The Arty Semite

Was a Festival's Funding Cut for Putting On a Terrorist Play?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy of SummerWorks

It would be an understatement to say that Michael Rubenfeld, artistic producer of SummerWorks, was surprised to learn last week that the Federal Government of Canada was pulling its funding from Toronto’s 21-year-old indie theater and arts festival.

It was even more of a shock for him to learn about this only five weeks before opening the largest juried theater festival in the country on August 4. “The Department of Canadian Heritage had funded us for the past five years, had increased its support each year, and had invited us to apply this year for a multi-year grant,” Rubenfeld said.

Many Jewish Canadian theater programs and artists have been involved in the festival over the years, and many got their starts at it. Rubenfeld mentioned artists such as Richard Greenblatt, Hannah Moscovitch, and Diane Flacks (who is slated to participate this year). The 32-year-old Rubenfeld participated in the festival as an artist five times.

Rubenfeld said he didn’t know what to make of Ottawa’s refusal to fund SummerWorks’ $48,000 annual request, representing 20 percent of the festival’s budget.

Others, however, immediately knew — or at least thought they knew — what to make of the government’s decision. The Globe and Mail speculated on June 27 that it could have something to do with Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Office having taken issue last year with the festival’s staging of a play related to the Toronto 18 terrorist plot. A PMO spokesman was quoted at the time as saying, “We are extremely disappointed that public money is being used to fund plays that glorify terrorism.” He was speaking of lawyer and playwright Catherine Frid’s “Homegrown,” which she based on interviews she conducted with the imprisoned Shareef Abdelhaleem, who was convicted of participating in an Islamic terrorist group that had planned to attack numerous Canadian targets.

Last summer, both Rubenfeld and Frid defended the play, contending that Frid was pro-Canadian and that the play was focused on the human element of the story and was in no way a “sympathetic portrayal” of Abdelhaleem.

The show will go on, however. In order to cover the unanticipated gap in the budget, the festival is raising ticket prices from $10 to $15 and has launched an online donation campaign. “The response has been overwhelming,” Rubenfeld said. More than 400 people contributed in the first day and a half of the campaign, and several of the winners at the Dora Awards, which took place on June 27, donated some of their prize money.

“I’m hopeful that we will make up the difference,” Rubenfeld said. With no existing appeal process for this year, he is focusing on strengthening SummerWorks’ relationship with Canadian Heritage and reapplying for next year.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Toronto 18, Theater, SummerWorks, Shareef Abdelhaleem, Richard Greenblatt, Homegrown, Michael Rubenfeld, Hanah Moscovitch, Dora Awards, Diane Flacks, Catherine Frid, Department of Canadian Heritage

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.