The Jewish Nomad: Talking to the 94-year-old Toronto playwright who’s taken a ‘Leap of Faith’

Toronto city councillor Shelley Carroll (centre) joined Carole Libman (left) to discuss ‘Leap of Faith’ on June 2, 2022. (@shelleycaroll/Twitter)

One of the founding mothers of Playwrights Workshop Montreal, a development centre for new anglophone plays, Carol Libman is a pioneer of anglo theatre in Quebec who now lives in Toronto.

She’s also a bright and vivacious senior, and someone who I greatly enjoyed talking to on Zoom. Give me a couple minutes to tell you what we discussed…

Leap of Faith is her latest play, about a Canadian lawyer named Laura Lewis—who just so happens to be Jewish—who’s running for city mayor when a dark episode from her past comes back to haunt her at the height of her campaign.

Carol was inspired by an article about a young woman who was kidnapped, but then talked her way out of captivity by promising to help him out, although it was a promise she didn’t keep.

The playwright began to wonder: what types of consequences would this broken vow create later on? Would her kidnapper ever track her down?

She started to write not long before the pandemic began, and soon had to adapt it for Zoom. 

The play was developed and workshopped through Alumnae Theatre’s New Play Development Group (something which Carol helped start) alongside director Anne Harper, mostly online. They adapted it to work live on stage in time for an in-person premiere at the Village Playhouse on Bloor Street West.

These first performances coincidentally timed with Ontario’s provincial election, which was serendipitous, since Carol was mostly looking for a date when COVID would feel out of the way.

“I think that most people who run for office… are trying to be the best for their community,” she told me. “So hold them to account for sure. Don’t blame them for things they can’t control—and realize they are human beings, too.” 

Leap of Faith’s initial run produced by Rare Day Projects, starring Toronto actress Tara Baxendale, took place in the first five days of June. But look for it to be mounted elsewhere, as public interest in stories about the personalities who pursue political positions is eternal. 

A special podcast panel this week

This week, in honour of the 50th anniversary of the ordination of Sally Priesand, who became the first female rabbi in North America, I spoke to three spiritual leaders following in her footsteps.

Oh, and I got to host the show solo!

Our panel included Rabbi Elyse Goldstein of Toronto’s City Shul (Reform), Rabbah Rachel Kohl Finegold of Montreal’s Congregation Sharei Hashomayim (Modern Orthodox) and freelancer Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides in Calgary (non-denominational).

It turns out Rabbi Goldstein was Rabbi Krygier’s inspiration for getting ordained, after hearing her speak at a Shabbaton over 20 years ago at the Calgary JCC. I don’t blame her. Rabbi Goldstein was a game-changer, being Canada’s first female rabbi. (Rabbah Finegold is the first Orthodox clergy member in Canada—so we were in good company, to say the least.)

We covered many topics including head coverings, the controversy surrounding whether the title should be rabbi or rabbah or rabbanit, and all things related to feminism and inclusivity.

Give this one a listen before I’m back with Avi Finegold and David Sklar for the next regular episode of Bonjour Chai.

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

HEAR what else she has to say every week on Bonjour Chai