Back to Artword Productions 1999-2000

If Cows Could Fly
Written and performed by Allan Merovitz
Music directed and performed by Anne Lederman
Directed by Ronald Weihs, produced by Artword Theatre
Set design by Chris Bryden
Lighting design by Chris Humphrey
Technical direction by Craig Smith
Stage manager and design assistant: Yesim Tosuner

February 16 to March 12, 2000
Wed. to Sat. at 8 pm, Sun. at 2 pm and 7:30 pm
Regular $20, Seniors/students $15, Sundays 2-for-1 regular

Musical version of "If Cows Could Fly" premieres at Artword Theatre

Allan Merovitz’s personal theatrical statement, If Cows Could Fly, opens at Artword Theatre on Tuesday, February 15, 2000 and runs to March 5.
The widely-known actor and Klezmer musician grew up in Smiths Falls in the Ottawa Valley in a family of Hassidic Jews. His story, and the story of his family, is a microcosm of the Jewish experience world-wide.

Allan has been working on the material that makes up this play for over a decade, taping interviews with family members and doing research on Jews in Canada and North America. At the same time he was turning into one of the foremost interpreters of Yiddish music in Canada.

Originally entitled Zaide Didn’t Want to be a Soldier, the material has been presented in various forms. Now under the direction and dramaturgy of Ronald Weihs, Artistic Director of Artword Theatre, Allan has brought together the stories and the music and turned If Cows Could Fly into a totally new musical production.
In If Cows Could Fly, Allan has reconstructed the fragmented memories of his family in diaspora, and interspersed them with a wide range of musical styles – Yiddish songs, country-and-western ballads, as well as Klezmer and Ottawa Valley fiddle tunes.
Joining the production as music director and performer is noted fiddler and musician Anne Lederman. Anne has worked with Allan on past projects and has been part of the developmental process on If Cows Could Fly. A year ago she participated in workshopping the play with Allan and Ronald. This workshop was made possible by the support of Theatre Passe Muraille. Artword is pleased that Anne is able to join the show for its full production. In addition to the Klezmer and Ottawa valley fiddle tunes, Anne is developing a full soundscape, using piano, percussion, and a vast array of sound-making devices.

Allan the child asks "Why? Farvos?" Why does it hurt to be called "a dirty Jew, an immigrant bastard"? In seeking answers, Allan finds tales of fleeing from the shtetle of Ozeroff in Poland, of leaving Riga in Latvia, of escaping the pogroms in Kishinev near the Black Sea, tales of diamond workshops of Amsterdam, on to London, a sea voyage to Canada, to the fishing town of Canso in Nova Scotia, to Montreal and finally to Smiths Falls in the Ottawa Valley.
Asking Why? unearths a number of mesmerizing stories. How Zaide escaped being conscripted into the Russian army by the Cossacks. How a ghost helped Frume leave her marriage ("get a get") and start a new life with her two children. How Bubbe Oudel supported her family – and the whole neighbourhood – during the hungry depression. How Uncle Hy, war hero and demolition expert, solved the problem of "No Jews Allowed on this Road". Why Aunt Nellie wouldn’t sell a pair of tight-fitting shoes. And then there are Ottawa Valley characters like Scotty Cohen, the Jewish horse whisperer, and Leonard Applebaum, dairy farmer and country-and-western radio station operator.
Running through all the stories is the indomitable spirit to survive, persist, and transcend. An impossible dream could come true only "if cows could fly". Impossible? Maybe it’s just a matter of getting really good at something – making shoes, shooting pool, remembering who you are.


Biographies for "If Cows Could Fly"

  • Allan Merovitz is a singer, actor, clown, storyteller and badchan (Jewish Master of Ceremonies at weddings) based in Toronto. Recently he has been concentrating on the heritage of Yiddish songs and Jewish traditions, and has performed and toured his show The Wedding Project in Toronto and in Europe (Holland and Switzerland). Allan was lead singer for a number of years with the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, and now fronts his own band, Simcha Klezmer. Allan also sings with a number of Klezmer bands, including Chutzpah, Hou Tsa Tsa, Hot Latkes and Beyond the Pale. He and musician Brian Katz have performed their evening of Yiddish songs Harzedikelider at Artword Theatre among other venues. Allan Merovitz has performed in many theatrical productions over the years, including the Mulgrave Road Theatre in Guysborough NS, Caravan Stage Company in British Columbia and Kensington Karnival in Toronto, as well as a number of film and television appearances. He has appeared in two plays by Ronald Weihs: Hands Up! (The Bill Miner Story), and Highball! a story of logging in BC.

    Anne Lederman: fiddler, singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist and tireless crusader for Canadian music. Anne’s fiddling is strongly rooted in the mixed traditions of the prairies--Métis, French, Old-Time and Ukrainian. She is also plays Irish, Scottish, Québécois, Klezmer and Jazz. She sings in several languages, including French, Gaelic, Ukrainian, Yiddish and Cree, and has mandolin, piano, bones, feet, jawharp and more. Anne has worked with Muddy York, Izvor, and The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band. In 1991, she released her own recording, Not A Mark in This World, a collection of Canadian traditional songs of social comment. She has recently released her first record for children, Come From Every Way, a collection of old and new songs about coming to Canada from all over the world. A new recording of original material, Fiddlesong, is now in the works. Currently, Anne performs solo, with her band Come From Every Way, with Njacko Backo Quartet and Kalimba Kalimba (contemporary African music) and with Chutzpah!, a Klezmer/East European quartet. She is and has been a back-up musician for many artists and has been heard at countless festivals, concerts, dances, schools and libraries, on radio and television. Anne composes music for theatre, film and dance, most recently, Red River, a collaboration by Native Earth and Crow’s Theatre. She fiddled for Theresa Tova’s Still the Night at Theatre Passe Muraille, and for the Blyth Festival’s production of Barndance Live.

    Ronald Weihs, director and playwright, founded Artword Theatre in 1993. In addition to concerts and multi-disciplinary events, the theatre has produced five full productions of its own (conceived and directed by Ronald Weihs). Whoever You Are (1997) is based on the short story by science fiction author Judith Merril. Echo and Narcissus (1996), a collaboration with dancer/choreographers Hedy Minten and Michael du Maresq, is a 20th C. retelling of the Greek legend. Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (1995) is a theatrical treatment of the Chaucer poem, with a piano score by Timothy Minthorn. me2 (1994) is a play based on stories by Alberto Moravia. Mama Says You Are What You Do (1994) is a full-scale musical by Weihs based on real people and their stories. Ronald Weihs also directed Cu’Fu? (Stories of a Sicilian Family), written and performed by Charly Chiarelli, at Artword in 1996. Artword has also produced, in 1995 and 1996, the Artword Festival of the Human Voice (how many ways to tell a story?). As a playwright, Ronald Weihs in known in Toronto for The Wobbly, a collaboration with George Luscombe at TWP and The Beavers, for Native Earth and Theatre Resource Centre; and in BC for Hands Up! (The Bill Miner Story) for Caravan Stage Company. He wrote and directed the musical Highball! that toured logging communities in BC


  • For more information call Judith Sandiford or Rochelle Koenig at Artword 416-408-1146