A Day to Remember

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Three generations marking Remembrance Day 2019: George, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen

Each year, on Remembrance Day, our family takes time out to pay tribute to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who served in wars, conflicts, peacekeeping missions and here at home. We remember those who fell in action and who were injured. We think of those who continue to serve and we acknowledge the hardship for their families.

Closer to home, my family pays tribute to my father, George Nashen, for his service as a Sargent in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII.

This year we attended the Cote Saint-Luc ceremony held last Friday in City Hall. While the number of WWII veterans sadly diminishes each year we were fortunate to be with my dad, as one of only three veterans in the capacity crowd.

George Nashen surrounded by mayors, councillors, MNA, MP, clergy and emergency responders as school children look on

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein honoured the attending veterans, Alan Ruben, former City Councillor Isadore Goldberg and my father, George. The Mayor produced a video highlighting their contributions to Canada. Below you can watch the portion about my father.

 

There were three main pillars to this year’s events: the children, the wreath laying and the speeches.

Four elementary schools (JPPS, Hebrew Academy, Ecole de la Monde and Merton School) and two high schools (Bialik and John Grant) participated. The children recited poems, including In Flanders Field, and sang songs, such as The White Cliffs of Dover, in four languages. It was an impressive showing of the next generation and was reassuring that the fading memories of long ago sacrifices would still be remembered.

Wreaths were deposited by the politicians, emergency services, volunteer and community organizations, students and the staff of the city. One moving episode had three generations of the Reichson family including former CSL Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson, along with his father and daughter, laying a wreath in memory of his grandfather while holding his shining service medal from WWII and his photo.

The speeches were poignant and emotional. Mayor Brownstein spoke about educating the next generation and how the CSL Dramatic Society fulfilled an important mission in presenting the Broadway smash hit, Cabaret, earlier this year. The musical exposed the troubling times emerging in Germany as the country, and Europe descended into despair and chaos.

Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather gave a stirring speech about the veterans who returned to Canada and built our community. With his voice cracking with emotion, Housefather highlighted the veterans’ contributions and participation in civic life and noted that this spirit has endured and has made Cote Saint-Luc a volunteer-rich community with residents passionate about being involved.

Polioce Station 9 Commander Luis Olivera lays a wreath, accompanied by vCOP Susie Schwartz

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum was solemn and retrospective and in his typical eloquence and charm marveled at the passing of the torch down through the generations.

The speeches were heartfelt and meaningful. I am grateful to our Mayor, MP and MNA for singling out my father as an example for the next generations.

MNA David Birnbaum, Cllr. Dida Berku, Fmr. Cllr Isadore Goldberg, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Mayor William Steinberg, MP Anthony Housefather and George Nashen

A minute of silence in memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice serving in the Canadian Armed Forces

George’s Story

 

Sergeant George Nashen, Royal Canadian Air Force, 1944

George Nashen, 96, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from December 1942 to April 1946 and was stationed at RCAF Overseas Headquarters in London, England for nearly three years. Luckily, he was not called up to the front lines. But his buddies were. Some never returned.

My father enlisted in December 1942 with several of his friends from Baron Byng High School, and was shipped off for two months of basic training in Toronto where the RCAF had taken over the CNE Fairgrounds. From there he was stationed at the Rockcliffe Airbase in Ottawa from February until August 1942 and then to Halifax where they boarded the Queen Mary cruise ship that had been commandeered to transport troops.

“We were 26,000 troops and 1,000 crew members crammed into the ship for the four day crossing to London, England,” my father told me. “There were 54 troops to a room and we took turns sleeping, 27 at a time slept on the hammocks lined up three high in nine columns,” he said. “It was so uncomfortable and there were so many disturbances that I chose to sleep in the hallways and stairwells. But the ship would list from one side to the other every seven minutes as it curved to avoid sailing in a straight line to escape any pursuing German U-boats. I remember the empty Coke bottles rolling bake and forth in the halls and hitting the walls preventing any rest there as well,” my dad said.

