Tales From Odessa: How it All Began


“The gangster genre has always been one of my favourites,” says Josh Socalled Dolgin. “Such a rich metaphor with which to tell stories about relationships, families, race, greed, corruption, valour, morality.” Socalled is the originator and composer of the upcoming Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre production of Tales From Odessa, based on the stories of Isaak Babel.  He’d originally wanted to do a film. “I’ve always bemoaned that there are no good Jewish gangster movies. The best one, Once Upon a Time in America, is pretty boring and un-Jewish,” says Socalled, “directed by an Italian, Sergio Leone, starring Italians.” But the movie idea hit a few roadblocks and was shelved for a while.

Still Babel’s stories “seemed like the perfect material to not only deal with the gangster genre but also to explore pre-Holocaust Ashkenazi Jewish identity in a slightly skewed light.”

Then, Paul Flicker, Artistic Producer of the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, approached Socalled after seeing his first musical, The Season. He asked Socalled, if he could do any story he wanted, would he be interested in writing a play for the DWYT. He immediately thought of Babel’s Odessa Stories, “these amazing stories,” he says, “originally written in Russian but probably originally lived in Yiddish.”