After our hit musical production of Di Megileh of Itzik Manger for the 2014 and 2015 Jewish Music Festival in Berkeley, audiences were thrilled to see professional Yiddish theater back on its feet again. However, one question prevailed: “Where can we see more Yiddish theater?”
In response to the overwhelming demand of our audience, the Yiddish Theatre Ensemble was created to nurture and revive the tremendous repertory of Yiddish dramas, comedies, musicals and operettas. 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.
Yiddish Theatre Ensemble presents the Bay Area premiere of this bold and provocative play, directed by Bruce Bierman, for performances September 8-13, 2020 at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay. 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 1929. Klezmer music and a musical score enhance the emotional voice of this evocative drama.
The production also coincides with the 40th Anniversary of Yiddish Book Center (Amherst, MA) and their nationwide celebration. The renowned book center is sending Editorial Director David Mazower — great grandson of playwright Sholem Asch — to give a pre-production lecture. Watch for details!
This production is fiscally sponsored by KlezCalifornia.
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 recently produced by the acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Considered one of the most psychologically revealing plays of the first half of the 20th century, God of Vengeance is still controversial for its views on religious hypocrisy, morality, and sexual freedom.
This is the story of an observant Jewish family trying to survive during hard times. The father runs a brothel in their cellar, attempting to make enough money to commission a Torah scroll so he can marry off his daughter to a yeshiva student and keep her pure. Tensions mount as arrangements are made and passions are exchanged, while others threaten his plans. When he discovers that his daughter has fallen in love with one of his prostitutes, his belief that God will exact vengeance upon him begins to unravel his mind into madness.
Yiddish Theatre Ensemble (YTE) is dedicated to producing the rich, rarely performed repertory of the past 150 years, as well as new 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 and Bruce Bierman, producers 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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