A Film Directed by Lilia Levitina, Starring Annette Miller, Avi Hoffman, and Ofek Cohen
Performing Wagner has been unofficially banned in Israel since the state’s creation because Wagner was a
cultural touchstone of Nazism. But, could Wagner’s music transcend the anti-Semitic views of its creator?
Upcoming You Will Not Play Wagner Screenings
MIAMI JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL – January 19, 2023
Boca Jewish Film Festival – March 6, 2023
Vancouver Jewish Film Festival – March 10 , 2023
Sarasota Jewish Film Festival – March 21, 2023
THE NEW PLAZA, NEW YORK, NY – MaY 14, 2023
BERKSHIRES INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – JUNE 3, 2023
Chicago Jewish Film Festival – June 18, 2023
You Will Not Play Wagner Official Trailer
In Memory of Playwright Victor Gordon
Run Time: 64 minutes
When Ya’akov, an Israeli conductor, announces he will play Wagner in the finals of the Esther Greenbaum International Conductors’ Competition, Esther, a Holocaust survivor, must face a moral dilemma: whether the trauma of the past justifies stifling the future of young talent.
Buried memories, nightmarish dreams uncovered — Ya’akov and Esther, aided by Morris, the competition organizer, viscerally argue their opposing points of view from Tel-Aviv, the Berkshires, and Brooklyn. Across the COVID-plagued world and across historical, ethical, and personal domains, will they be able to hear each other?
Starring Annette Miller, Ofek Cohen, and Avi Hoffman.
You Will Not Play Wagner is an original piece by JArts TheaterWorks, commissioned by JArts and created in partnership with the Forward and the Consulate General of Israel to New England.
Annette Miller has performed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in regional theaters, and on Film and TV. She was acclaimed by The Wall Street Journal as Best Actor of the Season in regional theater for her performance as Gladys Green in Waverly Gallery and as Vera in 4000 Miles. She received the 2018 Berkshire Theater Critic’s Association Award for Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Katherine in Mothers and Sons. Annette originated the role of Golda Meir in Golda’s Balcony at Shakespeare and Company before it went to Broadway for which she received both Boston’s Elliot Norton Best Actor Award and the Independent Reviewers of New England Best Actor Award. She also received the Carbonell Best Actor Award nomination for her portrayal of Vi in August Osage County . Catch her in the hit 2021 Netflix film, Don’t Look Up, with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Avi Hoffman was recently awarded Congressional recognition, was invited to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis and was inducted into the Bronx Jewish Hall of Fame. As an actor, he was nominated for a NY Drama Desk Award for his Yiddish language portrayal of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, but is best known for his award winning one man shows Too Jewish, Too Jewish, Too! and his latest show Still Jewish After All These Years. He’s been featured numerous times on television, has performed all over the world, has numerous acting and directing credits and has received multiple awards and nominations.
Ofek Cohen graduated from the Acting School at the Institute of the Education for the National Union of the Kibbutzim in 2017. Currently acting in the adaptation of The Untouchables the Cameri Theater in Tel-Aviv. Cinema credits: The Swimmer, 2021. T.V. credits: Yes in Get through the Night and Kan in Main Cashier, both 2020; short film credits: Amir and Alis, 2019 and Wild Weeds, 2018.
Director, Lilia Levitina
You Will Not Play Wagner is directed by Lilia Levitina.
Lilia Levitina, a director, actress, producer, and writer, immigrated to the Boston area from the former Soviet Union in 1988. She brought with her a rich Russian theatrical tradition and a dream to do theater professionally. While working as a teacher by day, she founded a theater company— Basement on the Hill Stage— by night. What started in the basement of her house burst onto the Boston theater scene with acclaimed productions such as The Shawl and A Life in the Theater by David Mamet, The Promise by Aleksei Arbuzov, The Language of Kisses by Edmund de Santis, The Fox by Allan Miller, and others. Marking her 30 years in the US, Lilia conceived, produced, and performed a one-woman show, From the Gray Notebook. Through memoir, poetry, and striking imagery, The Gray Notebook chronicles the journey of her generation of Jewish Russian immigrants across continents, languages, and cultures.
You Will Not Play Wagner is Lilia’s first movie.
Playwright, Victor Gordon
Victor Gordon was an exceptional playwright whose passion and creativity left a lasting impact on the stage. Despite humble beginnings, his remarkable journey in theater showcased his extraordinary talent and dedication.
In 1976, Gordon won first prize in the SABC ‘English Drama and Scriptwriting Competition’ with his entry “Fever Ward.” This auspicious debut led to the transformation of his script into a screenplay for television. He continued to excel, scripting episodes for the renowned radio show “Squad Cars” alongside actor Anthony Fridjohn.
Gordon’s plays gained recognition and acclaim. “The Stibbe Affair” achieved 11th place in the Amstel Playwright of the Year Award, while “Brothers” won first prize the following year, gracing the stages of The State Theatre and The Baxter in Cape Town. His play “Comrades” also achieved success, winning the esteemed Combined Performing Councils Award.