RCAF Aircraftsman 2nd Class, George Nashen (1943)

“In London, we slept in the Canadian Legion Hall until we could find an apartment,” my dad reminisced. There were no barracks in the city as they couldn’t chance losing so many soldiers in a targeted German bombing raid. “One night a bomb fell right outside the Legion Hall and blew in the doors and windows. As the glass flew and the ceiling collapsed I immediately rolled under my bed to take cover,” he said. “I yelled out to my buddy, Mel Nicol. ‘Are you alright Nic?’ Mel Nicol was real joker and responded, ‘I’m not sure, I’m looking for my leg’. Of course, he was just fine,” George said.

George and Mel eventually rented an apartment at Queens Gate Gardens about a 30 minute walk from Harrods, where the RCAF set up their administration and accounting division. We often joke that my father served in women’s lingerie during WW II, in reference to the department in Harrods where the Accounting Office was located. They were paid $2.50 per day subsistence allowance for their lodging and another $1 for food.

As an Aircraftsman 2nd Class they received $1.30 per day. Dad used to send $10 per month back to his Mom in  Montreal to save for him. Upon his return, three-and-a-half years later he had saved up about $300.

George Nashen in front of the Cote Saint-Luc cenotaph in Veterans Park 2012

One night they were awakened by a bomb blast and heard that the nearby hospital was hit. Mel and George raced over to offer their assistance only to find out that 30 babies had been tragically killed. “It was the saddest day of my life,” my father said.

Back at Harrods he was busy taking care of Airman Pay Accounts to ensure each of the troops received their salary. Daily Routine Orders were meticulously entered for the tens of thousands of airmens’ accounts, all manually, of course.

My dad lost his best friend in battle. “Jay Singer was like a brother to me,” my father recounts. “Jay and I were inseparable from kindergarten through Baron Byng High School. Jay was an air force pilot from the age of 19. His plane went missing while laying mines in the Baltic Sea on June 15, 1944. Jay was just 22 year’s old when he died in service. I’ll never forget him.”

Jay Singer

Jay Singer

My father endured the bombardments and hardship of everyday life in London but fortunately was safe relative to so many others. The thick, dark clouds that hung over the city many nights from fog made it impossible to see right in front of you. My father recounts as he would feel his way along the walls of the buildings on his way home, counting off the number of doors and turns in the road to find his way home.

One night a bomb fell at a pub just outside of Harrods and some Londoners were killed. The next day, a young Princess Elizabeth, came by to visit and offer her support. My father watched excitedly from the window as the future Queen made her way along the street.

My father returned home in April 1946.

Three generations of Cote Saint-Lucers: George, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen 2013

Each year, I ask dad to take out his medals and his beret and to teach my own kids what it meant to serve Canada as a soldier.  They listen in amazement at his stories of 70 years ago, as they reflect on their lives in the best country to live in, Canada.

WWII veteran George Nashen, 93, deposits the wreath on behalf of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 97 at the Cote Saint-Luc Cenotaph in Veterans Park. Accompanied by his grandson Cory, son Jeff and vCOP Phil Mayman. (Photo: Darryl Levine, CSL).

Each year on Remembrance Day, I salute my dad, and all those who served, who paid the ultimate price, who sustained injury and who were lucky to return just like George. His bravery and commitment, and theirs, to stand on guard, to liberating those who had their freedom taken from them so many years ago, to keeping Canada glorious and free, shines like a beacon to my kids and our entire family.

With my dad on Remembrance Day (Jewish General Hospital, 2014)

We’re proud of his accomplishments and grateful to still have him, and my mother, as our bridge between our past and our future.

