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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Upstage Interview: Bryna Wasserman

Bryna Wasserman (centre, front) with her troops at the 
season launch last spring (photo: Randy Cole)

The National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene in New York will celebrate its 100th anniversary with their 2014-15 season. Bryna Wasserman, former Artistic Director of Segal Centre for the Performing Arts in Montreal, recently took over the Executive Director position of Folksbiene. Our mission is to preserve the Yiddish language but we need to broaden our audience base, said Ms. Wasserman. Her plans include adding film, music and other art forms to the theatre’s roster, and to bring in Yiddish-language productions from other countries. First indication of this plan will be the Fall production of Soul to Soul featuring two African-American singers and one Israeli-American singer – all performing in Yiddish. To expand Folksbiene mission, she will be commissioning new works by leading playwrights like Tony Kushner. July 10, 2011 source:
Upstage Producer and CharPo Editor-in-chief Estelle Rosen spoke with Bryna Wasserman shortly before she left Montreal. Below is an abridged version of the interview.
You’ve seen lots of changes in the past 15 years as Artistic Director of Segal Centre for the Performing Arts;  in fact have been instrumental in many of them – is there something that stands out for you?
Actor Éric Bernier (top), with
Wasserman, Jean Marchand and
Sgeal CEO Manon Gauthier
(Photo: Randy Cole)
That’s a good question because looking back as one does at a time like this, it’s a bittersweet moment leaving so many friends behind.  In that period of time you hope you’ve made a difference. Perhaps it’s the creation of  the studio space where young artists can have a home. It’s also the building of bridges. We’re very
unique in Montreal in that we can co-produce within our own city. We’ve shared productions with Théâtre du Rideau Vert and Compagnie Jean-Duceppe. Cultivating audiences, performers, and mentorship are very important for our future.
And as you say giving younger people an opportunity is really what it’s all about.
Right, part of the learning  is making room for new ideas. I think Segal Centre will benefit from new thoughts and new ideas and take the Segal Centre to yet another level. It will be extremely joyful to look back and actually see the wonderful work that’s going to continue.
There are challenges but one looks forward to new challenges, and I have 3 children living in New York.

You can also take pride in it because many of those plans got their start with you. I know you’re a graduate of New York Tisch School of the Arts and worked with several New York theatre companies before coming back to Montreal. What’s it like going back to New York?
It’s special. There are challenges but one looks forward to new challenges, and I have 3 children living in New York.
I understand your connection with Segal Centre continues as Honorary Artistic Director of the Yiddish Theatre.
The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre bears my mother’s name and it’s a privilege to continue for a while to mentor the next Artistic Director for the next phase. I made changes and am sure the next person will do the same but because it still carries the name of Dora, it means a lot to me.
You should be very proud of enhancing the Montreal theatre community these past 15 years. All best wishes.

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