Pictured above: Ellen David, Alex Poch-Goldin, and David Reale in My Name Is Asher Lev (Andree Lanthier)
The Segal Centre for the Performing Arts has a history of using artistic expression to unite individuals within cultural communities and across cultural divides. In their 2015-2016 Season the Segal’s productions ignited conversations about acceptance in a contemporary moment where a politics of difference so frequently divides us. From the difference of sense audiences witnessed in Tribes to the vitriol emerging from difference of tradition in Bad Jews, the Segal has proven the capacity of theatre to make audiences pause and consider the possibility in difference. Embracing this capacity to inspire discussions around difference, the Segal is opening its 2016-2017 Season with Aaron Posner’s My Name Is Asher Lev, a play adapted from Chaim Potok’s novel of the same name.
What path do you take when your artistic virtuosity puts you at odds with your religion, your family, your community? This question is the backbone of My Name is Asher Lev, playing at the Segal Centre from September 11th to October 2nd, directed by Steven Schipper and co-produced alongside the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. This play examines a man whose passion fissures the lives of his parents and the foundation of their community and asks audiences to consider the merit of artistic genius that defies religion, tradition, and family.
Asher Lev is the only child of Hasidic parents Aryeh and Rivkeh. From an early age Asher’s artistic impulses begin to clash with the traditions of his family’s religion. “He is a prodigy painter—a born artist. He’s compelled and possessed by this need to express his world as he sees it aesthetically through creating drawings, paintings,” says David Reale, who portrays Asher in the Segal production. However, Asher’s form of artistic expression by painting is not permitted within Hasidic Judaism, and he finds his passion quickly dividing his community.
“It’s a real perfect conflict that I think is present in all our lives because we all are part of a culture, and a culture, any culture, has assumptions and rules,” explains Reale. “It’s hard to be yourself out in the world, against the forces of what is expected, what we are told we should be, but I think every organization, and every culture, and every endeavor benefits from each individual bringing themselves authentically and completely to it.”
While My Name is Asher Lev focuses specifically on the inner workings of a nuclear family in a Hasidic community, the story is accessible far beyond this context. To any of us who have felt outsiders to the traditions in which we were raised, to those of us who have dared, or thought of daring, to pursue something because it lit a fire inside, not because it was expected, for us Asher Lev offers a familiar solace and the drive to push on with our pursuit of passion.
Reale continued this message when he spoke of what he hoped audiences would find in the piece, “I would hope that the part of them that is the most uniquely them is ignited and that maybe they come away feeling inspired to bring out what is uniquely them into the world.”
My Name Is Asher Lev plays at the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts from September 11th to October 2nd. For more information check out the Segal Centre website! To reach the Segal box office, please call (514) 739-7944.
My Name is Asher Lev also offers discounted tickets for select Industry Nights. Industry members (including QDF members) will have access to $20 tickets, upon availability for the following dates:
Sunday, September 11, 7pm
Monday, September 19, 7pm
Monday, September 26, 7pm
This play is a co-production with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and will enjoy a run in Manitoba following its performances at the Segal.