The Segal Centre for Performing Arts has an illustrious history as the city’s premiere institution for developing and producing high-quality, professional, live theatre, while also serving as an important cultural resource for Montreal and for the Jewish community.
The Segal Centre is a charitable not-for-profit organization which raises over 60% of its yearly operating funds through the generosity of donors, government partners, and a variety of fundraising initiatives. A proud constituent of Federation CJA, the Segal Centre is committed to the Montreal Jewish Community, and to building upon Jewish values and identities to create a cultural legacy that will benefit and inspire future generations.
Furthermore, the Segal serves all communities in Montreal by encouraging intercultural understanding through the arts, and embracing its role as the leading professional English language theatre in the predominantly French metropolis of Montreal.
Over the past 50 years, the building which houses the Segal Centre for Performing Arts has undergone significant changes and growth. In 1967, the Saidye Bronfman Centre was founded by the YM-YWHA, with funding from the Bronfman family. The centre was a gift to the Jewish community in honour of Saidye Bronfman’s 70th birthday, and housed both a visual arts gallery, and a theatre. The building was designed by award-winning Architect Phyllis Lambert, CC GOQ FRAIC FRSC RCA, one of Saidye’s daughters.
The centre soon became home to the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre (DWYT), one of North America’s oldest Yiddish theatre companies. Founded in 1958 by Dora Wasserman, CM CQ, the DWYT keeps the tradition of Yiddish Theatre alive by producing critically and publicly acclaimed productions in Yiddish. The Segal remains the home of the extensive Yiddish Theatre Archives, which are maintained by a group of passionate and dedicated volunteers.
After extensive renovations and expansion in 1987, the Saidye Bronfman Centre theatre re-opened with a brand new 306-seat theatre and a commitment to producing Jewish plays.
In 2007, in acknowledgement of the financial support of the Alvin Segal family, the Saidye was renamed the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, and disassociated itself from the YM-YWHA. It became a multi-disciplinary performing arts centre, with an expanded emphasis on education, community outreach, music, dance and cinema.
Through subsequent years of achieving consistent theatrical excellence under the direction of many prominent cultural leaders including Bryna Wasserman (1998 – 2011) and Manon Gauthier (2009 – 2013), the Segal Centre has become nationally recognized for its English theatre programming, which emphasizes original interpretations of classic and contemporary works, new Canadian musicals, and engaging productions with broad appeal. The CBC has called it “a major player on the city’s art scene,” and The Globe and Mail has named it “one of the country’s elite cultural institutions.”
The Segal is more than just a theatre; it is a treasured artistic resource and community hub for independent and emerging artists, and is celebrated for bringing the best artists from across to the country to the Montreal stage.
The Segal can be found in schools across the city thanks to its innovative Segal Goes to School and YAYA (Young Actors for Young Audiences) programs. The Segal Academy also nurtures tomorrow’s artists and audiences through extra-curricular courses and camps in musical theatre. These educational initiatives stem from the Segal Centre’s firm belief that theatre should be accessible to all.
Current Artistic and Executive Director Lisa Rubin believes in the transformative power of the arts. She puts a strong focus on theatre that resonates with audiences from all walks of life, and that helps people discover surprising truths about themselves and each other. Her first professional foray into directing, Bad Jews by playwright Joshua Harmon, was critically praised for its honest portrayal of how young Jewish people deal with faith in a changing society. Under her leadership, the Segal has shown a renewed increase in new musical productions developed in-house such as Belles Soeurs: The Musical, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz: The Musical, and Prom Queen: The Musical.
The Segal Centre Board of Directors, under the leadership of President Joel Segal, comes from a diverse personal and professional background, but all share a passion for theatre, the Jewish community, and the arts.
Today the Segal Centre welcomes over 65,000 visitors a year, provides employment for 140 full- and part-time employees, and advances the artistic practice of over 200 artists from Montreal and across the country, year-round.