 

George and Phyllis Nashen at their 95th and 90th birthday party (June 2018)

N

More:

Mount Royal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather’s speech

Councillor Mike Cohen’s blog

 

Cavendish extension, back in the spotlight, garners mixed reviews from Côte Saint-Luc residents – Global News

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By Billy Shields Photojournalist  Global News  May 29, 2019

WATCH: There is renewed optimism that the long-awaited Cavendish Boulevard extension will finally move forward. As Global’s Billy Shields reports, the new hope is due to the controversial Royalmount development.

A recent report published by a committee studying the Royalmount development has recommended the extension of Cavendish Boulevard as well as the construction of a dedicated bus lane.

An extension to Cavendish Boulevard that would connect Côte Saint-Luc to the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent has been discussed for more than 50 years. Côte Saint-Luc residents are divided over the idea, which some point out may never happen.

“It’s just a lot of talk,” Phyllis Orloff, a woman who lives along Cavendish Boulevard, said on Wednesday. “It’s never really happened.”

Others, however, point out that the road would be a welcome artery through a city with few ways in and out. Others worry about the influx of traffic an extension might bring.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Officials have studied the extension formally on half a dozen occasions — in 1981, 1988, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 2000 — but it has never materialized.

Two freight railways — Canadian Pacific and Canadian National — own tracks that the extension would have to cross, and for a long time, neighbouring jurisdictions weren’t on board, according to Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein.

With the massive Royalmount project on the horizon, other jurisdictions are calling for the extension.

“They’re doing it not because of Côte Saint-Luc, they’re doing it because the cars need to go somewhere, and they can’t use Decarie (Boulevard),” Brownstein said.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Negotiations with the railroads are slated to continue for another year and a half. Brownstein said the road could be finished by 2027.

READ MORE: Cavendish Boulevard extension faces deadline

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Life is a cabaret ‘ol friend, come to the cabaret

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What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play!

Another smash hit has reached the stage as curtain’s went up last night on the latest production from the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society: Cabaret.

“The contrast between the over the top musical numbers and the stark reality of the injustices occurring outside the cabaret captivated my attention [years ago] as it still does today,” said Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein. “We need to be leaders and speak out in defence of human rights. Cabaret has given us all that opportunity.”

Once again, it’s hard to believe that this is local, community theatre as the entire production, from costumes, set and design, to choreography, acting and live music exceed expectations by leaps and bounds.

Cabaret is not for the light-hearted. The theme is raw with drama and emotion in pre-war Germany. The burlesque-style night club acts are raunchy and lewd. The actors play with your spirits from eccentric to despair, from hopeful to hopeless.

“…There was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany and it was the end of the world…”, wrote lead actor Calder Levine who played the role of of wide-eyed American Cliff Bradshaw. His command performance in portraying his love for the English Berlin nightclub doll, Sally Bowles, played by the extraordinary Jeanne Motulsky, was musical and magical.

Jeanne Motulsky

Speaking of music and magic, the ever so talented Motulsky returns for her sixth show with the CSLDS. The Communications grad from Concordia University is headed towards production in film and television. As I wrote following her stellar performance in last year’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, “her future looks bright.” Motulsky captured the audience with her incredible voice and stage presence, particularly performing “Don’t Tell Mama” and “Cabaret”. Sensational.

The entire show is tied together by the unbelievably talented Craig Dalley who plays The Emcee. Returning for his fourth show with CSLDS, Dalley captivates your attention from the upbeat beginning, singing the well-known, “Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome” opening theme to Cabaret, right to the very end, deep in the darkest places humanity has gone, some 80-plus years ago.

Dalley’s talent, not to mention his sexually provocative leather clothing, profane language and naughty gestures will have you laughing, and then crying. What a job he did with Money Makes the World Go Round! He can sing. He can dance. And he can control the audience and the stage. Fantastic.

Linda Babins (Fraulein Schneider) and John Kovac (Herr Schultz) play an adoring, mature, tentative couple. Babins is a longtime member of the CSLDS team while Kovac returns to theatre after a 40 year hiatus. The two hit it off in song and dance with an air of confidence – she as a stodgy, serious German woman and he as a whimsical, fun-loving older gentleman – a German Jew. You’d never know he stepped off the stage for four decades but thankfully he’s back!