In 2009, Gordon’s play “Harry and Ed” explored the extraordinary friendship between President Harry Truman and Eddie Jacobson, shedding light on their role in the formation of Israel. The play received acclaim at the Sandton Theatre on the Square in Johannesburg.
Driven by his commitment to justice, Gordon’s play “Pollard’s Trial” delved into the case of American citizen Jonathan Pollard, earning critical acclaim in Israel. It became the first play in Israel’s history to receive a private performance invitation at the Knesset.
In 2017, Victor and Shirley Gordon traveled to Australia, where their play “You Will Not Play Wagner” premiered to resounding success. Readings of the play received acclaim in New York, Canada, and Israel, leading to the acquisition of rights by JArts TheatreWorks in the United States. Tragically, Victor Gordon did not live to witness the success of the Zoom production of his play. However, the film adaptation, created during the COVID-19 pandemic, had its world premiere in October 2021.
Before his passing, Advocate George Bizos, an iconic figure in history, blessed Victor Gordon’s play “Bizos,” a poignant reflection on his remarkable life. Gordon’s unwavering commitment to truth and justice shines through this powerful production.
Executive Producer, the Jewish Arts Collaborative
The Jewish Arts Collaborative is a Boston-based arts presenter committed to exploring and celebrating the
diversity of the Jewish experience through arts, culture and creative expression. You Will Not Play Wagner was
developed by the JArts TheatreWorks Group, a think tank of top theater artists and processionals, including,
Stuart Hecht, Annette Miller, and Barbara Wallace Grossman.
Jewish Arts Collaborative
“You Will Not Play Wagner is dedicated to the memory of Victor Gordon, a South African Jewish playwright, who passed away from COVID-19 in the middle of the play’s adaptation for screen. As the cast and I faced the responsibility of honoring Victor’s legacy, we poured over the characters’ psychology and uncovered layers of meaning in Victor’s text. Beyond the central plot question of ‘to play or not to play Wagner in Israel,’ there are Jewish and universal questions of tikkun olam, the healing of the world. How does a person position themself and their people within the narratives of individual and collective trauma? Is tikkun olam possible without personal healing? In today’s polarized world, can a conversation between people on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum bring hope? And of course, and always, what role does art have to play?”
“You Will Not Play Wagner is thought-provoking and
compels us to think from different perspective.”
– Wayne Firestone, Executive Director of America Israel Friendship League
Praise for You Will Not Play Wagner
“Annette Miller shined in this special screening. This was a deeply felt, stirring production.“
– Bill Marx, Arts Fuse, calling You Will Not Play Wagner preview one of the best online stage productions
of 2021, listed before Netflix’s Tik Tik… Boom! (Arts Feature: Favorite Stage Productions of 2021).
“‘You Will Not Play Wagner’ Sparks Complicated Feelings About Acknowledging Art”
“You Will Not Play Wagner is thought-provoking and compels us to think from different perspective.”
– Wayne Firestone, Executive Director of America Israel Friendship League
“Extraordinary film. Annette Miller is extraordinary.”
– Joyce Kulhawik (Boston Critic)
Aspect ratio (16×9)
Audio format (stereo)
Run time 1:04
Original language English, some Hebrew
An Interview with Director Lilia Levitina
Lilia, how did you learn about You Will Not Play Wagner?
“It all started on a December afternoon in my driveway. I was serving traditional latkes in a non-traditional, COVID-19-sensitive style to my friends, Michael and Annette Miller. Annette said to me, ‘I have a play, and I want you to direct it.’ This is how I learned about South-African playwright Victor Gordon and his play, You Will Not Play Wagner. Fast forward four months, and what had started as a Zoom theatre idea had evolved into a full-fledged film!”
Tell us more about this evolution and who is helping to create this vision.
“The play itself had been turned into a script after multiple back-and-fourth drafts between Boston and Pretoria. Then Avi Hoffman came on board to play the role of an ultimate deal-breaker. Director of Photography Rick Macomber, a two-time winner of the prestigious Emmy Award, filmed Annette Miller in Lennox, MA as she played Esther, a Holocaust survivor and patron of the prestigious conductors’ competition (held virtually this memorable  year!). Roland Novitsky, an Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (IPBC) cameraman, filmed Ofek Cohen in Tel Aviv as he played Ya’akov, an Israeli conductor who makes it to the final stage of the contest. The Hatch, Emmy, Telly’s and Monitor award-winning editor Christo Tsiaras ultimately put it all together.”
Are there certain themes or questions this production is asking?
“Who and what defines the Israeli narrative— its national myth? To what degree does the trauma of the past hold a grip on the present? Is moving on and into the future even possible without accommodating the past? Could two irreconcilable positions be reconciled? To put it simply: is it possible for two people who passionately believe in their respective, singular truths to hear each other?”
TheatreWorks is a curated group of creative professionals, theater experts, and community organizers who work to broaden and enhance the scope and creative capacity of JArts theatre-based programming.View Series
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