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AWAKE & SING! Yiddish Theater Walking Tours Set for Sunday and Monday

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AWAKE & SING! Yiddish Theater Walking Tours Set for Sunday and Monday

The first 24 premium ticket buyers to the upcoming Off-Broadway revival of Clifford Odets' masterpiece AWAKE AND SING!, will receive a Yiddish theater walking tour of Manhattan's Lower East Side with the inimitable Shane Baker. The two options to join this very special 90-minute tour are this Sunday, November 26 or Monday, November 27 at 11 am, beginning at Second Ave. & 12th St. and concluding at 143 East Houston.

From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, a thriving Yiddish theater culture blossomed on the Lower East Side, entertaining over 1.5 million first and second generation Eastern-European Jewish immigrants. Second Avenue became the "Yiddish Broadway," where audiences of new New Yorkers celebrated their culture and learned about urban life in the city via cutting-edge dramas, musical comedies and avant-garde political theater. As stars of the Yiddish stage gained mainstream popularity, New York's Yiddish theater became an American phenomenon.

Veteran actor Shane Baker, who was raised Episcopalian in Kansas City, has been performing in Yiddish plays since the mid-1990s. He is also the first non-Jewish director of the Congress for Jewish Culture, an organization that brings Yiddish productions around the world. In addition, Shane teaches a summer workshop on Yiddish theater at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, as well as classes for the Workmen's Circle, an organization that promotes Jewish culture and offers Yiddish lessons.

Performances of AWAKE AND SING! are set to begin tomorrow (Saturday) at the Theater at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14 Street (between First & Second Aves.) A Yiddish version of AWAKE AND SING! was produced by the WPA's Federal Theatre Project on Broadway in 1938 and it is this translation that will be performed in the New Yiddish Rep production with English supertitles.

The legendary Group Theatre presented the Broadway premiere of Clifford Odets' AWAKE AND SING! in 1935 and the play returned to New York three years later featuring a Yiddish-speaking cast directed by Jacob Mestel. This 1938 Federal Theatre production restored to the play some qualities it lost earlier when Odets' colleagues at The Group Theatre had asked him to tone down the Yiddish colloquialisms and syntax that were part of his New York ghetto characters' English. The playwright's initial impulse to let Jewish immigrants speak of struggle, poverty and survival in their own language and speech rhythms was realized anew in Chaver Paver's adaptation. Odets' distressed characters who longed for a life "not printed on dollar bills" could be heard speaking Yiddish nightly on Broadway, at Daly's 63rd Street Theatre, from December 1938 to April 1939.

Generally considered Clifford Odets' finest play, AWAKE AND SING! is the story of the Bergers, a lower-middle-class, three-generation Jewish family living in a Bronx apartment during the Depression. AWAKE AND SING! recalls that this country was founded as the land of opportunity for immigrants who came with an enduring belief in the American dream.

Under the direction of New Yiddish Rep artistic director, David Mandelbaum, the international cast of AWAKE AND SING! features Ronit Asheri (star of Yiddishpiel Theater), Amy Coleman (original productions of BEEHIVE & THE LAST SESSION), Lea Kalisch (COCOADIOS, BOUNTIFUL), Mira Kessler (GOD OF VENGEANCE), Moshe Lobel ("Untold Genius"), David Mandelbaum (WAITING FOR GODOT, YENTL), Eli Rosen (RHINOCEROS), Israeli film star Gera Sandler (A FILM UNFINISHED, JELLYFISH, A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS), and Luzer Twersky ("Transparent," new Netflix documentary ONE OF US).

New Yiddish Rep is dedicated to creating modern theater which speaks to a diverse contemporary audience, including those who never might have thought they could connect to a performance in a language other than their own.

AWAKE AND SING! is being presented in association with the Theater at the 14th Street Y and performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm, with matinees Saturday & Sunday at 2 pm through December 24th. $45 tickets are available through www.NewYiddishRep.org or by calling 646-395-4310. Premium seating is $72 and includes a pre-show wine reception backstage.


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