Daughters of Mile End:
a Jewish immigrant experience
From the co-authors of Queen of Chesed comes a brand new play
By Barbara Ford
For its second original production, Labyrinth Stage Productions (LSP) presents the world premiere of Daughters of Mile End, from April 3 to 6 at DB Clarke Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve W.
Written by LSP’s co-founders, Pearl Lottner Rothenberg and Claudia Litvak Polachek, the play is about four Mile End girls and the diverse paths their lives take as they grow into adulthood and beyond. The all-female multi-generational cast of thirteen is under the direction of Rachelle Glait, with set and costume designs by the multi-award winning John Dinning and Louise Bourret respectively.
From the co-authors of the 2017 sold-out world premiere of Queen of Chesed, comes a brand new play. Daughters of Mile End follows four friends – daughters of Holocaust-surviving, immigrant mothers – from their elementary school days living in 1950s Mile End to the present day.
With humour, poignancy, and insight, Daughters of Mile End illustrates that despite traumatic family histories, the girls’ shared childhood memories and experiences lead them to a better understanding of their mothers — and themselves — enabling them to live and love more fully.
Just because I speak with an accent doesn’t mean I think with an accent.
The parents of Litvak Polachek and Lottner Rothenberg lived different versions of the Jewish immigrant experience, striving to make homes in a new country while seeking acceptance from the Canadian-born Jewish community. One of the play’s main characters is loosely based on Lottner Rothenberg, while the string of events creating the story are dramatized amalgamations of real incidents drawn from both writers’ lives.
“Relationships – with our parents, other family members, our friends and lovers – are the medium through which we develop the tools to meet life’s challenges”, said Lottner Rothenberg. “As a psychologist, I think that a big issue, not only for these women but for all of us, is whether we end up repeating or repairing the traumas of our past. This often keeps us from becoming authentic, well-functioning individuals. In order to not repeat our traumas with others, we need to develop a conscious awareness and understanding of what took place and why.”
She goes on, “This is not easy to do when there are often so many secrets… a major theme of this play. How different the characters are, despite their seemingly common background. As they mature and their lives become busier and more complex, they still manage to stay connected. By continuing to share their lives with each other, understanding and acceptance of their mothers – and subsequently of themselves – is the reward.”
“Using the specific to explore the universal is where this play excels”, added Litvak Polachek. “Each woman travels a different road but their combined stories touch on major human dilemmas that we all face at one time or another, from generation to generation. The audience, as silent witnesses, walks away feeling as if they’ve known these women for decades, not just a couple of hours… and in a way they have. Rachelle Glait’s direction, especially the scene transitions, is masterful, and Mike Sinnott’s dreamlike lighting for the memory sequences of the characters as young girls takes the play to a whole new level of awesome!”
‘Daughters of Mile End follows four friends – daughters of Holocaust-surviving, immigrant mothers – from their elementary school days living in 1950s Mile End to the present day.’
Glait also had a personal connection to the story and its locale, one of the reasons she was at the top of the list of prospective directors for the new play. “It’s rare to have the opportunity to direct a production that mirrors one’s own life experiences. Daughters of Mile End examines very familiar territory: women whose mothers, like my own, survived the milchume (Holocaust) and grew up in Montreal neighbourhoods that have their own unique and extraordinary histories. Audiences will recognize themselves in the characters as they journey through more than fifty years of engrossing reunions. With this wonderful all-female cast, including four remarkable young girls, the production travels well beyond the borders of reminiscence and nostalgia.”
April 3 through April 6 at 8 pm
DB Clarke Theatre
1455 de Maisonneuve W.
About Labyrinth Stage Productions
Co-founded in 2016 by Claudia Litvak Polachek and Pearl Lottner Rothenberg, the goal of Labyrinth Stage Productions is to produce original English Canadian plays. The labyrinth, an ancient symbol relating to wholeness, is a metaphor for life’s journey. It represents a circuitous voyage along a meandering and purposeful path to one’s own centre and back out again into the world with some degree of personal transformation having taken place in the process, perfectly representing the psychological and spiritual themes of the plays Labyrinth produces.
For more information, visit labyrinthstageproductions.ca
Read also: Queen of Chesed world premiere