On January 2, the Belfry Theatre in Victoria, B.C., announced it is cancelling a forthcoming production of The Runner, a one-man play—created by a non-Jewish theatre artist—that tells the story of an Orthodox Jewish volunteer who decides to help a young Palestinian woman instead of an Israeli soldier.
The decision to cancel the production came after weeks of protests from anti-Zionists, including graffiti sprayed on the theatre’s walls and a disrupted public meeting that was set up to facilitate a community dialogue about the play.
While The Runner is still set to run as part of Vancouver’s PuSh Festival (alongside a Palestinian work called Dear Laila), the Canadian play has disappeared from the archives of CBC’s podcast about Canadian theatre, PlayME, opening up the question of whether art that tackles controversial subjects should be outright cancelled because of public outcry.
In the opinion of the hosts of Culturally Jewish, The CJN’s arts podcast, the answer is firmly “no”. In our first episode of 2024, we take a deep dive into the play itself, the controversy surrounding its deliberately racist characters, the slippery slope of cancel culture and how this damages the relationship between Jewish arts workers and broader Canadian institutions.
Culturally Jewish is hosted by Ilana Zackon and David Sklar. Our producer is Michael Fraiman, and our theme music is by Sarah Segal-Lazar. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To support The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt, please consider a monthly donation by clicking here.