Anna Fuerstenberg is one of Montreal’s great, undiscovered treasures. And yet she has been among us, in our faces, at our ears, out and about, forever. Not literally, of course. Everyone must be born or arrive at some point. But you cannot really be part of the Montreal theatre scene and not know (of) Anna. Still, most of us who’ve also been here forever don’t know her at all.
How can this be?
Because Montreal is a town that treats its jewels badly. The way Anna’s mother treated her.
She never remembered the date of her daughter’s birth. She died on her birthday. When Anna was nine months old, her mother threw herself under a truck during her post-partum depression. (The favourite son, Adam, claimed she slipped.) She struggled all her life with grief over the loss of three sisters, a brother, her parents – some 80 members of her family – in the camps. In old age, brought down with ailments and stuck in hospital after surgery, she snapped out of a morphine-induced fog long enough to rail, “How is it possible that I, Regina Sowa Fuerstenberg, the granddaughter of Sara Sowa, sister and daughter and granddaughter, niece and cousin to so many, should find myself alone in this room with just you, Anna, for company?”
The story of Anna’s long, torturous, ultimately exhalative relationship with her mother is told in The Guerilla Caregiver, a one-woman play she wrote and performs. It premiered this past fall in Nashville at the Darkhorse Theatre, directed by Barbara Jean Rogers, and is slated to be done in French in Montreal next season.
On Sunday, November 30, Anna will present a staged version of the piece at the Rialto’s Piccolo Theatre as a benefit, with all proceeds going to Rover’s ongoing expenses.
In addition to being a writer, actor, director and dramaturge, Anna is also a dedicated theatre critic. Since joining the Rover team, she has written 142 reviews of English-language productions.
When I told her a few weeks ago that I did not think we should continue working for a site with little or no revenue coming in, she was aghast, and quickly offered to get behind a revival of the cause – beginning with a fundraiser.
While some of us may get discouraged by the Promethean job of keeping even a small venture like Rover going in an economic climate that is not especially favourable to culture at the moment, she begs to differ. As her mother would have said, “You think you’ve got it hard! Oy vey!”
Nor will she tolerate snivelling about the mean side of Montreal. “I am shamelessly in love with this city,” she says. “I used to have a love-hate relationship, but the hate disappeared after I started working on ELAN (English-language Arts Network). I was in the company of people who are so dedicated to the arts.”
She refers to her stint as an ELAN board member as a life-changing experience. And now, it seems, her life is about to be changed by engagement, once more.
Catch The Guerilla Caregiver at the Rialto Piccolo, 5723 ave du Parc, corner Bernard, Sunday November 30 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $20 or $15 for the unwaged. Buy here or call 514-770-7773.
Marianne Ackerman is publisher and founder of Rover.