC Radio’s Debaters.
New this year, as part of Chutzpah!PLUS (April 2), is a memoir book reading and interview with Jennifer Teege, the bi-racial granddaughter of Nazi commandant Aon Goeth, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List. In her memoir, My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me (co-written with journalist Nikola Sellmair and newly translated from German), Teege reveals the moment she discovered her ancestry after being given up for adoption, and recounts how this discovery shook her life to the core.
Celebrating its 16th year, Chutzpah!’s artistic and managing director Mary-Louise Albert said, “Another great year with world premières by B.C. dance and theatre artists and a focus on the continuation of our established and well-warranted excellent reputation of bringing numerous outstanding international music, dance and comedy to our audiences!”
Chutzpah! performances will take place at Rothstein Theatre, Biltmore Cabaret, the J, Fox Cabaret and Frankie’s Italian Kitchen. Single tickets are $21 to $36 and can be purchased online at chutzpahfestival.com, by phone at the Chutzpah! box office (604-257-5145) or Tickets Tonight (604-684-2787). Chutzi Packs are also available: see four different shows of your choice for $89.