YTE will present a new online video production, Between Worlds, centered on the life of heralded writer Irene Klepfisz, a poet living in New York who has had a major impact on Jewish, American, and lesbian literature. She is also a pioneer in the recovery of Jewish and Yiddish women’s writing. The Bay Area’s celebrated actor Naomi Newman is crafting the script and will perform the central role of Klepfisz.
Teatron: A Festival of Jewish Theatre | Louisville, KY | July 27 –Aug 14, 2022
San Francisco Playhouse
San Francisco, CA | Sept 22 – Nov 5, 2022
Indecent recounts the controversy that surrounded God of Vengeance when it first ran on Broadway in 1923. Watch Yiddish Theatre Ensemble’s award-winning online production of God of Vengeance so you can see first hand what all the fuss was about!
Watch Yiddish Theatre Ensemble’s award-winning online production of God of Vengeance (94 min.) — the inspiration for Paula Vogel’s stunning play, Indecent. Scroll down to see the 2-minute trailer.
“…for especially courageous and distinguished work online during Covid-19’s devastating forced closures. Thank you for keeping Theatre alive through such dark days.”
The Production Design Process
Adapted from a talk presented by Jeremy Knight to our VIP supporters at a talkback session on Zoom.
God of Vengeance tells the story of a seemingly observant Jewish couple and their daughter Rivkeleh who live upstairs in their Lower East Side apartment during the Great Depression. Yankl and Soreh do their best to protect their only child from mixing with their bustling livelihood—a thriving ‘brothel’ business downstairs in the basement. Rivkeleh is at a marriageable age and plans for a future husband are being made. She is ensured an attractive dowry when her father commissions a Torah scroll, worth thousands, to be written just for her. Supposedly, the hand-written scroll is believed to protect her and keep her kosher. Meanwhile young Rivkeleh has fallen in love with Mankeh, one of his prostitutes and a tender relationship blossoms. Tensions mount and soon life upstairs and downstairs begin to entangle. As Yankl’s plans are threatened, he begins to unravel.
Leads: Roni Alperin (Yankl), Jill Eickmann (Soreh), Elena Faverio (Rivkeleh), Zissel Piazza (Mankeh), Simon Winheld-(Shlomo), Esther Mulligan (Hindl), Naomi Newman (Reb Eli), Josiah Prosser (A Scribe), Rebekah Kouy-Ghadosh (Basha), Frances Sedayao (Rayzel)
Ensemble: Linda Ayres-Frederick (Old Blind Woman), Heather Klein (The Chanteuse), Gilberto Melendez, Merle Nadlin, Leni Siegel, Randall Solomon, Denise Hingle
“The Yiddish Theatre Ensemble’s visually stunning production of my translation of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance is a pandemic masterpiece. Truly gorgeous…”
— Caraid O’Brien, Translator, NY
“…a wonderful job of television zoom creativity…actually, one of the best I have seen. I want to congratulate… everyone who contributed to make it so touching and believable. It was very well acted and directed and edited superbly. My cheers go to everyone involved!”
— Joy Carlin, Theatre Director, Berkeley,CA
“…we were very moved and greatly impressed by your production… A very successful tour de force! Grand grand bravo.”
— Daniel Bernstein, Paris, France
“Like a great sonnet, this Zoom production succeeds not in spite of its limitations, but because of them.”
— Wendy Beck, San Francisco,CA
“Brava! Mesmerizing! Captivating! I felt like I was watching the play in the theatre, with everyone present at the same time!” — Julie Patrusky, Albany, CA
“I loved watching it! The new Zoom approach was very creative and gave new life to this old play.”
— Eliav Perez, Hadera, Israel
“Run, don’t walk! One of the strongest online theatre events I’ve seen…”
— Sara Felder, Performer, Oakland, CA
“Stunning!!! No one could imagine the impact this production has using Zoom. I write, act and direct in the Atlanta area and GOV is an inspiration for more work. Thanks to the cast and crew for a moving and emotional masterpiece.”
— Jim Gray, Atlanta, GA
“The intensity and complexity of the characters (such great acting), the ways you reinvented the use of Zoom to make it truly feel like theater and also something else, something new. As if you’re embodying the present, reimagining the past, and giving us a flash view of the future, all at once. Truly, it was spellbinding.”
— Sarah Stone, Writer, East Bay, CA
“Such a great drama and ‘contemporising’ by all involved… this production cures the technical and intimacy limits of zoom-theatre. Ironically it is with a full on drama.”
— Ira Seidenstein, Director, International School for Acting and Creativity, Brisbane,Australia
Or to purchase tickets by check: $18, $36 or $45 ($45 tickets include VIP Talk Back with production team). CHECKS PAYABLE to KlezCalifornia, 6714 Gladys Ave, El Cerrito,CA 94530 with YTE TICKETS in subject line and include an email address. Checks must be received by Saturday, May 29 to receive password for viewing.