While it was hard to cozy up with Edward Le Vasseur who played the role of red armband toting Nazi, Ernst Ludwig, I’ll admit that he was faithful to his increasingly angry character and the more I despised him the more I realized what a strong actor he was.

Finally, Maria Jimenez deserves praise for her beautiful voice as her back lit profile steamed out from an old fashioned gramophone. Dreamy staging indeed. In the role of Fraulein Kost, a bit of a loose lady (as if any of them was anything less) she was very funny as her many sailor boys sauntered out of her room.

Artistic Director Anisa Cameron with CSL Mayor and CSLDS Founder Mitchell Brownstein

There are so many more praiseworthy cast members who entertained the gala night audience with impressive choreography and delightful musical numbers.

The five-piece live band adds to the experience and really gives the feeling of actually being in a live cabaret. They were great.

A show like this, especially community theatre, doesn’t just come together with a heck of a lot of hard work and incredible talent by the creative and production teams under the direction of the absolutely incredible, dedicated and tremendously talented Anisa Cameron.

(Mini shout-out to backstage crew members Nicole Nashen and Naomi Salama).

“As a theatre director, I felt compelled to produce this show. It seems Cabaret has only become more and more relevant to what is tragically happening in our own province and country, in North America and around the globe. Cabaret stands as a seductive, staggering and stark lesson in the dangers of complacency, denial and willful ignorance in the face of unbridled nationalism and the rise of a fascist tide. Never again is now, said Cameron.

CSLDS partnered with the Montreal Holocaust Museum in providing educational panels to understand the historical context in which Cabaret takes place.

Israeli Consul General David Levy was also instrumental in providing informational panels about diplomats from several countries who went against their orders and laws in doing the “right thing”, in rescuing thousands of Jews from the grips of the Holocaust.

CSLDS’s Cabaret is sure to be another sold-out smash success, worthy of an eventual Montreal English Theatre Award for its production value, quality musical arrangements and its thought-provoking message of using the past to influence the future.

So what good is sitting alone in your room? Come to the Cabaret!!

Cabaret runs through June 16 at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium in Cote Saint-Luc City Hall on Cavendish Boulevard. Tickets and information at CSLDramaticSociety.com.

Too much snow? Melt it away!

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With technology advancing faster than ever I’ve often wondered why snow clearing operations haven’t changed very much since I was a kid. I recall watching in utter amazement back in the ’60s as a parade of snowplows, dump trucks, sidewalk plows and snowblowers worked their way down Cork Avenue.  Sure they landed a man on the moon… Heck, I’m even named after the first man to orbit the moon! But this was happening right on my street. Snow clearing was really out of this world.

I never spent a moment thinking about the cost of acquisition and maintenance the rolling equipment, the manpower cost, the pollution spewing from the roaring engines or the danger to pedestrians as these trucks barreled down Guelph and Kildare headed to the snow dump. I didn’t know that there was more equipment to push the dumped snow up a mountain to await the great thaw. The noise caused by this whole procession didn’t bother me back then.

Fast forward a few decades and as a City Councillor I was responsible for millions of dollars in expenditures for everything I’ve described above. How much do we pay in our municipal tax bill just to cart away and pile up the snow? Millions upon millions. And now residents have pressured City Hall to hire even more equipment and labour to break down those mountains of dirty snow every spring to speed up the melting. An absolute waste of tax dollars, a danger to pedestrians, and environmental hypocrisy to those who proclaim to be a friend of the earth. There’s got to be a better way.

Click to enlarge

I discuss issues of technology with my friend Mitchell Herf and we thought a lot about it. What if we could melt the snow as soon as we pick it up and avoid the parade of additional expensive vehicles, reduce our manpower costs, eliminate the mountains of dumped snow and reduce the danger to pedestrians and the environment? Too good to be true? Actually, some towns are doing it already.

