Folksbiene's GIMPEL TAM Opens at JCC 12/4

As the Drama Desk Award-winning National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene gears up for the U.S. premiere of "Gimpel Tam," a new musical adaptation of the Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer's classic story about an innocent's victimization by a cruel world, a question looms: how will Folksbiene make a show in Yiddish appeal to a broad audience?

The answers will be amply clear at the press previews for the show's five-week engagement running from Sunday November 23 at 2pm through Sunday December 28 at 6pm at the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue.  Written and directed by Moshe Yassur, who directed the show's world premiere at the Jewish State Theatre in Bucharest, Romania in 2007, with a score by Radu Captari, and musical direction by Zalmen Mlotek, "Gimpel Tam" opens Off-Broadway Thursday December 4 at 8pm. Tickets are currently on sale by phone at (800) 595-4849, or online at

Tuesday November 25 at 8pm Wednesday November 26 at 2pm & 8pm Saturday November 29 at 8pm Sunday November 30 at 2pm & 6pm Wednesday December 3 at 2pm & 8pm Thursday December 4 at 2pm & 8pm.

But since you ask, here are the clues: First, the familiarity factor: Readers everywhere know "Gimpel Tam," especially in the English-speaking world thanks to Saul Bellow's highly regarded English translation.  Second, the artistic ambition factor: Folksbiene's bold, contemporary production of "Gimpel Tam" reaches beyond the folksy mysticism normally associated with Singer.  This is a witty, freewheeling staging that will help cast the story of Gimpel in a new light, and reveal its very modern relevance.

Then there's the unknown factor: Director Yassur, who worked on two world premieres in Paris of his fellow countryman Eugene Ionesco, is a marvelously gifted director who is not well-known here, although he is based in New York and Bucharest.

With Adam Shapiro in the title role, and Daniella Rabbani as Gimpel's exploitive and self-serving wife Elke, "Gimpel Tam" features an ensemble cast of 13, which includes Jonathan Brody, Motl Didner, I. W. "Itzy" Firestone, Lisa Fishman, Amy Goldstein, Richard Kass, Ilan Kwittken, Harry Peerce, Nicole Raphael, Sheila Rubell, and Ethan Sher.

Since earning its first Drama Desk nomination in 2006 and its first Drama Desk Award in 2007, Folksbiene has been surprising a lot of people in the theatre.  Defying those who question its broad appeal, Folksbiene has doggedly reached out to the widest audience imaginable.  Through supertitles and projects that incorporate sizable amounts of English, Folksbiene cultivates non-Yiddish speakers, even non-Jews - all in an effort to popularize not just a rich theatrical and literary legacy, but to cultivate a style of acting (especially in comedy) that has shaped American popular culture from the days of Yiddish vaudeville all the way to present.

Artwork by David Stein, courtesy Folksbiene


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