The Jewish Nomad: ‘Therapy was a Mistake’ is Penina Simon’s way of using the stage to portray four characters struggling to find their place

Penina Simon graduated from Concordia University’s theatre program in June 2022—and is already hitting the ground running in her hometown of Montreal.

Therapy was a Mistake, her new solo show, finds her playing four distinct women who are all struggling to figure out their place in this world.

The play description states that audiences will “experience themes of self preservation, sexuality, religion (specifically, Judaism), disability, love, and mistakes, while in the capable hands of Mistress Dee, your dominatrix for the evening.”

Simon was at a bar—looking at the menu closely due to her partial blindness—when a woman approached her in “​​kind of a rude, infantilizing way.”

She responded awkwardly in the moment, but afterwards wished she’d spoken up for herself. The feeling evoked the character of the dominatrix—somebody who is able to take her power back.

The second character was inspired by a conversation she had with an elderly Jewish woman in a bookstore.

Simon introduced herself and the woman responded by saying that Penina was the name of her own first girlfriend, at age 19. After inquiring further about the nature of the relationship, the lady explained how difficult it was for her, since lesbianism was taboo in her time.

The third character is a celebrity described as a cross between Alexis from Schitt’s Creek and Taylor Swift. The fourth is a mystical character who isn’t rooted in reality.

As someone who is deaf-blind, Simon expressed the importance of performers with disabilities having the opportunity to play all sorts of characters, not just disabled ones.

“People will often just only see me as one thing or they’ll want to put me in a box,” she says. “Everybody is complicated, nobody is just one thing.”

These layers of her identity also include Judaism. Having grown up in a very Jewish setting in the West Island of Montreal, she started getting deeper into her roots during CEGEP. In her studies, she learned a lot about Indigenous history in Canada—something which eventually inspired her to dig back into her own ancestry and faith.

A scene in her solo show finds her pouring her heart out to the Mediterranean Sea. In another, she speaks a personal prayer to God.

Simon hopes that overall, audiences will walk from her show having fun. 

“I want to broaden people’s horizons, but I mostly just want them to enjoy themselves.”

Therapy was a Mistake runs from Nov 23-25 at MainLine Theatre in Montreal. For more info on how to purchase tickets, visit the theatre’s website.

Ilana Zackon can be reached at ilanawritesthings[@] and found on Facebook and Instagram.

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