Shut Down by Hurricane Sandy, Folksbiene’s “The Golden Land” Will Return to the Stage

December 18, 2012 4:48 pm 0 comments

The cast of The Golden Land. Photo: National Yiddish Theatre

In addition to the devastation caused to New York’s infrastructure by Superstorm Sandy–whole neighborhoods being leveled, more fortunate neighborhoods (only) losing power for days or weeks–there were other casualties. Take for example the cultural life of the city. Many of Chelsea’s art galleries were damaged or destroyed, concerts were cancelled, plays halted. Sure, lives weren’t upturned like they were in the Rockaways, but they were disrupted.

The National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene’s play The Golden Land illustrates this point perfectly. With a premiere set for October 28th, the show’s run fell at the most inopportune time. Nine of the shows were cancelled in what was only a limited five week run.

“We did one show in the afternoon on October 28th, and we had to cancel the evening show because the subways were already being turned off. So we lost something like 8 or 9 performances,” Zalmen Mlotek, co-creator of the play (along with Moishe Rosenfeld) and musical director for the current revival, tells The Algemeiner

Fortunately, due to popular demand, the show will relaunch for a short run of 10 shows from December 20th-30th at the Baruch Performing Arts Center.

“We’re hoping we’ll be able to re-energize the community and attract all those people who didn’t see it who wanted to, or meant to see it, and also those people who saw it and want to bring other people,” Mlotek says.

The play, which tells the story of the struggles of newly arrived immigrants in New York, first premiered in 1985. The revival, directed by Bryna Wasserman, has been getting rave reviews, with the Jewish Daily Forward proclaiming it “simply a rapturous musical that will capture your heart and likely your soul” and the New York Times declaring that it “will leave you twirling in the streets.”

“People are on their feet by the end. They’re crying, they’re laughing–it’s an emotional experience. It’s about the Jewish immigrant experience –and the American immigrant experience in general–so I think it’s really  piqued people’s interest because it’s such a universal story,” Daniella Rabbani, one the show’s stars, says.

At nearly one hundred years-old Folksbiene is the longest continuously producing Yiddish theater company in the world. It’s also the only professional company in the US that produces a full season from year-to-year. In other words, it’s not only a theater company but a record of Jewish history in the United States.

Zalmen Mlotek puts it rightly when he says: “Yiddish culture has been such an important part of the Jewish experience for the last 1,000 years, and because this was the lingua franca of Eastern European Jewry and it was the lingua franca of the American Jewish immigrant when they first came to this country wherever they settled–whether it was Galveston, Texas or Chicago or New York. Yiddish was the language, and they sang in Yiddish, and they performed in Yiddish. The songs, the language–it gives us, as contemporary Americans, such a window into who we were: who are grandparents were, who are great-grandparents were, what did they experience when they first came to this country and they couldn’t speak a language? What did it mean to have religious freedom, something that they never had before? ”

From an artistic standpoint the language also has relevance. “The authenticity that the language provides really plugs you into a totally different time period and a history that a lot of people don’t know very much about,”Rabbani says.

On Monday December 10th, the National Yiddish Theatre held their annual winter cabaret, in-and-of itself a celebration of the Yiddish language, which gave the actors of The Golden Land a chance to get in front of a crowd again ahead of their second run. The night was hosted by actor Ron Rifkin and featured performances from Elmore James and the cast of the Broadway-bound musical Soul Doctor.

James, the celebrated opera singer whose love of Paul Robeson lead him to Yiddish theater, has been performing with Folksbiene for over a decade. He puts the importance of Yiddish theater succinctly when he says, “You can see its influence all throughout theater today. We don’t call it Yiddish theater– but the Yiddish language, the Yiddish culture, the Jewish people–you can’t beat that.”

The Golden Land premieres (again) on Thursday December 20th. Buy your tickets here.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.