SRS-M150 snow melter by SRS Snow Removal Systems

 

It’s time for our progressive, innovative, smart city, Cote Saint-Luc, to test out one of these 21st Century solutions. Plow it, blow it, melt it and flush it down the sewers with just one truck and one operator. I know that Councillor Ruth Kovac wants to melt the snow on heated sidewalks so this should grab her attention and that Cllr. Dida Berku is all about environmental concerns and Cllr. Steven Erdelyi would like find ways to reduce expenses. Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and Public Works Director Bebe Newman are also reading this post and I hope they’ll all take up the challenge of researching new solutions for an age old problem and make our city safer, cleaner and cut down on costs.

 

The snow removal truck melts the snow and water is dumped into the sewers

 

Large snow melting dumpsters can be installed strategically during snow clearing

operations to cut down on unnecessary dump truck trips

 

 

vCOP fills the hall, Suburban chief thanks the troops

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Photo courtesy David Goldsmith

A capacity crowd of 80 Cote Saint-Luc volunteer Citizens on Patrol members filled the council chamber at city hall this week to hear the Suburban Newspaper’s editor-in-chief Beryl Wajsman speak on a wide range of topics, but mostly on the political landscape in Quebec. Wajsman was raw and uncensored, swinging wildly, particularly at provincial politicians. The considerably knowledgeable and articulate speaker was unscripted in his gashing assault against the political elite who he described as unconcerned about the citizenry and focused solely on attaining power by saying whatever was necessary to secure votes.

Against this negative backdrop Wajsman described CSL mayor Mitchell Brownstein as unique in his “openness and accessibility”. You can meet with Mitch or call him anytime. He answers his own phone, Wajsman said. “He cares and it shows.”

Beryl Wajsman addresses the vCOP corps of volunteers

But Wajsman’s ultimate compliment was saved for the volunteers in their bright yellow uniform jackets and orange polo tops. You are the true examples of what it means to be a community, to care for your neighbour and to help people who really need your help, he said. He congratulated the vCOP members for their service to the elderly, to all residents.

“I truly enjoyed speaking to a very special gathering of some of the most engaged citizens around. The CSL Volunteer Corps of Citizens on Patrol. The only one of its kind on the island (actually the only one in Quebec) and they cover every sector where the 33,000 residents of CSL live. Great Q&A too,” Wajsman posted to his Facebook page

Long-serving volunteers Susie and Harvey Schwartz

vCOP meets every other month to refresh on protocols and procedures, learn new skills and techniques and to hear from community leaders and experts in public safety. They are a dedicated and energetic group that give of their time, day and night, to safeguard the community. Once again, I salute CSL’s men and women in yellow and orange.

No way out: Recent gas leak highlights Côte Saint-Luc’s need for Cavendish Extension

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‘We definitely need another route out,’ says Mayor Mitchell Brownstein as negotiations continue

The Sept. 6 gas leak in Côte Saint-Luc caused major gridlock throughout Montreal’s west end, making it a struggle to get in and out for motorists and emergency crews alike.(Navneet Pall)

Côte Saint-Luc resident Michael Litvack woke on Sept. 6 to discover his bedside clock had stopped working at around 8:15 a.m.

It quickly became apparent he was among the more than 10,000 Hydro-Québec customers in Montreal’s west end without power after authorities shut it off due to a gas leak near the intersection of Kildare Road and Cavendish Boulevard.

As a crew repaired the broken gas pipe and nearby residences were evacuated, the Cavendish Boulevard underpass — one of just two ways out of Côte Saint-Luc — was only accessible by side streets.

The main part of Côte Saint-Luc is surrounded by train tracks and a rail yard, making the underpasses on Cavendish and Westminster Avenue the only two routes out of a suburban municipality of more than 30,000 people.

