Arts & Culture: Theater
A play exploring the Russian-Jewish immigrant experience recently inaugurated Folksbiene.RU, a new initiative of the National Yiddish Theatre — Folksbiene in partnership with Genesis Philanthropy Group.
Developed by the Lost & Found Project, the play “Covers” used the personal experiences of members of the troupe to tell a story of first- and second-generation immigrants from countries in the former Soviet Union and their struggles to adapt to a new land and a culture that views their Jewish identity in dramatically different ways. “We look at it as more than a cultural project; for us, it’s truly an educational project,” said Ilia Salita, executive director of the Genesis Philanthropy Group North America, an organization that works to cement the Jewish identity of Russian-speaking immigrants and their children in the United States and Canada. “What we’re trying to support here is the use of theater to further our understanding of our history, our family history, and our people’s history.”
The Folksbiene: National Yiddish Theater has hit a home run with its new production of “The Megile of Itzik Manger.”
Credit has to go to an inspired production design team (set and costume designer Jenny Romaine, lighting designer Natalie Robin, production stage manager Alex Brouwer) and terrific direction by Moti Didner, the Folksbiene’s associate artistic director. They have reimagined the classic Purimspiel as a small-town circus musical, filled with acrobatics, masks, puppets large and small, sideshow sets, whirling dance numbers, double entendres, proletarian politics, and a variety of other elements that keep the ear and eye delighted throughout.
The year was 1965. Marc Rubinstein was a 15-year-old kid in Long Beach on Long Island with a guitar and love for rock and roll and a talent for electrical wiring.
He had a band, but getting good lighting on stage was hit and miss in those days.
“When you went into a concert, they had a couple of strip lights on stage. A lot of the time they didn’t even turn the house lights down because they said rowdy kids didn’t deserve darkness,” he recalled this week.
Benny Berlin, the popular Kinder Shul (Shabbat children’s program) leader at the Jewish Center of Teaneck, has produced a play with a new take on the Purim story. The family-centered production will be performed on Sunday, February 17, at 10 a.m., at the Jewish Center of Teaneck. Its all-star cast features residents of the “She-li” group home performing lead roles.
The intergenerational program is co-sponsored by the JCT with the Chabad House and Congregation Shaarei Tefilah.
Call (201) 833-0515, ext. 200, or go to wwwjcot.org.
Try to imagine what it’s like to live your life not hearing or seeing.
Imagine the difficulties of communicating with the other inhabitants of your world, who all seem to be chattering away and interacting in ways that make little sense to you.
Then, increase your challenge exponentially by landing yourself onstage. As an actor, it’s now your job to communicate with others and inspire in them a deeper understanding of your life and the fundamental human condition that, after all is said (or communicated in some other way) and done, unites us all.
Now you have the makings of high drama.
Oscar Hammerstein II was raised by Scottish Presbyterians, and the only time he ever entered a synagogue was to deliver eulogies at Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
But according to his grandson, Oscar Andrew (Andy) Hammerstein III, his Jewish heritage influenced Oscar II’s work — work for which he won eight Tony awards and two Academy awards as a lyricist on musicals including “The Sound of Music,” “South Pacific,” and “Oklahoma.” This influence can be traced back to Oscar II’s grandfather, German-Jewish theater impresario Oscar Hammerstein I.
The new production of “My Name Is Asher Lev” at the Westside Theatre is very well acted and directed, and its perfectly conventional approach to the big issues of Art and Religion should ensure its success here just as it did in Long Wharf, where the play was produced last year.
Directed by Gordon Edelstein, the play puts three actors on stage in front of an evocative set to tell the story of the 1950s Brooklyn chasidic prodigy Asher Lev and his struggle to express his innermost feelings on canvas.
The National Yiddish Theatre — Folksbiene’s revival of “The Golden Land” got knocked about by Hurricane Sandy, just as the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Jewish immigrants it celebrates were tossed on the ships that brought them to the “goldeneh medineh” they were so eager to reach. The production at the Baruch Performing Arts Center had to be postponed until the college was open and safe for audiences, but the performance on Nov. 8 played to a full appreciative house. The show, which is the major production of the Folksbiene’s 98th consecutive season, runs through Dec. 2.