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Production Team

Photo Credit: Laura Sheppard 

Laura Sheppard (Producer) is Co-Artistic Director of Yiddish Theatre Ensemble, an event producer, and professionally trained actor. For over 35 years she has produced large-scale festivals including Earth Day New York Celebration in Times Square and Bryant Park and the Jewish Music Festival and Jewish Food Festival at JCC of the East Bay. Since 2000, she has worked as the Director of Events at the Mechanics’ Institute, San Francisco where she presents authors programs, literary festivals and films. There she also produced Bloomsday Noon, a video/film production with director Bruce Bierman. Her performing credits include her signature solo show, Still Life With Stein, based on the writings of Gertrude Stein, which toured to international festivals and was awarded two NEA Grants for Solo Performance. More recently, her performance piece, Paris Portraits about San Francisco writer, Harriet Lane Levy, was presented by the Contemporary Jewish Museum and for Humanities West at Marines Memorial Theater. Laura co-produced and performed in Di Megileh of Itzik Manger at the JCC of the East Bay. She has served on the Board of Directors of KlezCalifornia since 2003 and is pleased to be contributing to the Yiddish culture Renaissance happening today.  

Photo Credit: Bruce Bierman

Bruce Bierman (Director) is Co-Artistic Director of the Yiddish Theatre Ensemble with long time creative collaborator, Laura Sheppard. He directed, choreographed, and co-produced their first production together: the critically acclaimed Di Megileh of Itzik Manger for the Jewish Music Festival at JCC of the East Bay. Other directorial projects include:  Heather Klein’s Shanghai Angel at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Wade in the Water at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble in L.A. (*Foundation for Jewish Culture Award), The Passion of Carmen at the Celebration Theater in L.A. (*Backstage West Award for Best Choreography), The Blue Dress at the New Conservatory Theater in S.F. (*Dean Goodman Award), Waters of Babylon at the Phoenix Theater and choreography for the original Scrumbly Koldwyn musical Sylvia with Joan Mankin at the Ashby Stage. Most recently Bruce served as Yiddish Dance Dramaturg for Erika Chong Shuch’s choreography of Indecent for the Arena Stage and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Since 2006 he has been on the teaching faculty of Stagebridge in Oakland, the nation’s premiere performing arts institute for seniors. He also developed the company’s first satellite program at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Bruce is also a celebrated Jewish dance teacher and has been a leading presenter of Yiddish dance for several prominent klezmer festivals including KlezCalifornia and KlezmerQuerque.  He was a 2020 LABA Artist Fellow at the JCC of the East Bay, a laboratory for new Jewish Culture.

Photo Credit: Bruce Bierman

Caraid O’Brien’s translation of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance directed by Aaron Beall “set Show World aflame” according to Chloe Veltman in the Village Voice and was also produced by Theater J and the Rorschach Theater in DC. For ten years, she studied Yiddish theater and performance with legendary actors Luba Kadison and Seymour Rechtzeit. She received three new play commissions from the Foundation for Jewish Culture and was a 2019 translation fellow at the Yiddish Book Center.  She has directed numerous Bloomsday broadcasts for Pacifica Radio and her performance of the 3 hour Molly monologue is available  at completeulysses.com  Her translation of Asch’s play The Dead Man will be performed as a radio drama next month presented by the Yiddish Book Center as part of Carnegie Hall’s Voices of Hope. Register in advance at yiddishbookcenter.org/events You can read her work on amazon, or watch a short film based on Asch’s On the Road to Zion on youtube.  She is delighted to see her translation of GOV in this new zoom premiere by the Yiddish Theatre Ensemble. For more info visit caraidobrien.com

Photo Credit: Bruce Bierman

Aaron Beall is an actor, dramaturg, director, producer and impresario based in NYC.  A native of Berkeley, his Bay Area theater credits include playing Mr. Bones in Julie Taymor’s Juan Darién at the Marine’s Memorial and Valentine in Puss-n-Boots directed by Liz Huddle at ACT.  In NYC he  performed in six Broadway shows and on one international Broadway tour. He founded Todo con Nada, a tiny storefront theater on Ludlow Street presenting over 2500 shows from 1988-2000.  He also co-founded the New York International Fringe Festival in 1997. Aaron renovated the notorious porn Emporium Show World into a complex of legit theaters opening with Caraid O’Brien’s God of Vengeance on a go-go stage. In 2017 he directed God of Vengeance in Yiddish at St. Clement’s. He recently played Yossef in Caraid O’Brien’s first ever English translation of Asch’s The Dead Man for Carnegie Hall’s Voices of Hope Festival. Favorite roles: Hamlet, Faust, & Cinderella. He is spending the summer of ‘21 in the Bay Area working on a book and a new theater. To chat: todoconnada@gmail.com

