— Pamela Roth
After 40 years of experience in the arts, Zelda Dean wanted to use her passion for theatre to make a difference in her community.
Thus, the idea for Bema Productions was born.
Officially formed last year, the local theatre company is based out of Victoria’s downtown synagogue, but takes its plays to various venues throughout the city as a fundraiser for organizations such as local churches, Silver Threads (a senior’s organization) and the Help Fill a Dream Foundation.
Although the theatre company is still relatively new, so far the concept has been a big hit.
“This year I was blown away. I had to stop the requests after 10,” said Dean, adding the company’s only request is that the cost of getting to a venue is covered. Aside from playwrights’ royalties, all proceeds from ticket sales go to the organization hosting the play.
“Just so many organizations are raising money from our play, which I think is really neat. I am so grateful that this is all working and it excites me that a lot of people who otherwise might not be working together, are.”
Although the theatre company is based out of the Congregation Emanu-El, Dean said it isn’t a jewish theatre company or religious group, therefore everyone is welcome. Everything they do however, has some sort of a Jewish connection, whether it be the playwright or a character in a play.
So far, Bema Productions (Bema refers to the altar in a synagogue) has done two plays and made its big debut with the fictional tale based on personal interviews, 17 Stories by playwright Caroline Russell-King.
The Grandkid, a two-man comedy by John Lazarus, will be the company’s third show. The play follows an elderly man and his granddaughter, and touches on many contemporary issues that people of all ages have to deal with, such as sex, politics, religion and heart attacks.
“There’s this wonderful interplay between these characters even though there’s a 50-year separation,” said Dean, adding the play has a local connection, with the grand daughter being a University of Victoria student.
“You get very caught up in the dialogue because it’s so real. There are many laughs and many poignant moments as well.”
Dean, the artistic director of Bema Productions, plans on doing three shows a year. The next one will be held in March, and will be a sing-a-long version of Fiddler On the Roof with actors doing a staged reading and a live orchestra.
The Grandkid runs from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1 at the Congregation Emanu-El. The entire cast and crew will then move on to performance spaces in six churches, a retirement residence and funeral chapel. Tickets are on sale at the Congregation Emanu-El, located at 1461 Blanshard St.