This Spring, Manchester Jewish Museum will launch their inaugural season of ‘Synagogue Scratch’, a series of work in progress performances exploring stories of Jewish Manchester. The museum has announced three performances, all of which celebrate exciting, fresh, Jewish, Mancunian stories, ranging from first ever live performances and script in hand developmental pieces, to fully formed theatrical work. All in the stunning setting of the museum’s historic, grade II* listed Spanish & Portuguese synagogue.
The aim of this project is to support the work of local, up-and-coming and more established artists at all stages of their work-in-progress. Audiences will have the opportunity to be the first people to see a project up on its feet, get to know the local talented individuals who are telling Jewish Mancunian stories and be at the heart of helping to develop their material. Manchester Jewish Museum’s Creative Producer, Demi Franks, who worked on developing this season of events says:
“We are really excited to launch our inaugural ‘Synagogue Scratch’ season this Spring, celebrating local artists and supporting the development of new work-in-progress. This season’s theme ‘Jewish Manchester,’ particularly excites me as I’m really proud to be providing a platform and a one-of-kind space for local emerging artists to share and explore their work in this unique way here at MJM. We are really looking forward to inviting our diverse audiences to not only see this exciting work but meet, chat and help the artists to continue to evolve and develop their projects.”
The season will begin on Sunday, 26 March 2023, with a work-in-progress comedy performance by Ellie Silver, titled ‘Beth’s Din’. The show tells a story of Manchester’s first ever female rabbi and her struggle for acceptance from a notoriously traditional synagogue congregation, reluctant to welcome her with open arms. Written for TV, the series will be enjoyed equally by Jewish audiences and those who know nothing about Jewish culture.
From there, continuing with the theme of Jewish Manchester, the museum will be host to a work-in-progress theatrical piece, ‘We Wish You Long Life’ by Amy Lever. Amy is a Mancunian Jewish actor and writer, passionate about telling northern contemporary stories with a Jewish influence as well as incorporating verbatim testimony and interview into a script. “We Wish You Long Life” was originally performed as part of a short play festival, “One Play One Day”, produced by Reload Theatre Company, in which six short plays were written, rehearsed and performed to a live audience, all within twenty-four hours. It has then been developed as a longer piece of theatre, exploring the lives of a Jewish-Irish Catholic family and the shared cultural history of these two communities.
For the season’s finale, audiences will be invited to watch ‘A Manchester Girlhood’, a story deeply rooted in the family history of the play’s writer, Julia Pascal. Julia grew up in the north of England and was the first woman director at the National Theatre on the South Bank with her stage adaptation of Dorothy Parker’s prose and poetry. She is the granddaughter of Manchester Jews and a playwright who has focused her work on exploring untold Jewish stories, particularly those of women. She’s interested in sharing neglected Jewish histories which counter stereotypes and add complexity to the Jewish experience. ‘A Manchester Girlhood’ tells the story of three sisters, who grew up as the Jewish Mancunian daughters of those who fled Romanian antisemitism. The play gives a moving vision of what it was like to struggle for a good education, love and identity as Jews who wanted free lives as women.
After each performance of the season, audiences will be invited to meet the artists, have a chat and share their feedback over a drink, served by the museum’s Café. This is an exciting opportunity to be a part of an art piece in progress and see work that hasn’t been shared before or being shown for the first time in Manchester. Feedback from the audience will be used to support the artists’ further development of their work.