Côte Saint-Luc’s roads are generally quiet but, with one underpass partially blocked, the gas leak ignited a traffic nightmare. Gridlock around both underpasses lasted for several hours despite the Montreal fire department’s request that motorists avoid the area.

“People in my part of Côte Saint-Luc were stuck,” said Litvack, who struggled to get a blood test that day. “Businesses had to close. Schools had to close. Doctors appointments had to be rescheduled.”

Côte Saint-Luc’s Cavendish Boulevard underpass is regularly busy with motorists, trucks, buses and pedestrians as it is one of the only ways out of the city. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

It served as a stark reminder of how Côte Saint-Luc’s design leaves it vulnerable, he said.

The municipality has seen big changes in the last decade as new homes and residential buildings are added every year. Several large-scale, multi-storey apartment complexes are currently under construction and there is talk of more on the way.

“It’s going to get worse,” Litvak said. “As the cars increase and the people increase, the problems will increase.”

The Westminster Avenue underpass is one of Côte Saint-Luc’s two access points. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

There are four emergency gates that allow vehicles to drive over train tracks, but opening them requires coordination with the train companies.

The best solution, most say, would be a third exit to the north, heading to Montreal’s Saint-Laurent borough and the Town of Mount Royal, but the so-called Cavendish Extension has been firmly anchored in the discussion phase for some five decades — those discussions were delayed two more years earlier this week.

Mayor says Cavendish Extension is in the works

After the gas leak, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has been reminding residents that he is working hard on bringing the Cavendish Extension to life.

“We definitely need another route out,” he told CBC News.

It is no longer a question of if, it is a question of when, said Brownstein, noting he’s made it a top priority since assuming office in 2016.

The project has been in Montreal’s capital work budget since 2015 with a completion date originally set for 2020. Currently, Montreal has $13 million earmarked for the cause and money is set aside at the provincial level as well.

While Canadian Pacific (CP) is asking for a costly tunnel under the entire rail yard, Brownstein said he, along with the other levels of government, is pushing for two underpasses under the two separate tracks just north of Cavendish Boulevard.

Rather than being an alternate to the nearby Decarie Expressway, it would be a quieter, ground-level roadway that, fitting with the neighbourhood’s character, connects Côte Saint-Luc to Mount Royal’s Royalmount Avenue and St-Laurent’s section of Cavendish Boulevard.

The indirect route would follow a to-be-built, fenced-in road through the rail yard and a small portion of private land owned by the property developer, Olymbec.

The properties owned by Olymbec are in the starred area. (Google Maps)

Montreal reserved that undeveloped land for expropriation and, on Thursday, the agglomeration council extended the reserve for another two years, to buy time for Montreal to continue its negotiations with CP.

The future of the Cavendish Extension hinges on those negotiations — negotiations that have been ongoing for a number of years.

“We just need to keep pushing to get the proper road built that isn’t a highway, but allows us a way out of our city,” said Brownstein. The renewed two-year extension on the reserved land, he added, means “everybody is on a timeline.”

A stretch of Cavendish Boulevard in Côte Saint-Luc was closed due to a Sept. 6 gas leak that created a traffic jam so bad that Montreal’s fire department struggled to access the site. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

However, Montreal also extended negotiations by another two years Tuesday and MNA David Birnbaum described that decision as “disappointing” because it green lights further delays.

“We have always said and continue to say, we will be absolutely and fundamentally involved in the development of the Cavendish Extension,” he said, describing it as not only important for the safety of residents, but also for the economy.

He said he’s called meetings between all the players involved to accelerate the process and the province has been offering support.

“We’re all ready to be a major part of this project and it’s time for it to move forward.”

For that to happen, he concluded, Montreal needs to complete negotiations with CP.

CBC reached out to CP for comment, but didn’t hear back in time for publication.

To help push the project forward, Côte Saint-Luc Coun. David Tordjman is encouraging residents to raise their own voices to the cause as, he said, the gas leak brought safety to the forefront of the discussion.

