National Yiddish Theatre Moves to New Offices

Propelled by a surge of support on several fronts, the Drama Desk Award-winning National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene is moving this week to new office space in midtown Manhattan.  The offices, located at 135 West 29th Street, include 1,700 square feet of administrative and rehearsal space.  This will be the first time the venerable company, America's only professional Yiddish theatre, has maintained office space of its own.  Since its founding in 1915, Folksbiene has been sponsored by The Forward Association and The Workmen's Circle/Arbiter Ring, and its offices were either donated or subsidized by these organizations.  Now in the midst of an ambitious period of growth, both in terms of its funding and programming, Folksbiene leaves the historic Workmen's Circle Building on East 33rd Street, which it has called home since 1974, to open a new chapter of institutional development.

Guided by Board Chairman Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, and board president Feliks Frenkel, and under the artistic leadership of Zalmen Mlotek, Folksbiene has played a central role in the remarkable worldwide revival of interest in Yiddish culture.  In the past two seasons alone, The National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene adopted a national mandate, expanded its name, launched a new outreach troupe of young actors, and inaugurated its first-ever national membership campaign.  And while its finances have required stabilization most recently, the company has seen its fundraising levels increase by 68% in the past five years, while membership grew 39% in the just-completed 2007-2008 season.

Kicking off its 94th consecutive season in the fall, Folksbiene will continue to pursue its unique artistic mission by mounting its shows at the state-of-the-art JCC in Manhattan on Manhattan's Upper West Side, where it has been in residence for the past five seasons.

In November, Folksbiene will present the U.S. premiere of "Gimpel Tam," a new Yiddish musical based on the Isaac Bashevis Singer classic short story "Gimpel the Fool."  "Gimpl Tam" is written and directed by Moshe Yassur, who directed the show's premiere at the Jewish State Theatre in Bucharest, Roumania in 2007.  Yassur, a native of Jassy Roumania (the birthplace of the Yiddish theatre) is currently based in New York and Bucharest.  Early in his career he was assistant to the director Jean-Marie Serreau on two Eugene Ionesco world premieres in Paris.  With a score by Radu Captari, and new incidental music by Zalmen Mlotek, the musical adaptation of Singer's morally complex story of a poor, simple man whose faith and innocence are tested when confronted with life's harsh truths, will play for six weeks from November 23 to December 28.

The 94th season also features "Kids & Yiddish," Folksbiene's much-lauded educational outlet for young families that introduces Yiddish to a new generation.  (The 10th edition of the holiday musical funfest for families premieres in December.)  In the spring, audiences will be treated to the world premiere of "Shpiel! Shpiel! Shpiel!" a new evening of short plays by Murray Schisgal (the Oscar and Golden Globe nominated author of "Tootsie"), presented for the first time in Yiddish.  And for the third season in a row, Folksbiene partners with the City University of New York to bring a season of free performances to four CUNY colleges -- Brooklyn College, Hunter College, Lehman College and Queensboro Community College.

The longest-continuously-producing Yiddish theatre company in the world, Folksbiene won a 2007 Drama Desk-Award for special achievement, and it has mounted a string of critically acclaimed crossover hits in recent seasons, including the premiere of "Kleynkunst!" the premiere of "Di Yam Gazlonim," Al Grand's uproarious Yiddish adaptation of Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance," and the hit revival of "On Second Avenue" starring Mike Burstyn.  The latter two earned Best Musical Revival Drama Desk nominations. Through its numerous accommodations for non-Yiddish speakers (live English and Russian supertitles at all performances since 2003), the company has made impressive strides at broadening and diversifying its audience.  Visit www.folksbiene.org for all
season details.



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