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Rennee Billauer


Ari Weinberg


Shaked Karabelnicoff

 
DO JEWS RUN SHOW-BUSINESS? SHAKED KARABELNICOFF REVIEWS SESSIONS AT LIMMUD BY RENEE BILLAUR AND ARI WEINBERG

BY: SHAKED KARABELNICOFF, April 18, 2016

 

 

 

I grew up on musicals. Ever since I can remember, the image of Julie Andrews skipping in the fields of Austria has been my image of happiness. Dorothy clicking her ruby slippers gave me hope, and Peter Pan souring through the night sky made me believe in magic. When I remember my childhood, these iconic films, plays and musicals come to mind. As a young girl, I remembered the story plots and each character in detail. However, as I grew older, I learnt that the characters don't just appear on the screen, and that the story isn't always completely real. Like all children, I grew up and I learnt that there was an entire crew pulling the strings so that I could experience the magic. I learnt that the characters I so loved, were simply people who were given a script and made it their own. I realized that the real genius lies not only on the stage but behind the scenes. That is when I gained interest and respect for the writers, directors and composers - the behind the scenes “magic-makers.” So when I got to Grade 11, I immediately found interest in a course titled “Jewish Film and Literature.” And suddenly, I learnt that almost every musical I passionately loved was written, composed or produced by a Jew. I didn't say it out-loud, but I asked myself, do Jews run show-business? My curiosity came at the perfect time, right around Limmud, the festival of Jewish learning, which took place on March 13th. I looked at the list of reputable speakers and was immediately drawn to those that may answer my question.

“Jews make up less 2.5% of the American population, yet 70% to 80%

 of working comics are Jewish,” was how Renee Bilauer commenced her lecture entitled “Honey I Shrunk the Yids.” I knew I was definitely in the right room. Bilauer, who jokingly introduced herself as a “widget”, a white, divorced, Jewish, midget, has been personally involved with performing arts, including dancing, singing and stand-up comedy for many years. Her Limmud session focused on the “epidemic” of Jews in Hollywood, specifically comedians. She explained that this power that Jews have in Hollywood did not simply come from nowhere. Historically, Jews used comedy as a survival technique to cope and gain power over our oppressors. Jews were also limited in their career opportunities, and since being an entertainer was considered a low-class profession, Jews often pursued this field. Renee went on to review the countless amount of Jewish entertainers from “today and yesterday” and being an entertainer herself, comically kept the audience engaged. She shared clips ranging from “The Three Stooges” to “ The Tonight Show with Joan Rivers”. The packed room laughed as Bilauer’s session came to an end with her very own “Jewish rendition” of Julie Andrews’ “Favourite Things”.

 

I left the session with the bulk of my question answered, and continued my day at Limmud by attending Ari Weinberg’s session. Weinberg is the artistic director of the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. He gave the audience an inside look into what comes into planning a season at WJT and shared how he chooses scripts and decides what plays to produce. Interestingly enough, he explained that only two of the nine actors employed in this years season are Jewish, and that this is actually a higher ratio of Jewish to non-Jewish actors than is reflected in the Jewish community. It was also clarified that although WJT is one of only two Jewish theatres in Canada, Jewish content appears in theatre all over the world. Weinberg’s passion for theatre and his dedication to rebuild the WJT in his nine months of being with the company was more than evident. After an intriguing look into the WJT’s plans for this season, I was left excited for what is to come for the theatre. In my previous Limmud session, I learned the history behind Jewish entertainers, and now I had been engaged in an interactive session about present day Jewish theatre. I couldn't have chosen a better combination of speakers!

 

Was my question answered by the end of the day? Maybe there is no answer, because no matter who is running the business, the show must go on!

 
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