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New Worlds Theatre Project Presents English-Language Production of Peretz Hirshbein's Yiddish Play ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER Beginning 11/29

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New Worlds Theatre Project (Ellen Perecman, Producing Artistic Director) has announced that it will present Peretz Hirshbein's Yiddish play, On the Other Side of the River, in a world premiere translation, beginning Saturday, November 29 at 7pm at HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue. The opening night is set for Thursday, December 4. On the Other Side of the River runs through Sunday, December 21.

A provincial girl raised in a small river town by her blind, devout grandfather, Mir'l is on the cusp of womanhood, ready to declare her independence. But when her grandfather dies and she finds herself alone, she doesn't know which way to turn, until she meets a luminous, mysterious stranger who lives On the Other Side of the River.

New Worlds Theatre Project, founded in 2005, is the country's only theatre company dedicated to identifying the best Yiddish plays--from an artistic point of view--and then translating them into English and producing them.

The cast of On the Other Side of the River is David Arkema (The Stranger), Jane Cortney (Mir'l), David Greenspan (Mir'l's grandfather), and Christine Siracusa (Yakhne).

Peretz Hirshbein,born in 1880 to a Russian miller, was instrumental in reviving Yiddish theatre in Russia in 1904 following the lifting of the twenty-one year ban on Yiddish theatre performances. Hirshbein became known as "the Yiddish Maeterlinck" because his plays focus more on mood than plot. From 1908-1910, the theatre troupe he founded in Odessa, Ukraine performed his own plays as well as those of Sholem Asch, David Pinksi, Jacob Gordin, and Sholem Aleichem across imperial Russia. The troupe's high literary standards and high standards of ensemble acting had an important influence on the theatre community in the region and laid much of the groundwork for the Yiddish art theatre movement that began shortly after the end of World War I.

After the financial demise of his troupe, Hirshbein traveled in Europe and even visited New York, where, in 1912, he tried to make a living as a farmer in the Catskills. After a brief return to Russia, he made an attempt at forming a Jewish agricultural colony in Argentina. At the onset of World War I, he was en route to New York on a British ship that was sunk by a German cruiser. He was briefly taken captive and then deposited in Brazil, and eventually made his way to his final home in New York.

The simplicity and modesty of a 1918 production of Hirshbein's A Farvorfen Vinkel (A Neglected Nookor A Hidden Corner) made theatrical history in New York where bravura was customary on the Yiddish stage. Together with fellow playwrights David Pinski and H. Leivick, he created Unzer Teater (Our Theater), one of the more innovative and noteworthy Yiddish theaters of the period, in the Bronx in 1925. The group folded after one season due to financial difficulties. Hirshbein wrote a Yiddish-language novel called Roite Felder (Red Fields) in 1935 and an English language screenplay calledHitler's Madman, which was directed in 1943 by Douglas Sirk. He died in 1948.

On the Other Side of the River, written in 1906 and published in New York in 1916, is the first play that Hirshbein wrote in Yiddish; he wrote his earlier plays first in Hebrew. The earliest known productions of the play took place in St. Petersburg and Odessa in 1908.

Hirshbein's plays include Neveyle (Carcass), Tzvishen Tog Un Nacht/Dammerung (Between Day and Night), Oif Yener Zeit Taikh (On the Other Side of the River), Die Erd (Earth), Tkais Kaf (Contract, a.k.a The Agreement), Oifn Shaidveg (Parting of the Ways), Die Goldene Keyt (The Golden Chain), Die Puste Kretshme (The Haunted Inn), A Farvorfen Vinkel (A Neglected Nook or A Hidden Corner),Griene Felder (Green Fields), Dem Schmids Tekhter (The Smith's Daughters), Navla or Nevila, Where Life Ends, Joel, The Last One, The Infamous, and A Lima Bean.

Shannon Sindelar is Producing Artistic Director of Brave New World Theatre Company. Directing credits include: RN Healey's NUN$ (BNW), Kin (Dobama Theatre), the New York premiere of Tennessee Williams' The Remarkable Rooming House of Mme. LeMonde (Target Margin), Sara Farrinton's Requiem for Black Marie (Incubator Arts Project), Miranda Huba's Candy Tastes Nice (HERE; Madame X) and Jason Grote's A Christmas Carol (The Brick). She was the co-Artistic Director of the cross media performance group 31 Down, and for five years directed the company's productions, including Here at Home, Red Over Red, The Assember Dilator, I Used to be Curious [Loud] and Universal Robots. In 2009 the company toured with PS 122 to present The Scream Contest at Seattle's Bumbershoot festival and in 2011 the company was named one of Time Out New York's five "Off-Off Innovators to Watch." She served for four years as Managing and Programming Director of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater. The Ontological's Incubator program for independent artists garnered an Obie grant under her direction and in 2010 transitioned to become its own organization and take over the Ontological Theater space in the east village, where she served as its first Producing Director. She currently curates for the new organization, the Incubator Arts Project, and produces its annual Other Forces festival (now in its fifth year).

The set design for On the Other Side of the River is by Patrick Rizzotti; costume design is by Meriwether Snipes; lighting design is by Nick Solyom; sound design by Erik T. Lawson; video design is by Bart Cortright.

This production is a part of SubletSeries@HERE, HERE's curated rental program, which provides artists with subsidized space and equipment, as well as technical support.

New Worlds Theatre Project is a not for profit theatre company founded in 2005 for the purpose of restoring a voice and dignity to an extraordinary legacy of eastern European Jewish culture. We make these plays accessible to diverse contemporary artists and audiences by crafting modern English translations/adaptations that explore the plays through a contemporary lens while remaining faithful to the original texts in spirit, message and texture. In presenting these plays in modern English for the first time, our goals are to show the theatre community how well these plays have stood the test of time and to see them performed in local languages on stages all over the world, alongside plays from other cultural legacies, for generations to come.

Ellen Perecman, founder of New Worlds Theatre Project, is its Producing Artistic Director, Development Department, resident translator, and Production Manager. A native speaker of Yiddish, she began her acting career in her home town of New Haven as a member of the theatre company at Ezra Stiles College at Yale while she was a student at a local public high school. She went on to study acting at Sarah Lawrence College. Her teachers there, Julie Bovasso and John Braswell, among others, were all affiliated with LaMaMa in NYC. Ellen graduated from Sara Lawrence in 1975 with a BA in Liberal Arts and continued on to graduate school in Linguistics, earning a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center CUNY in 1980. In her first professional career, she conducted clinical research, wrote and lectured on how the brain processes language, including work on the cognitive sequelae of HIV infection at the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic in 1988. During that period she resumed her acting training with Julie Bovasso in New York. After Bovasso's death and a career change that took her to the Social Science Research Council as a Program Director, she began studying with Vivian Matalon.

On the Other Side of the River performs Thursday through Saturday and Monday at 7pm, with aSunday matinee at 2pm, at HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue, entrance on Dominick Street, one block south of Spring Street. There will be no performance on Saturday, December 6, and Monday, December 8. On the Other Side of the River runs through Sunday, December 21. Tickets are $18 and may be purchased at Ovationtix or at www.here.org or by phoning 212 352-3101. There will be a benefit performance on Saturday, December 6 at 6 PM, followed by a wine and cheese reception; tickets for the benefit performance are $50. (The HERE box office opens at 5pm on performance days.) For more information about On the Other Side of the River and New Worlds Theatre Project, visit www.newworldsproject.org.

Photo by Hunter Canning


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