New Yiddish Theatre Productions on the Boards!

The cast of “Tevye Served Raw”. Photo by Jonathan Smith

I have now reached a point where I have done so many articles about Yiddish theatre, and going so far back, that I can’t find ’em all to count ’em. But there’s exciting stuff happening in the contemporary Yiddish theatre at the moment, which we’ll get to, so first this little inventory tracing my engagement with the topic. I’m contemplating a possible book of my theatrical journalism, and this can be considered a halting step towards a chapter on the Yiddish theatre revival of the late 20th/early 21st century. For the few very important people who care!

My vaudeville research for No Applause, which began around 2001, first led me to the topic, and you will find articles about artists like Belle Baker and Molly Picon in the “Jews in Show Biz” section of Travalanche. And there’s this article on Yiddish Vaudeville in my series on the various kind of Variety Arts.

In 2003, I first became acquainted with the work of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, when I reviewed their production of Leon Kobrin’s 1916 play The Lady Next Door for . My “Virgil” on that outing was Yiddish scholar Caraid O’Brien, perhaps best known for her translation of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance; her insights were very helpful. And I’ve tried to keep up with their work ever since.

In 2012 I interviewed Target Margin’s David Herskovits about his two-year Yiddish Lab project on the Indie Theatre Now podcast. The following year I reviewed his production of Peretz Hirschbein’s 1917 The (*) Inn here on Travalanche (I’ve since taken down most of my theatre reviews, else I’d link to it).

More recently I wrote a couple of relevant pieces for the NYC Community Media papers (The Villager/ Downtown Express/Chelsea Now). In 2016 I interviewed the great Yiddish star Fyvush Finkel, then 93, and not long for this world at that point, although he sure didn’t sound it. In 2017 I wrote this feature on the Folsbiene’s production of Amerika — The Golden Land. And on Travalanche this 2017 review of Prague 1912 about Yiddish actors Itshak Lowy and Mania Tshissik.

Somewhere around 2009, I think, I reviewed Shane Baker’s solo show The Big Bupkis, directed by Allan Lewis Rickman. I can’t remember who the review was for, and everybody’s taken their archives down, including me! I think it may have been here on Travalanche.

But any rate after much meandering, now we come to the point! Baker and Rickman have a new show up now (along with Yelena Shmulenson, who appeared with Rickman and Finkel in the 2009 Coen Brothers film A Serious Man). My article about the new show Tevye Served Raw is here in this week’s edition of Chelsea Now. (And for some context, here’s the New York Times’ recent piece on the Folksbiene’s current revival of Fiddle on the Roof, which the Tevye show is most certainly in dialogue with. But if you’re only going to read one article, read mine, and here it is again!