Photo Credit: Jeremy Knight

Jeremy Knight (Production Designer, Editor, Technical Director) has created innovative projections for over forty opera productions by West Edge Opera, Livermore Valley Opera, Oakland Opera Theater, and others, and has filmed numerous opera productions and recitals. Two operas he provided projections for Allen Shearer’s Middlemarch in Spring and Alban Berg’s Lulu were among the San Francisco Chronicle’s “top ten operatic events” of 2015.

Photo Credit: Bill Zarchy

Karen Sellinger (Assistant Director) is a retired psychotherapist, actor and classical guitarist.  She has acted with Stagebridge of Oakland, and Generation Theatre of San Francisco.  She also is a musician for the San Francisco Playback Theater Company. This is her first time as assistant director and feels honored to be working with such a wonderful cast and production team.

Photo Credit : David Rosenfeld

David Rosenfeld (Composer) is a multi-instrumentalist playing viola, violin/fiddle, mandolin, guitar, percussion and keyboards. His approach to scoring music for film and video is informed by his decades performing as a Klezmer musician, by his studies of contemporary and avant-garde music at Mills College, and by his lifelong passion for being creative in the recording studio. He has collaborated with, and produced, musical scores for, NBC, Warner Brothers, Cliff Bar, 12th Night Shakespeare Company, UC Berkeley’s Repertory Dance Theater, Waking Star Videos and Stories, Octopretzel, The Daniel Barash Shadow Puppet Company, and numerous others. Having mentored and performed for three years, with free-jazz giant, John Tchicai, David is always interested in the improvisational aspect, as well as the emotional content, of each theatrical moment. 

Photo credit : Suzanne Stassevich
Suzanne Stassevitch (Costume Consultant) worked with the San Francisco Opera for 22 years as head of wardrobe. Her work as a costume supervisor gave her many opportunities to work with opera companies around the US, Japan and Israel. Suzanne collaborated with Laura Sheppard in 2007 as a directing consultant and production designer for a remounted production of Still Life with Stein. In 2008 she directed a staged reading of stories by William Saroyan for A Salute to Saroyan at the Mechanics’ Institute. Suzanne and Laura Sheppard collaborated again to bring  Paris Portraits alive for the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibit, Seeing Gertrude Stein. Suzanne continues to pursue a lifelong passion for costumes and textiles with her own work and enjoyed this opportunity to try out remote costume fittings and digging through actors closets.
Polo Talnir (Sound Consultant) has been involved in live sound and sound design for theatre for longer than he wishes to remember. Born in Argentina, he moved from Israel to the Bay Area in 1990. Before retiring in 2017,  Polo led the sound design and live sound for the Franco-Argentine production Nuit Blanche for their Western US tour, the tour of Tango Orquesta Victoria, many Tango festivals and stage productions with Director Debbie Goodwin including Close Embrace and Tango Tales.

Lead Actors

Photo credit : Eli Zaratosky

Roni Alperin (Yankl), RDT/BCT, is an actor, director, improviser and a drama therapist.  He is the Founder and Director of San Francisco Playback Theater, a theatre company that builds communities based on empathy to bring real life stories to life using improvisation, movement, spoken word, ritual and music.

As a graduate from Tel Aviv University theater department Roni performed in the Akko Festival, Beit Lessin Theater and  Camari Theater. He is also founder and director of Impulse Theater and Jewish Circle Theater. He played the lead role in Alexander Charnie’s film Inflated heart.

