Tuesday, September 4, 2018

my great-grandfather at Ashkenaz

I guess this is a thrill not many people have - sitting in a crowded room to watch a dramatic film adaptation of a relative's play. My great-grandfather wrote what is considered his masterpiece, Mirele Efros or the Jewish Queen Lear, in 1898. In 1939, his most produced work was adapted into a Yiddish language film, and yesterday, it was shown at the Ashkenaz Jewish festival here.

I assumed there'd be seven elderly Jews and me in the auditorium, but it was packed with I'd say 200 viewers, maybe more. Amazing. The producers knew I'd be attending because I'd offered to speak, even briefly, about the film and the man; as usual, there was no interest, but they did introduce me as his great-granddaughter and biographer. The film has been remastered with English subtitles - still a bit blurry and sometimes the words illegible, but the film came alive. At the start, there's a long shot of the famous bronze bust of Gordin, with a note about his importance in the world of Yiddish theatre and film. How proud I am of the old man! The film had humour, pathos (of course), fine acting - especially its powerful heroine, a warhorse part for generations of actresses. Gordin the socialist feminist created the role of a very clever businesswoman who's also an adoring mother - though he was not a feminist at home; his wife Anna, the mother of his 11 children, was in the kitchen making soup like a good Jewish wife.

I have offered my services to Ashkenaz before, and this time was surprised and even hurt, once again, that the producers have no interest in the playwright's great-granddaughter who happens to live right here in Toronto. It's too bad; I think audiences would be interested to hear about the man and his work. But there you go. I was grateful to see this fine film.

Lynn and I are still having a great deal of fun and rosé. On Sunday night Anna and family came for dinner, and afterward Lynn and I watched Gone Girl, an edge-of-your-seat dark film by Gillian Flynn who wrote Sharp Objects. Last night we saw RBG, a doc about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and what a magnificent, inspiring woman she is. We are eating huge quantities of corn, ribs, Cheesies, and baked potatoes, which Lynn cannot eat in France. We are laughing constantly. And here we are, with two fellow actors, in a play in 1969, playing people frozen like automatons by modern life.
As far as we're concerned, we look exactly the same. But perhaps not.

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