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Michael Nathanson


By Sharon Chisvin, June 1, 2010

 Since moving back to Winnipeg in 2004, Winnipeg Jewish Theatre artistic producer Michael Nathanson has enjoyed considerable professional success in both play production and play writing. Last October his original play, Talk, was named a finalist for the Governor General Award in drama. In April, Talk was recognized with the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book at the Manitoba Book Awards gala. These awards, formerly known as the Manitoba Writing and Publishing Awards, annually recognize books in 13 different categories.

The fact that Talk was published in book form by Playwrights Canada Press was a considerable accomplishment in its own right, Nathanson explains.

“There are many, many plays pitched to publishers on a yearly basis, even within Canada, and to be published is a great honour.” Once a play is published in book form, he adds, it becomes eligible for book prizes.

Talk debuted at Winnipeg Jewish Theatre (WJT) in the fall of 2007. Inspired by real events in Nathanson’s life, the play revolves around a passionate argument about the Middle East conflict between two old friends. One of the friends is Jewish and one is not, and as the argument escalates and the political becomes personal they are forced to examine the nature and limits of their friendship. 

Since its local debut, Talk has been performed at the Harold Green Jewish Theatre in Toronto to positive reviews. Nathanson hopes that more productions will now be forthcoming.

“This reward will help further legitimize the play in the minds of potential producers and should help with future productions,” he says. “It's fantastic for marketing the play, obviously.”

For Nathanson, marketing his work, managing his theatre, and writing and producing his plays, are all part of the job, but it is a job that he is both grateful for and cherishes.

“I had hoped to make my career in the theatre and playwriting but it is only recently that I've been able to realize that goal,” he says. “It has taken patience, perseverance and good fortune.”

Relying on equal measures of all three, Nathanson is now diligently at work on a new play. One of Ours, a play about sibling rivalry set in West Hawk Lake, will enjoy its debut next March on the WJT stage. Naturally, Nathanson is hopeful that like its predecessor it will garner a lot of positive Talk.

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