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By BERNIE BELLAN
Following upon a period of extreme turmoil, during which the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre suddenly closed its doors in February, 2014, only to announce that it was re-emerging under new management last fall, the WJT will soon have a new artistic director managing its helm as of this June.


Ari Weinberg is a young  (30 – turning 31 June 1st) Torontonian who will be presiding over the coming season’s WJT productions (but not the currently running production of “Bad Jews”).
Recently, we had a chance to talk with Ari about his background and goals for the WJT:
JP&N: Tell us a little about your background, Ari.
Weinberg: I’m from Toronto. About ten years ago I graduated from Sheridan College’s Music Theatre Performance program.
I’ve been a professional actor the last ten years and I’ve worked all over Canada and the United States. Over the past few years I’ve slowly made the transition into artistic administration.
I did an internship at the Manitoba Theatre Centre with Stephen Schipper. I also appeared in a production of “Romeo and Juliet” (at MTC) four years ago.
I’ve been the intern artistic director at Acting Up Stage Company in Toronto, so I’m really excited now to start as artistic director for the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre.
JP&N: You say that your background was in musical theatre?
Weinberg: Musical theatre – yah, I’ve also done a lot of plays.
JP&N: So you’re a singer, too.
Weinberg: I am – yes.
JP&N: Do you have any plans to perform in any plays here?
Weinberg: Not at the moment. The season for 2015-2016 has just been announced and there is quite a bit of a musical component.
For instance, our first production will be “House of David”. It’s a musical adaptation based upon the book “Stars of David” by Abigail Pogrebin, which is a series of interviews with prominent Jewish figures talking about their Jewish experience. It’s been musicalized for the stage.
JP&N: Do you know when it will open?
Weinberg: October 22nd until November 1st.
That’s going to be followed by a festival of new Jewish plays by local Winnipeg playwrights – that’s going to be next March. The season will close with a comedy called “Buyer and Seller”, which is all about the life of Barbra Streisand. It’s a one-man show that’s going to be performed by Ryan James Miller of “Hot Thespian Action”.
The festival of new Jewish plays, by the way, is going to be called “So New”. The cornerstone is going to be premiere of a play called “Shiksa” – along with readings of three other new plays.
JP&N: “Shiksa”? That’s the play by Cairn Moore that was supposed to the final production last year – when the WJT suddenly halted production. I remember how upset Cairn was over not having received any notice that her play was being canceled. Maybe to make it up to her you can also do a sequel that she can write called “Shaigetz”.
So – have you been involved with Jewish theatre per se before coming here?
Weinberg: I have. My very first show when I was a ten-year-old kid – I was in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof”. I’ve done productions of “Hannah’s Suitcase” as well.
JP&N: What attracted you to this position?
Weinberg: When I was 13 I went on a school field trip to the Stratford Festival. I looked in the program and saw “Richard Monet – Artistic Director”, so I asked my teacher what kind of job that was.
She said it’s someone who has an artistic vision for the entire organization and I said I want to do that one day. I’ve always said I want to be an actor, then an artistic director, so this is the fruition of a childhood dream.
When I worked in Winnipeg (with MTC) I fell in love with the city and the cultural community here. When the chance came to apply for the job here I jumped at the opportunity to throw my hat into the ring.
JP&N: What were your impressions of the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre before you came here?
Weinberg: They have a reputation for artistic excellence. They’ve produced about 18 world premieres.
We’ll be going into the theatre’s 20th season. I’m really excited to be part of this.

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