With Quebec’s general election heating up and Canada’s election just around the corner, he said, “We need more firm action from all levels of government.”

Behind the scenes at CSLDS Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

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Behind the scenes at CSLDS Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

By Glenn J. Nashen 

Sam Boucher, Joseph, in his coat of many colours

The recent stage production of the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society’s (CSLDS) “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was an unprecedented success. Show after show brought in crowds that filled every seat. Additional shows were added on and extra chairs were brought in. Some shows even had standing room only onlookers.

 

The reputation of the seven year old community theatre is solid. This is in large part due to the vision of its founder and the city’s current mayor Mitchell Brownstein, and to the incredibly talented and professional founding Artistic Director Anisa Cameron.

 

I caught up with the two of them since the show closed last month to ask about the wild success of Joseph, the CSLDS and what lies ahead:

Mitchell Brownstein with actor Brandon Schwartz

Nashen Notes (NN): Tell me about success of this show in terms of seat sales, revenue…?

Mitchell Brownstein (MB): The Gala brought in a lot of money to sponsor entire elementary school grades to come see the show as well as Senior Citizens from our local residences and special needs adults, many in wheelchairs.  The revenue, from the Gala and 25-plus performances, brought in a big profit to allow us to continue to improve our offering of Arts and Culture to the Community.

NN: What was it about Joseph that lead to this success?

MB: It’s a story we all know from the Bible and a show that has been around for 50 years.  It appeals to people of all ages. The cast ranged in age from 8 to 80 and the audiences ranged in age from very young children to seniors well into their 90s, one whom told me she was 98 and looking forward to next year’s show.

NN: What does this say about English community theatre in CSL and the West-End?

MB: It’s some of the best theatre you can find anywhere, professional or amateur, as it really brings joy to its audiences led by a professional team of artists: Anisa Cameron, Artistic Director, Nick Burgess, Musical Director and Alexia Gourd, Choreographer. They really make everyone shine.

NN: What about an enlarged venue in CSL?

MB: We have previously won two METAs (Montreal English Theatre Awards) and hopefully this show will win as well. Traditionally, we remount our successful shows at the Segal Centre or Centaur.

NN: What comments stand out from the feedback you’ve received?

MB: “I saw the Donny Osmond production years ago and this show was better!”

NN: What’s the likelihood of a remount?

MB: Very promising.

NN: How is the CSLDS contributing to CSL as a community?

MB: We value arts and culture as much as sport in the development of the person and in building a community.  Over 3000 people came to see this show from Cote Saint-Luc and beyond, enriching their lives and the lives of our actors and creative team.  By bringing the schools, the disabled and the seniors from residences to see the show, we are building a community where we care for each other and together we bring happiness to all.

Anisa Cameron

NN: Anisa, tell me about the success from an artistic point of view?

 

Anisa Camerson (AC): It’s overwhelming! I knew that Joseph would be a popular show, but I couldn’t believe it was so popular that we sold out our entire run. In the 7 years since Mitch Brownstein and I founded the Dramatic Society, we’ve never experienced this kind of success. We usually sell out in the final week and a half of the production, but to sell out for the full three weeks has been a lovely gift from our audiences.

 

NN: What are you most proud of in Joseph?

 

AC: I’m so proud that we were able to produce an artistically beautiful, funny and poignant piece of theatre. I’m also proud that myself, the cast, designers and production team – particularly Nick Burgess (our Musical Director)  – really pushed ourselves to the limit in terms of how challenging this show is to produce.

 

Joseph, being an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and being sung from beginning to end, is a relentless challenge for our performers (and for those of us creating the look, sound and feel of the show). There’s never any down time. Usually, you get a musical scene broken up by several straight scenes. That’s not the case with musical theatre that is sung right through. It’s constant musical staging: musical and vocal arrangements and choreography that has to flow seamlessly from the first moment the lights go down in the audience to the final bow.

