Georgia Straight September 1996
Vancouver, British Columbia.

Pick of the Fringe 1996

In the season of the high holy days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Vancouver storyteller Helen Mintz speaks in her measured, steady voice of the yearly need for transformation, for the forgiveness and self-forgiveness to make oneself new and whole for the new year.

The five stories she’s adapted from various sources are well-chosen to meet this end. “The 36th Just Soul’ is a simple and profound Hasidic folk tale about a little girl, her grandmother, and a fly that sets the stage for the stories to follow by linking the knowledge of mortality to justice. The two must be paired, or everything is out of balance, as things were wildly out of balance during the Holocaust, as they are-now in Rwanda and Bosnia and Iraq and elsewhere.

Mintz tells two Holocaust stories here, one about the generosity and strength of women together, helping each other survive, and one about humour in a time when both telling jokes and listening to them were treasonous acts. Another, lighter-hearted tale is from an

Elana Dykewoman novel about Eastern European Jewish lesbians during the 1880s. “God made the world with words. How could I not have words for what I felt?”

Her last story is of a deliberate attempt to remember and forgive, the story of a group, One by One, made up of the children of Holocaust survivors and the children of Nazis. My earlier wish that Mintz were more exuberant or charismatic utterly dissolved here. Her directness and simplicity are more honest than any flashy display would have been, and far more effective. That steady voice cradled the audience with an elemental story of hope so heartbreaking it could have left us wailing, but rocked us deeper instead.

Firehall Arts Centre, September 12 (4:30pm) – AF