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July 30, 2013 4:55 pm

Theater Company to Stage Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ in Unprecedented Yiddish Performance (VIDEO)

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Waiting for Godot set at Theatre Royal Haymarket 2009. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Yiddish theater once enjoyed packed houses in New York City’s Lower East Side, and although those days are long past, a New York theater company is tackling one of the 20th century’s most famous and important plays in the old language.

The New Yiddish Rep has translated Irish writer Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” which premiered in 1953 and eventually earned the playwright a Nobel Prize in Literature, and is working to stage it at New York’s Castillo Theater. Despite the play’s fame and global reputation, the New Yiddish Rep claims this will be the first time this play – or any Beckett work – has been performed in Yiddish.

Shane Baker, who will also star in the play, translated the work from the French and English versions, as Beckett wrote in French, but often translated his own works back into his mother tongue.

“Waiting for Godot” is famous for its ambiguity and cryptic illusions, and has often been interpreted as portraying the absurd experience of life—an experience in which life’s offerings and the expectations of those living it often clash.

David Mandelbaum, founder and artistic director of the New Yiddish Rep, told The Algemeiner that the decision to put on the play in Yiddish made sense because of its plot that centers around an existential paradox.

“The core of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece is quintessential to the Yiddish experience: waiting while surviving at the edge of extinction. It is the ultimate existential paradox: to persist in  life in a post-apocalyptic world. It was the reality of post-Holocaust post-WWII Europe that Beckett witnessed, and those who survived experienced,” Mandelbaum said, quoting text from an Indiegogo page, where the repertory company is asking for donations to cover any unforeseen production costs.

“I think people who don’t normally see the humor in the play for one reason or another, will definitely see the joy and the sorrow that Yiddish brings to this play,” he added.

Thus far, with very little fanfare – he has yet to even send out a press release about the play – Mandelbaum says people seem eager to see the show:

“The response has been universal, whether the people are Jewish or not Jewish: ‘Oh, that sounds really interesting. I will go see that.'”

Mandelbaum hopes the play succeeds in accomplishing one of The New Yiddish Rep’s main goals: attracting a younger, theater-going audience.

“We want to show that Yiddish is a language that has life and vitality and can be adapted to, in this case, one of the great classics of twentieth century literature,” he said.

Watch a trailer of the play below from the show’s Indiegogo page:

Waiting for Godot from David Mandelbaum on Vimeo.

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