 

NN: What are your thoughts on Sam Boucher’s (Joseph) performance?

 

AC: Sam Boucher is a remarkable talent that we’ve been lucky enough to work with for the past 3 years. His prowess as a performer belies his age. He is only 19! He brought a sensitivity and thoughtfulness to Joseph that was touching to see at every performance. His performance of Close Every Door was nothing short of remarkable.

 

NN: How has the CSLDS helped some of these rising stars?

 

AC: We have been fortunate to attract some of the most talented young people looking to gain performance experience in a professional environment. While we are a community theatre, our production team is made up of remarkable professionals who support our cast. Many of these young performers have this incredible talent that they need to polish and hone.

 

The CSLDS provides an education through experience in that regard. It’s very rare that a community theatre gets the opportunity to have 23-24 shows back to back over a month long run. Usually, you work on a show for anywhere from 6 months to a year and you get anywhere from 4-8 shots at performing it for an audience.

 

The stamina that it takes to perform in our summer musicals is on par with performing in a professional production. There’s a lot you learn about yourself, as a performer, when you are given the opportunity to perform… a lot!

 

Many of our cast members from the past have gone on to pursue careers in the arts, studying at Sheridan College, or Randolf Academy or Ryerson University, or Concordia Theatre. There are still other memorable performers who are already pursuing a life in the arts, but due to a lack of opportunity in the professional world, grace us with their considerable talent!

 

NN: What comments stand out from the feedback you’ve received?

AC: Our audiences are always so kind and supportive. This year they were ecstatic! I think the number one comment I always get and that sits with me heavily is “How are you going to top that?”. Honestly, I don’t know how we will be able to top this one. Joseph is a real milestone for myself and for the CSLDS.

 

NN: Were those little singers too cute? Tell me about this new add on compared to previous shows?

 

AC: Because this is Joseph, I knew we needed to add children to this show in a way we hadn’t in the past. They added so much to our unity as a cast and a sense of import to what we were doing because everyone became responsible for introducing most of these young performers to their first theatrical experience. They were as dedicated and determined to put on the best show they could as all of the adults around them. The sense of family that is created on a production was made that much stronger for having them with us.

 

On an artistic note, the intergenerational aspect of this production was particularly important to me. Joseph is a biblical story that has made its way down through countless generations to reach us here today so that it resonates on a much deeper level when you pay homage to those generations. We spoke a lot about the guardianship of this story and how our older generation hands it down to us in the present and we in the present then hand it down to the next generation. That was the intention and vision behind our choir and how they were linked to our narrators (entrancingly performed by Jeanne Motulsky and Nicole Arrage). Past, present and future all represented on stage together to ensure the story survives.

 

NN: You’re a wonderfully extraordinary artistic director. Are you not itching to move to Toronto or NYC or Vegas? What’s in the future for Anisa?

 

AC: I would love to have the opportunity to work anywhere in this wide world that will hire me, so spread the word! That doesn’t mean that I would forsake Montreal and Côte Saint-Luc. I love this island! As long as the Dramatic Society is here, I will also be here, that’s the beauty of being an artist; your schedule is flexible (to a point)!

 

NN: Anything to add?

 

AC: I’d just like to add that none of this would have been possible without the tireless vision and efforts of Mitchell Brownstein and now Mitch Kujavsky as well as Ryan Nemeroff and Emma Loerick! They are an incredible dream team that support us in all that we do and I am forever grateful to them. It is also a rare occasion when a municipal government recognizes the power of the arts in their community. I am also grateful to the City Council of Côte Saint-Luc for continuing to believe in the dream of the CSLDS.

Mitchell Brownstein and Anisa Cameron at the Montreal English Theatre awards gala (Photo credit: Mitchell Brownstein)

My full review on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat can be read here: https://gjnashen.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/review-joseph-an-amazing-musical-entertains-all-ages/

 

Also posted to Montreal Jewish Magazine

 

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