Photo credit: Lisa Keating

Jill Eickmann (Soreh) is thrilled to be performing the role of Soreh in YTE’s pioneering online production of God of Vengeance.  Her favorite past acting roles include Truvy in Steel Magnolias and Constanze in Amadeus. She is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Leela, an improvisational theatre company and training center.  She received her BFA in Acting from University of Florida and MA from CIIS in Counseling Psychology/Drama Therapy.  Jill trained in both Chicago and NYC with IO, Annoyance, and Upright Citizens Brigade and has performed with notable artists in improvisational theatre across the nation.  

Photo credit: Jennie Scott

Elena Faverio (Rivkeleh) is an actor, creator, and maker of artistic shenanigans. Regional Theatre: Miep Gies in The Diary of Anne Frank (Patchogue Theatre), Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (Eastline Theatre), Mary-Kate Olsen in Mary-Kate Olsen is in Love (The Lab at Williamstown). International Credits: PX in Born on a Monday (Edinburgh Fringe Festival); Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Barbican CoLab). Elena’s creative work can be found on her eponymously named YouTube channel.

Photo credit: Nathan Yungerberg

Zissel (Chloë) Piazza (Mankeh) (they/them) is a New Yorker currently in graduate student at UC Berkeley. They research and teach Yiddish literature and culture, Talmud, and queer studies. Their English translation of Maria Lerner’s Di Agune, the first Yiddish play by a woman playwright is forthcoming from Syracuse University Press.  Zissel has a B.A. in Theatre Activism and Performance and they have written and produced two short plays.  Zissel has performed at a range of small venues including La MaMa and Cherry Lane.

Zissel Piazza serves as Yiddish Consultant for this production.
Photo credit: John Ilyin

Esther Mulligan (Hindl) has been an actor in the Bay Area for several years.  She has worked with Berkeley Rep, Aurora Theatre, Magic Theatre, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, among others.    Some of her favorite roles include, Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret, Ruth in Blithe Spirit, the title role in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and Molly Bloom in Mechanics’ Institute’s Bloomsday Noon video/film production. She was born in Wexford, Ireland, and now resides in Kensington, California with her husband, John, and their two cats.

Photo credit: Joe Loper

Simon Winheld (Shlomo) grew up in Berkeley, California, and received his MFA in Acting from The New School for Drama in New York City. Some favorite credits include Nero in the off-Broadway production of Pete Rex at 59E59 Theaters; Walter in BAD PRESS at the historic Cherry Lane Theatre; and his one-man show Mozart: Das Musical! at Emerging Artists Theatre. He is also a visual artist, and is the author/illustrator of Are You Dissing Me? What Animals Really Think (Chronicle Books).

Photo credit: Robert Kazandjian

Naomi Newman (Reb Eli) was a co-founder of A Traveling Jewish Theatre, where she worked as playwright, director and actress for 34 years, winning awards in each field. Before that she sang on the concert-stage, acted in television and had a psychotherapy practice. She is currently performing, World On Fire, a poetry/music/theater piece about climate disruption. For her contributions to the cultural life in the Bay Area Ms. Newman has received a Tikkun Award, Mill Valley Creative Achievement Award, and Theatre Bay Area’s Community Leadership Award.

Photo credit: Kirsten Lara Getchell

Rebekah Kouy-Ghadosh (Basha) is a San Francisco based performer. She has appeared in several film, television, and theater productions. You may have seen her recently in AJ’s Wild Party at Dragon Theater or Walnut Productions’ Holidays That Almost Didn’t Happen. A graduate of UC Berkeley and ACT, she is also an accomplished mezzo-soprano performing in New York, London, and Paris.

Photo credit: Frances Sedayao

Frances Teves Sedayao (Rayzel) is a multi-disciplinary dance artist who has performed and toured with many wonderful Bay Area notables over the past 20 years. She has done collaborative and independent dance works both locally and internationally, is an alumna of Alvin Ailey Dance School and CSU East Bay where she now teaches. Frances was a Serpent Source grant recipient, Featured Dance Artist for SF Apature, and Dance Resident of Art OMI International in NY. She currently works with Bandelion Dancetheater, Alleluia Panis’ Kularts, Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble and Sarah Bush Dance Project.  Her work, ‘I Am But a Mighty Bird’ was revamped in 2018 for the SF National Queer Arts Festival and for Shawl-Anderson’s first Queerfest in 2019. Frances is deeply honored to work for the first time with the Yiddish Theatre Ensemble, as ‘Rayzel.’  

