I knew I wanted to play Daphna immediately. She was like a piece of music I knew I had to learn because it instantly connected with a part of me that I really wanted to express: She is so full out all the time. She has absolutely no shame about using her intelligence or her voice, whether anyone likes it or not, and she’s so wonderfully flawed. She’s like the anti-ingénue and I love her for it.
And then, of course, she’s Jewish. She’s so Jewish and so proud of it. And as someone who was a nerdy Jew growing up, it’s great to be able to get to share that part of myself on stage. I mean, I went to Hebrew school, had a bat mitzvah and knocked my torah portion outta the park, was in the cantors club, went to Jewish summer camps, did temple youth group, chanted from the Torah at high holidays, went on a religious school trip Washington DC to visit the Holocaust Museum, and of course went on Birthright Israel. So yeah, like Daphna, I was involved.
Though as someone who is mixed-race and doesn’t necessarily “look the part” at first glance, I couldn’t just hope that someone would cast me in the play one day. Even if I wasn’t mixed-race, that wouldn’t make much sense: I knew if I was ever going to play Daphna, I would have to make that opportunity for myself. So I approached Koffler about helping me get the licence and to my delight they decided to get behind the production entirely, and told me they viewed my mixed-race identity as an essential part of it, since it added an extra layer to all the issues the play brings up.
On top of all that, I’m so lucky to be working with the director Michèle Lonsdale Smith. She’s a brilliant director, actor, and teacher who stands up for the power of and potential for the art of acting to change people and change the world. When actors work with Michèle, it’s like training as a high performance athlete (and I say this as someone who used to swim competitively). The work is ongoing and actors are constantly challenging themselves to push through their limits. All the actors in the play have trained extensively with Michèle for years and have been working with excerpts from Bad Jews while continuing to study (in Toronto, New York and LA), so by the time we start rehearsals in May all the actors will have already been exploring and researching their characters for months. We’ll all be off-book (i.e. have our lines memorized) before the first day of rehearsal so that we’re ready to dig deep right away. In short, everyone involved is incredibly devoted to the process, and they’re all so in love with the play, as well. It’s very exciting!
Rebecca Applebaum is a playwright, actor and producer based in Toronto.