Workshop project spawned play about grad’s ancestor

York grad Heather Hermant’s Ribcage: This Wide Passage is the fascinating story of her great, great grandmother…or was that grandfather? , wrote Montreal’s Oct. 28 in a story about her new production at the MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) theatre.

Prior to 1738, Esther Brandeau lived a secret life. She had apprenticed in various trades as a male in France before signing on as a crew member with a boat sailing to Quebec. But once she arrived in New France, Esther’s true identity was revealed. Once outed, authorities also discovered that she was a Jew and she was told that if she wanted to remain in Quebec she would have convert to Christianity.

Ribcage: This Wide Passage is a multilingual performance that chronicles Hermant’s painstaking search though archival records in Canada and Europe to tell Esther’s story. During an interview with Hermant (MES ’06), she told Hour that Ribcage was born out of a cultural production workshop in York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies when she was doing her master’s degree.

“I was involved in a process called personal legacy, a creation workshop based on ancestry. We had to pick an ancestor that we didn’t know and start doing research. I was investigating the life of my great, great grandmother. She was on the Jewish side of my family and I started reading the Jewish History of Canada as part of my assignment. That’s when I discovered, on page 3 in the Jewish History of Canada, the story of Esther. I was dumbfounded.”

“At the time that Esther arrived in Quebec, it was forbidden, by royal decree, for Jews to step foot into Canada. Her discovery was an embarrassment to the Crown. Not because she was passing as a he, but because she was a Jew passing as a Christian. She was ordered to convert but promptly refused and was shipped back to France.”

Hermant said Brandeau’s story blew her away. “It resonated with me as a female. I read it as a queer story. You don’t live for five years as the gender opposite that you were born with and not be transformed in the relations you have with other people.”

University not a hotbed of hate

Re: The Blame Game, book excerpt from The Jew is Not My Enemy by Tarek Fatah, Oct. 26.

It was extremely disappointing to read Tarek Fatah’s unsubstantiated claim that Salman Hossain’s hatred originated at York University, a claim made in his book and perpetuated in this excerpt, wrote Alex Bilyk, York’s media relations director, in a letter to the National Post Oct. 28. The National Post itself, in an earlier article (York University launches investigation of student running anti-Semitic website, March 4) wrote that Hossain had posted terrorist-related messages online three years before ever attending this university. Hossain’s attendance lasted less than one semester and he was deregistered as a student.

York University does not condone nor shelter racism, intimidation or hatred of any kind. Hossain alone is responsible for his alleged hate crimes, wrote Bilyk.

Fine Arts grad to play in this year’s Petty panto

It isn’t likely that many people would be surprised to hear Rosedale’s Scott Thompson (BFA Spec. Hons. ’82) will be spending part of the winter performing in women’s clothing, wrote Post City Magazine Oct. 28 in a story about the member of iconic Canadian comedy troupe Kids in the Hall.

But this time it’s a bit different. Starting Dec. 2, he’ll be playing the role of the Dame in Ross Petty’s Beauty and the Beast: A Savagely Silly Family Musical, a different take on the tale penned by Nicholas Hune-Brown and Lorna Wright. Thompson will star alongside Degrassi alumni Jake Epstein (who also starred in Petty’s Cinderella), former Canadian Idol Melissa O’Neil and, of course, Petty himself.

Petty’s traditional holiday pantomime at the Elgin Theatre is celebrating its 15th year, and despite Thompson’s proclivity for mature content, he’s not too worried about adapting to a kid-friendly environment. “Oh, I won’t scare the horses too much!” he says, laughing. “But I think part of the fun of these productions is that there is a little bit of stuff that goes over the kids’ heads. I can handle double entendre, for sure.”

It’s Thompson’s first Petty show and, in fact, his first play since his York University days.

Buying shares in the US economy

Forget all the kooky things that are happening with inflation-indexed Treasury bonds, wrote the New York Times’ blog Economix Oct. 27. Mark Kamstra, finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, and Robert Shiller of Yale University propose a new kind of way to invest in government securities: by buying a stake in the economy.

In a paper published on The Economists’ Voice, a Berkeley Electronic Press publication, the economists argue that the American government should offer equity stakes in the economy, just as corporations do. In summary, this new security would be:

A small-denomination [gross domestic product] share paying a coupon each year of one-trillionth of that year’s GDP, or about $14.60 at current levels. On this basis, we suggest the name ‘Trill’ be used to refer to this new security. Similar to shares issued by corporations paying a fraction of corporate earnings in dividends, the Trill would pay a fraction of the “earnings” of the US. The “Trill” would be “long term in maturity, perhaps even perpetual,” the authors write.

York poll might have helped boost Vaughan vote

Based on voter turnout, Monday’s municipal election played an entirely insignificant role in the lives of the vast majority of [York Region] residents, wrote the Aurora Banner in an editorial Oct. 27.

In the long run, Vaughan’s increased participation could be attributed to new, convenient locations for voting at shopping malls and York University.