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Dora Wasserman

WASSERMAN, DORA (1919–2003) and BRYNA (1947– ), Yiddish theater directors. Dora Wasserman was born Dora Goldfarb in Chernikhov in the U.S.S.R. to a poor family. After graduating from high school, she studied voice and went on to train with the Moscow Yiddish Academy under Solomon *Mikhoels. She worked with the Tyuz children's theater in Kiev, the Kiev State Theater, and the Zhitomir Theater until the Soviet Union entered World War II. On the road in 1944, she met and married her husband, Shura Wasserman, in Kazakhstan. They had two daughters, Bryna and Ella. After the war, Dora formed a theater troupe and performed in DP camps in Austria. Wasserman immigrated to Montreal in 1950 and organized children's Yiddish theater groups. In 1957 she formed the Yiddish Drama Group, an adult ensemble created under the auspices of the Montreal Jewish People's Schools. She received support for the theater from the Jewish community, as well as from the wider theater community. The well-known Québecois actor Gratien Gélinas provided technical and material support. In 1967 the company was invited to join the new Saidye Bronfman Centre.

Wasserman went on to produce or direct more than 70 plays for the Yiddish theater. She worked closely with many of the writers who presented works at the company or whose works she adapted for the Yiddish theater. She acquired exclusive stage rights to the works of Isaac Bashevis *Singer. She had Ted Allan's play, Lies My Father Told Me, translated into Yiddish (1984), and then staged Michel Tremblay's Quebec classic, Les Belles Soeurs (1992). She produced Fiddler on the Roof for the first time in Yiddish (1993). The company toured in Israel, the United States, Austria, and Russia. Wasserman was invested as a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Quebec. In 1996, after Dora Wasserman suffered a stroke, her daughter Bryna took over the artistic directorship of the Yiddish Theatre.

Bryna Wasserman grew up around productions at the Yiddish Theatre. She received a BFA and an MFA in directing from the Tisch School of Fine Arts (NYU), and worked at English and Yiddish theaters, including the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center, Mercer Street, Vancouver Opera House, American Place, and the Folksbiene Playhouse. In 1998 she was appointed artistic director of the English-language theater program for the Theatre of the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts. Under her direction, both the SBC Theatre and Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre have received Mecca (Montreal English Critics' Circle) Awards. The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre remains North America's only Yiddish theater company in permanent residence.


J. Larrue, Le théâtre yiddish à Montréal/ Yiddish Theatre in Montreal (1996).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.