Interview – CBC Bold — Mar. 5, 2011

I was featured in a documentary on The Bold channel, a CBC specialty network, in March 2011. The show is called Creative Block, which features profiles of artists across the country.

Interview - CBC Radio (Ottawa) -- Feb. 6, 2010

audio availableClick here to listen! Saturday morning, Feb. 6 on CBC Radio One (91.5 FM), Michael Bharwaj of Ottawa’s In Town and Out interviewed me about my play.

The Beat Review

Reviwed by Renee Silberman, October 7, 2009


Dateline New York – London’s own versatile writer/actor Robyn Israel, hit the boards Big-Apple style, Off-Off-Broadway last night with her prize-winning, one-woman show, Jewish Girls Don’t Kayak and we are basking in the glory of her achievement.

Poignant insight interwoven with quicksilver wit lit up Israel’s audience, as the tale of self-discovery unfolded. New Yorkers readily identified with the shtick, an outpouring of yearning and insight familiar to anyone capable of finding the humour in life’s complexities.

Israel made an easy transition from the familiar setting of a London stage to the ambitious New York theatre scene. Her poise never abandoned her as she vindicated her belief that her play was suited to the world “out there.” The subjects Israel touched on resonated with the audience, both those who knew the Jewish quarter of Montreal, and those whose frames of reference did not include anything of the Canadian background of the play. In post-play conversation, Israel elaborated on her life and theatrical experiences and was especially amusing on the topic of crossing the Canadian-U.S. border where the authorities were not charmed by the universality of dramatic experience.

Stage Left Studio, ‘The most beautiful little theatre in NYC,’ is the brainchild of Cheryl King, a producer, director and performer who brings experimental works into her clever, intimate setting. As a member of the Dramatist’s Guild, she is well-placed to bring performers new to the New York scene to the attention of an ever-hungry stage-loving public. King presented Jewish Girls Don’t Kayak in The Women at Work Festival. This showcase performance afforded Israel a great moment Off-Off-Broadway. She has every justification to feel stage struck, and we who follow her career have every reason to feel star-struck!


I laughed, I cried

Congratulations, Robyn! It was such an honest presentation painted with bold brushstrokes of pathos and humour …..I honestly felt I could hear my own mother of blessed memory saying those same words! I suppose the content is a mixture of experience and fantasy (or did you really do all those things??) but I must tell you , I NEVER was moved to tears as often nor have I laughed quite as hard in one show as I did tonight. Your description of your Zayde Morris was so evocative for me. The picture you painted with your words and expression brought him to life for me. Similarly, I can just imagine you mother and father – you had their characters really down pat. And throughout the play, your love of family and heritage shone through.  — Allan Kroll

Beauty and honor

The beauty and honor that are set so deeply, emotionally and lovingly reflect on all the elements that have built up this piece in the life of Robyn Israel. In her one-woman show, Robyn exhibits the tribulations of her ancestors’ decision to leave the homeland, growing up in French Canada as a Jewish girl, the colorful people she has encountered and the joys and pains of relationships. An emotional journey both touching and inspiring, revealing much about ourselves as we look into the experiences of one woman. It just goes to show that when you follow your passions, you can do anything your heart desires.

Laughs, sadness, courage and more


Superb Show

“Robyn Israel has created a superb show about religious and ethnic pride, Canadian multiculturalism in all its idealistic glory and moderating realities. Enduring ignorant strangers and an overbearing mother, Israel mirrors her own name’s meaning, “struggle” and tells a tale where she looks for her own self-identity that squares with her people’s heritage. What we gain from that internal wrestle is a superb one-woman show that celebrates what Canada has itself fought to become and mourns that it should be more.”

Very funny material

“Some very funny material, well delivered by a charming performer.”

Great show

“Great show. Wonderful stage presence!”

ArtScape magazine


Robyn Israel brings her one-woman show, "Jewish Girls Don't Kayak," to the Arts Project.

Robyn Israel brings her one-woman show, "Jewish Girls Don't Kayak," to the Arts Project.

by Tess de Haan

Robyn Israel is a woman of many talents and even more energy. She is reviving her revamped one-woman show, “Jewish Girls Don’t Kayak,” at The Arts Project this month.

“Jewish Girls Don’t Kayak” premiered at London’s 2007 Fringe Festival and went on to win a Brickenden Award for Best Comedy Show of the Year. The show addresses themes of multiculturalism, anti-Semitism, Judaism, and identity issues. Although that may not read like a comedy show, Israel gives the material a lighthearted treatment.

Humour is the backbone of the show, and Israel feels that comedy is what makes the message stick. Her aim is to educate people who may not know about Judaism – to dispel the stereotypes and entertain at the same time. “It’s palatable because it educates in a lighthearted way,” says Israel.

The show’s title was derived from a conversation Israel had with a man who, upon learning that she kayaked, declared, “Jewish girls don’t kayak!” “I thought it was such an absurd comment and I filed it away in my mind,” laughs Israel. “I thought it would be a catchy title for a play someday and voila! My play addresses stereotypes like his comment.”

In treating what is very personal and often painful material in a comedic way, Israel is following a Jewish tradition in itself. “What sets them [Jewish immigrants] apart, I think,” Israel explains, “is their wonderful sense of humor and their appreciation for the absurd. Jewish people love to laugh, love to tell jokes and enjoy word play, which is a big part of my play.”

“Like many immigrants, the Jews came to Canada in search of a better life, free from the persecution that had plagued them in Europe,” Israel says. “They stuck together and built cohesive communities. They still had to contend with anti-Semitism, even in their adopted country [unlike some other immigrant groups]. This is sadly true even today.” As an example, she cites overhearing an anti-Semitic comment the same day her show opened at the Fringe.

Israel came to acting relatively recently, after being introduced to improvisational theatre. She was working in Palo Alto, CA, as a theatre writer and was assigned a story about an improv troupe. “It sparked something in me,” recalls Israel. “They were having so much fun!”

Although Israel was an arts journalist, writing regularly, she still felt a void in terms of personal creativity. So in 2002, she began taking improv classes and soon after began writing her first one-woman show, “My Mother, God Love Her.” Israel performed this show at the Marsh Theatre in San Francisco in 2004.

Although the San Francisco show, as well as “Jewish Girls Don’t Kayak,” is based on real events and people from her life, Israel does admit to taking creative license. But still, I wonder, isn’t it personally risky to perform a show based on your own life, complete with boyfriend stories, mother stories, and adolescence stories? “Yes, absolutely”, Israel agrees. “But I really think we learn from other people’s lives, experiences and insecurities. My story is unique to me and yet it’s so universal in its narrative. It reaches out to all cultures, and I know I connected with people from different backgrounds by sharing my life story.”

The Fringe version of “Jewish Girls” clocked in at 45 minutes, but in the last two years Israel has expanded and broadened the scope of the show to make it a full-length production.

“I felt like the story was still being written,” says Israel, as more recent events in her life made their way into the narrative. “I view the Fringe as a workshop. This time I wanted to stage it in a more mainstream venue; take it to a higher level. That was my goal from the start.”

While Victoria Sutton directed the Fringe version, this time around Peter Busby is at the helm.

“Peter gave me my first break in London theatre,” says Israel, who credits her move to London as an important factor in her artistic development. “London’s been kind to me,” she says. “The London Arts Council has been a great source of support. They really believed in my growth as an artist. I owe a lot to them.”

“Jewish Girls Don’t Kayak” runs March 24 to 28 at The Arts Project, 203 Dundas Street. For more information visit the Arts Calendar.

Tess de Haan is busy working on her one-woman show “Dutch Girls Don’t Rawk”! Because of course, she says, they do.