Photo Credit: Josiah Prosser

Josiah Prosser (A Scribe) is happy to be working with the Yiddish Theater Ensemble again after playing the infamous Haman in their two productions of Di Megileh.  He would like to thank Bruce and Laura for this opportunity.  He has used his time during the pandemic to paint. He recently wrote and illustrated a parody of the Little Prince, featuring a recently dethroned fascist. Wishing for world peace in 2021. 

Ensemble

Photo credit: Cynthia Smalley

Linda Ayres-Frederick (Old Blind Woman) has been the Phoenix Theatre’s Artistic Director since 1985 (www.phoenixtheatresf.org) and is a two-time Shubert Playwriting Fellow, actor, director, producer, and critic VP SFBATCC. Her own plays, many celebrating her Jewish heritage, have received over 30 productions with numerous Awards and have been performed in NYC, Edinburgh, France, Alaska the SF Bay Area and online. A published writer, she has enjoyed a long career acting in over 100 plays professionally.

Photo Credit: Octavia Rose Hingle

Denise Hingle has been a theater student at Stagebridge for senior performing arts since 2008. In 2015 till the present, she has been taking ensemble building and physical theater classes with Bruce Bierman. In 2018 in collaboration with his students Bruce wrote, directed and produced “Wonder”. Denise played the Queen. Denise attends a number of modern dance classes per week and honed much of her theatrical spirit from working with young children.

Photo credit: Betsy Kershner

Heather Klein (The Chanteuse) is a singer/composer/producer/cantorial soloist is passionate about special projects, Yiddish song and bringing stories to life. Klein has performed with Sundance, Music Theatre group, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, YIVO, featured on PBS and at festivals including: Ashkenaz, Mameloshn, KlezCalifornia, KlezKanada, and YidStock. This year, she has released two new albums with original songs from her show about her grandmother: Shanghai Angel and an album of original and arranged lullabies called Rooted Lullaby. Klein also produces the yearly festival Yiddish Las Vegas. 

Photo Credit: Gilberto Melendez

Gilberto Melendez upon arrival in Los Angeles from Managua Nicaragua, he focused his studies on ballet, flamenco and tango as a student of some of the leading teachers in their fields.  Performance credits include:  Principal dancer in El Gato Montes starring Placido Domingo (L.A. Opera) , The Nutcracker (Palos Verdes Ballet), Di Megileh of Itzik Manger ( Yiddish Theatre Ensemble), ‘Wonder’ (Phoenix Theater) ‘Passion of Carmen’ (Celebration Theater) and ‘Tomas & the Library Lady’ (Stagebridge)

Photo Credit: Merle Nadlin

Merle Nadlin recently played Bertha in Pippin, off off Broadway, After Work Theater and has performed at the Argentinean Consulate  NYC.  Locally,  at the Berkeley Rep, (FSM) Free Speech Movement, sponsored by Stagebridge. Favorite performances:  Grandma Kuntz, Lost in Yonkers, La Cage aux Folle, Harvey, Contra Costa Civic Theater and Klutzy, East Bay Children’s Theater. Merle and her husband Larry have performed in Cabaret Shows seen through out the Bay Area. They have performed on Cruise ships; their cd is available on iTunes, merleandlarry, Face Book.

Photo credit: Merrill Schleier

Leni Siegel was raised in a musical left wing Yiddish speaking extended family, grew up dancing in Los Angeles, performing in community musical theater.  Developed strong interest in Balkan singing and dance, vocalist with Danitza, Balkan Pacific and Second Generation bands. Attended first west coast Klezcamp in mid 80s.  Began journey into deepening repertoire of Yiddish song with teachers Adrienne Cooper and Zalman Mlotek.  Ensemble member and singer for Di Megileh production directed by Bruce Bierman at JCC of the East Bay 2015.

Photo credit: Steven Underhill

Randall Solomon is thrilled to be a part of the Yiddish Theatre Ensemble. He has been active in theatre in Ohio at the Youngstown Playhouse and in Chicago at Court Theatre. Most recently he has been in productions at Ross Valley Players and with the Dinner Detective San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. Most recently he was seen in Deathtrap! at Theatre Rhinoceros.