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Due to Covid-19 public restrictions, Yiddish Theatre Ensemble presented an online film/video performance for the Bay Area premiere of this provocative play, produced by Laura Sheppard, directed by Bruce Bierman. It features an English translation by Caraid O’Brien including Yiddish language and idioms. Although the original script was set in turn-of-the-20th century Poland, this production is set in New York’s Lower East Side circa 1930. Gorgeous digital set designs by Production Designer Jeremy Knight of West Edge Opera are inspired by photographs from New York’s Tenement Museum collection and period costumes by Wardrobe Consultant Suzanne Stassevich, formerly of San Francisco Opera, create the visual ambiance of the play. Klezmer musician David Rosenfeld composed a rich score to enhance this evocative drama. Heather Klein composed the theme song. Also behind the scenes are Assistant Director Karen Sellinger, Dramaturg Sarah Pizer-Bush consulting on Jewish practice, Yiddish Consultant, Zissel Piazza; Sound Consultant Polo Talnir and Production/Media Consultants Nadav Hochman of Gray Area and Dorrit Geshuri of Space Rocket Consulting, Production Assistant Pam Troy; Publicist Lisa Geduldig.
The production coincided with the 40th Anniversary of Yiddish Book Center (Amherst, MA) and their 2021 Year of Translation.
After the play’s Berlin opening in 1907, God of Vengeance had tremendous success throughout Europe and was translated into many languages. In New York, it was first seen on the Yiddish stages starring the great Dovid Kessler. The first English production opened in 1922 at the Provincetown Theater in Greenwich Village. In 1923, the English production opened at the Apollo Theater on 42nd Street. Soon after, the show was raided, closed down, and the actors arrested on obscenity charges due to the play’s unconventional themes and portrayals–including the first lesbian kiss on Broadway. The shocking details of the play were assailed by both the religious and cultural establishment.
The history of Asch and God of Vengeance was the inspiration for the 2015-2017 Tony award-winning Broadway production Indecent. Our Director, Bruce Bierman, served as Yiddish Dance Dramaturg for Indecent produced by the acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2019.
“To kick off our first season, we have chosen the towering 1906 classic God of Vengeance (Got Fun Nekome) by the prolific Yiddish writer Sholem Asch. We have brought together a great cast of actors from the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, and Las Vegas who found innovative ways to create ensemble virtual theatre. Rehearsing and filming scenes on Zoom, the actors were never in the same room. Yet, the emotions and intimacy of this play transcended the screen. We’ll be offering this show for online viewing with a bold new interpretation as well. We look forward to sharing this production with you!”
— Laura Sheppard, Producer
“For over one hundred years this play has given voice to those of us on the fringes of traditional society. With its searing humanity, moral broken beauty and deep understanding of the ‘other’, this rarely performed gem of the Yiddish stage is shockingly relevant to our own violent and patriarchal system. Nearly a century after it was banned in the United States, we are elated to have many in our audience witness Asch’s play for the first time!”
— Bruce Bierman, Director
Yiddish Theatre Ensemble (YTE) is dedicated to producing the rich, rarely performed repertory of dramas, musicals, and comedies from the past 150 years. YTE also develops new and original works by living artists through performances, readings, lectures, and workshops. YTE strives to bring a contemporary approach and relevance to this legacy while staying true to the essence of the original scripts. Productions are in English and Yiddish with subtitles.
Laura Sheppard, producer and Bruce Bierman, director and co-artistic directors, have collaborated for more than a decade to create community-based productions in affiliation with fiscal sponsor KlezCalifornia. Their successes include the popular Yiddish musical Di Megileh of Itzik Manger, produced by the Yiddish Theater Collective (March 2014) and New Yiddish Theater (February 2015) as part of the Jewish Music Festival, as well as KlezCalifornia’s Cabaret by the Bay.
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Kathy Barr, Audrey Berger, Daniel Bernstein, Carolann Biederman, Diane Birnbaum, Denah Bookstein, Esta Brand, Elaine Carpenter & Frisso Potts, Harold Friedman, Dorrit Geshuri, Judith Gilford, Dan Harder & Ora Schulman, Diana L. Kaftan & Polo Talnir, Henry Kellerman, Gale Kissin, Judy & Edouard Kujawski, Carol Pevney, Karen Pliskin, Zach Rogow, Laura S. Rosenberg, Gail Rubman, Sam Salkin, Jamie Salen, Francesca Saveri, Malka Scheinok, Susan Seeley, Esther Shaw, Diane & Leonard Sosnoski, Elizabeth P. Vezzani, Cynthia Whitehead, Rachel & Dan Winheld
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