“…for especially courageous and distinguished work online during Covid-19’s devastating forced closures. Thank you for keeping Theatre alive through such dark days.”
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
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