How a class of Dawson College theatre students are incidentally workshopping a controversial script about Zionism and campus politics

Dawson College, a CEGEP in Montreal. (Photo by Chicoutimi/Wikimedia Commons)

During the pandemic, David Sklar—an actor, playwright and co-host of The CJN’s arts podcast Culturally Jewish—wrote a theatre script called Vial. The plot focuses on a college professor who feels conflicted when one of her far-left-wing Jewish students writes an extreme essay about Israel; the professor, who starts off adamantly pro–free speech, begins to reconsider her stance when the essay sparks wider outrage and fierce debates on campus and beyond.

In 2023, a colleague of Sklar’s—a drama teacher at Dawson College, a CEGEP in Westmount, Montreal—reached out to see if Sklar had any unpublished work she could bring to her students for a month-long workshop. Sklar offered Vial: it wasn’t especially relevant at the time, but she was free to use it.

Then Oct. 7 happened.

That’s why, this month, a group of theatre students—with only two Jews among them—are studying this controversial script about campus politics and free speech, while pro-Palestinian activists stage tent-in protests literally blocks away.

Sklar flew to Montreal to spend a few days speaking with the students in person, and now he reports back on what those conversations were like—while also playing clips of what Dawson students Dalia Leblay, Rachel Bruder-Wexler and Bram Lackman-Mincoff thought of the script.

Credits

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.