Theresa Tova is a multi-talented performer who’s equally at home performing on the live stage, on  TV or in films,  whether it’s acting, singing, or writing plays and musicals.

Never having appeared in Mameloshen, Theresa says she’s particularly excited about returning to Winnipeg, where she’s appeared on stage several times – at the Prairie Theatre Exchange, Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Winnieg Jewish Theatre.
Recently I had the chance to speak with Theresa from her Toronto home. We talked about her long theatrical and performing career and her upcoming concert here.
She began by noting that “I’ve lived in the Yiddish world and the Jewish cultural world, artistically, for so long…Yiddish was my first language – I gave birth to my children and couldn’t stop screaming at my Gentile doctors in Yiddish.
“I played Winnipeg – my Governor General’s nominated play about the Holocaust, ‘Still the Night’, played Winnipeg (at Prairie Theatre Exchange). I wrote a musical about my mother’s experiences during the Holocaust. She was a spy in the ‘underground’; she was a ‘partisan’.
“I did the Yiddish theatre in Winnipeg. I did  ‘The Goldene Medinah’ (‘The Golden Land’). “
I asked Theresa whether her shows will “consist of a medlely of some singing,– some ‘shtick’? “ She laughed.  “Some ‘shtick?’  I wouldn’t call it ‘shtick’, but sure – why not? You get what I am. What reviews have said about my shows is that at the end of my show you feel like I’m your best friend. I’m honest with my audience, I talk to my audience, I sing songs that mean something to me. I don’t do Yiddish songs because of some great need to serve the Jewish community – I do it because it’s great art.
“I’ve been an artist who’s worked Broadway shows to Stratford to the Shaw Festival to major films. Yiddish songs speak to me and I do songs that are great stories.
“I will do songs from the Holocaust, from the great American songbook. I’ve got the most brilliant pianist that anyone has heard – Matt Herscowitz, who’s coming in from Montreal…The first time I ever played Montreal, he got a standing ovation in the middle of a solo.”
I asked Theresa whether her show would appeal to non-Yiddish speakers too?
She responded: “Absolutely. I’ll do songs like ‘Night and Day’ in Yiddish. I’ll do ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?’ By the end of my concert you think you understand Yiddish. “
When it comes to her name though, I asked her: “Do you have two first names?”
Theresa responded: “Good for you. This is a very interesting story. I was born in Paris, France, where my name was ‘Thérese’. My mother – a Holocaust survivor, gave us all French Catholic names (to hide who we were).
“We moved to Calgary. I went to a Yiddish school. At home my name was ‘Tova’le’. I went to public school and they called me ‘Theresa’. When I became an actor – my family name was a good old-fashioned Polish-Yiddish name, mispronounced all the time so, when I was at university and I decided to choose a stage name, I chose the Hebrew version of my name at home – ‘Tova’. So I used my first name – my Christian sort of a name and then I’ve chosen my Hebrew name to say what – I don’t need to hide; I can pronounce it loudly to the world.”
I asked Theresa whether she engages in any sort of repartee with her audience. She answered: “I never plan what I talk about but I do talk to my audience a lot. I talk, I entertain, I tell stories, then I say: ‘I guess I should start singing’ and people say: ‘No, finish the story!’ “
Theresa went on to say that her show will incorporate songs from various shows she’s put on in her career, including her newest show, “Bella: The Colour of Love”, which is about the wife of Marc Chagall. (She noted that she’s done the show in Belgium, in Halifax, and in Toronto – where “it sold out in three weeks”.
“It will be a mixed bag of all the great Jewish-inspired music I’m involved with,” she says.
“Matt and I have done concerts on the Upper East Side (of New York) – the upper crust, where audiences have been blown away. It’s not your parent’s Yiddish. This is not Yiddish ‘yadyl, didl, daydl’ – this is great art, I believe, which is why I keep getting brought to Poland and other places to repeat these kind of events. It’s a real opportunity for people to see the kind of leading edge work that’s happening in the Jewish world.”