New Yiddish Rep to Stage First-Ever Production of WAITING FOR GODOT in Yiddish, 9/20-10/13
The New Yiddish Rep is staging the first-ever production of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" in Yiddish. In an unusual collaboration with the Castillo Theatre, 543 West 42nd Street, where the world premiere runs from Friday September 20 to Sunday October 13, diverse audiences will see this seismic landmark of the modern theatre in an entirely new light. Directed by Moshe Yassur, with an authorized translation by Shane Baker, the production marks the 60th anniversary of "Waiting for Godot's" Paris premiere in January of 1953. This "Waiting for Godot" opens on Sunday September 22 at 2pm.
Performed in Yiddish with English and Russian supertitles, "Waiting for Godot" stars Shane Baker, Avi Hoffman, Nicholas Jenkins, David Mandelbaum, and Rafael Goldwaser.
With haunting resonance, this production returns the play to the historical context of post WW II Europe in which Beckett was writing, in effect tracing it to its elemental moral and social roots. Yassur, who is a veteran of both the Yiddish and modern theatre, notes that this production "is particularly Jewish, the characters are Holocaust survivors, they are facing the unimaginable, and they are waiting for answers that may not come. Yiddish, the language of laughter and tears, captures this sound, this feeling like no other language."
A native of Yassy Romania (the cradle of the Yiddish theatre) Yassur also worked with Jean-Marie Serreau, of the Théatre de Babylone in Paris, taking part in several first productions of Beckett and Ionesco. Yassur credits Woodie King Jr. with giving him is first directing work in New York. "In making this production particularly Jewish, funny and poignant, I am also making it universal," says Yassur, who has cast an African-American actor, the 9-year-old Nicholas Jenkins, as the boy. "Theatre is a shared experience of human beings, this is how we can understand each other. I dedicate this production to Woodie."
King's New Federal Theatre, originally based in the Lower East Side, began producing in partnership with Castillo in 2007. Established in 1984 by a collective of activist/artists, the privately funded Castillo serves as a multi-racial home for black theatre. This is their first collaboration with New Yiddish Rep, which, since its founding in 2007, produces daring and iconoclastic productions in Yiddish for new audiences.
The production's cast is littered with standouts in the new and experimental Yiddish theatre. Hoffman (Pozzo), currently appearing in his new musical comedy "Still Jewish After All These Years" through October 23, is a versatile switch-hitter who performs in both English and Yiddish productions. Goldwaser (Lucky), based in Strasbourg France, runs Théatre en L'Air, a beacon of experimentation in theatricalizing Yiddish texts. Baker (Vladimir) is a magician and vaudevillian, and also a respected scholar of the Yiddish theatre. Mandelbaum, New Yiddish Rep's artistic director, plays Estragon.
"Who's better at waiting than the Jews?" adds Baker, who based his translation on English and French versions. Beckett, who wrote the play in French and translated the work into English, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969. "Interestingly," he adds, "in Beckett's early drafts of the play, the character of Estragon was namEd Levy. That tells you something."
The "Waiting for Godot" you've been waiting for runs for four weeks from September 20 to October 13, with an opening on Sunday September 22 at 2pm. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm. For tickets, which are $35, visit www.newyiddishrep.org, or call the Castillo Theare box office, 543 West 42nd Street, at 212/941-1234.
Pictured: Avi Hoffman (Pozzo).