With the upcoming theatrical production of Two Views From The Sylvia, author Diana Stevan interviewed Sue Cohene, a founder of Kol Halev Performance Society, about the new play based on the Sylvia Hotel, a well-known Vancouver landmark and the family who built it.
Diana: What inspired you to do the play?
Sue: The answer is insanity.
Tell me more about that. How did you get the idea?
About five years ago, I was discussing Kol Halev, Vancouver’s Jewish Historical Performance Ensemble, at a monthly Jewish psychology network meeting. Marsha Ablowitz, another psychotherapist who I had known for many years, came up to me and said, “Do you want to do a story about my aunt?” It turns out her aunt was Aunt Sylvia of the Sylvia Hotel!
So she told you the story of her aunt. Was there anything you were surprised about?
I’ll tell you one tidbit. There was a connection between Sylvia Goldstein Ablowitz and another legendary Vancouver figure, Joe Fortes, the lifeguard at English Bay.
Interesting. I’ve heard about him. I understand from the title of your play, that there are two views from the Sylvia. Can you tell me more about that?
One view is from the outside, from English Bay, looking in. The other is from the inside, looking out. And those are just the literal views I’m talking about.
I understand there’s some music. Is this a musical?
We have two one-act plays. The first one, named Sylvia’s Hotel, is a musical about when the hotel was built and the obstacles the family encountered. The second, named The Hotel Sylvia, is a play with music, focusing on the period of time after the hotel was built.
I heard that the Jewish Museum and Archives showed an interest.
Yes, the Jewish Museum is one of our partners in this project. They will be presenting a historical photographic exhibit at the theatre.
Two Views from the Sylvia opens Wednesday, November 8 at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island. It runs from November 8 to 12 with evening performances and a matinee on Sunday, November 12. Tickets will be available at http://www.kolhalev.ca and through Theatre Wire.