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Becoming Dr Ruth, 2018 Winnipeg Jewish Theatre Director: Debbie Patterson Set & Lighting Designer: Ksenia Broda-Milian
Photo of Mariam Bernstein by Keith Levit

Mariam Bernstein Chosen Outstanding Lead Actress at Third Annual Winnipeg Theatre Awards

by Rhonda Spivak, December 11, 2019

At the Third Annual Theatre Awards ("The Evies") held at the West End Cultural Centre on November 5, Mariam Bernstein was chosen outstanding lead actress for her performance as Dr. Ruth Westheimer in last season's Winnipeg Jewish Theatre production of " Dr. Ruth."
The Evies celebrate excellence in the theatre arts by presenting annual awards that reflect the diversity and depth of talent among Winnipeg’s theatre artists in production and performance.
The Winnipeg Jewish Review interviewed  Bernstein by email about her award. When asked what her reaction was on getting the award, Bernstein replied " I was thrilled! Creating the role, and sharing her experiences with the wonderful WJT audiences was so special; the award was a marvellous cherry on the sundae, and very meaningful, as it comes from the community to which I owe my career. "
Bernstein explained why the play "Dr. Ruth" was so important to her. "It was important for several reasons; it was the first time I attempted a one woman show, so that was a steep learning curve and somewhat of a risk for me. It was important because Dr. Ruth is such an iconic woman: she has devoted her entire professional life to improving others' lives, advocating for women, and educating the public. As a woman, it was important to me to show, by her example, the strength and resilience of women - especially single mothers - and to share her trailblazing attitudes to openness and communication regarding human sexuality.  When you are portraying such an exceptional human being, there is a large sense of responsibility to try to do her justice; it was very meaningful to be able to portray such an amazing member of the global Jewish community. It was also a privilege to be able to share such an (ultimately) uplifting story with the Jewish community, at a time when we were grieving for the massacred Jews in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue. It was a very special role."
When asked by the Winnipeg Jewish Review what she learned from the play, Bernstein answered "The more I researched Dr. Ruth, the more I learned about the importance of the will to overcome adversity. Dr Ruth suffered, amongst other things, the loss of her family at a very young age, and prejudice against Jews, women, and unwed mothers. It was important to me to inspire the audiences with her determination, her resilience, her joie de vivre, and her living embodiment of Tikun Olam. She just knuckled under and did what she had to do! And I was inspired by the way she never stops learning, even in her 90s - a great lesson for us all!"
Regarding the nomination process for the Evies' (Winnipeg Theatre Awards),  Bernstein noted that the Evies' "have a subcommittee that puts together a jury. Members of the jury see all the eligible plays for that season, and assess performances and production elements according to established criteria. They meet several times to determine a short list of nominees, then they deliberate to determine award recipients."
At the Winnipeg Theatre Awards, Kayla Gordon was given an honourary award for her work as a "Theatre Educator."
Bernstein explained "Since the inception of the Evies (Winnipeg Theatre Awards), Donna Fletcher and I have co-ordinated the Evies' Honorary Awards. We assemble juries from various areas of the theatre community. The jury reviews the nominations individually, then gathers to evaluate all the nominations, and select recipients for the 4 awards: Theatre Educator, Behind-the-Scenes, Theatre Champion, and Career Contribution. It's all about honouring and publicly celebrating long standing dedication and contributions to Winnipeg theatre -- it's a joyful task!! "
New to this year to the Evies was the inaugural presentation of the Chair’s Commendation Award. The award went to Doreen Brownstone, a driving force in the Winnipeg theatre community since 1958.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.