Theater J Announces Two Online Yiddish Theater Lab Readings in June
Theater J, the nation's largest and most prominent Jewish theater, announces June online readings of two new plays to close out the third year of programming for its signature Yiddish Theater Lab. The plays are Miriam by Alix Sobler, freely adapted from Peretz Hirschbein's Miryam, on June 7 at 5:00 PM, and One of Those by Paula Prilutski, adapted and translated by Allen Lewis Rickman, on June 18 at 5:30 PM. These are free, ticketed events, and registration is available at www.theaterj.org or 202-777-3210.
The live-streamed readings will be followed by the opportunity to stream the recorded readings on-demand for three days. The move to online performance is a way to maintain the creative momentum of the Yiddish Theater Lab. Theater J Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr notes, "this third year of the Yiddish Theater Lab is a research year, a critical time where we dig through scripts, build relationships with translators, develop commissions, and present English-language readings directed by innovative DC-area artists who breathe new life into these lost classics. I am thrilled that we are moving forward in this unprecedented moment to continue creating and maintaining a pipeline of work that will not only sustain the Lab but will also infuse the national theater scene with both new work and forgotten classics of the Yiddish stage."
Theater J commissioned Miriam from Alix Sobler, whose play Sheltered was a hit at Theater J in January. Says Sobler: "It's strange to be workshopping a new pay with the world in such an uncertain place, but I am so grateful to Theater J for being creative about the development process. This play is about forming connections, sharing stories, and having conversations with people across time. I think it will resonate with people right now, when we are all feeling so isolated and adrift."
Theater J is dedicated to celebrating and preserving Jewish theatrical heritage, of which Yiddish theater is a critical part. In establishing the Yiddish Theater Lab in 2017, Theater J committed to reviving and re-imagining neglected Yiddish dramatic works of historical and artistic significance and bringing them to a modern audience via new English language readings, workshops, commissions, and productions. Theater J has received enthusiastic response to the first two years of the Yiddish Theater Lab, including the full production of The Jewish Queen Lear in spring 2019, about which Washington City Paper wrote: "with this, the inaugural production of Theater J's Yiddish Theater Lab, one wonders if there are more unconventional treasures awaiting rediscovery."
Miriam by Alix Sobler, freely adapted from Peretz Hirschbein's Miryam
Directed by Laley Lippard
June 7 at 5:00 PM, live-streamed, then available to stream on demand until June 10 at midnight
About the play: When Miriam, a Russian immigrant and sex worker shows up at Grace's door looking as though she's seen a ghost, Grace and Natalie begrudgingly take her in. Chased by something, and clearly afraid to go back outside, Miriam attempts to keep them in the room and win them to her side by engaging them in a story from her past. But with their different backgrounds, histories and outlooks on life, can they ever arrive at a place where they agree on something?
About the playwright: Alix Sobler is a writer and performer from New York. Her play Sheltered won the 2018 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition and will be receiving its second production at Theater J during the 2019-2020 season. Her work has been developed or produced in theaters across North America. She is a graduate of Brown University and received her MFA in playwriting from Columbia University in 2017.
About the playwright: Peretz Hirschbein (1880-1948) was a Yiddish-language playwright, novelist, journalist, travel writer, and theater director. Born in Poland, he lived for a while in Odessa where he established a short-lived Yiddish theater company and travelled extensively, eventually settling in Los Angeles. Hirschbein wrote his first play, Miryam (1905), in Hebrew and translated it into Yiddish. He later revised the play in Yiddish under the title Barg Arop (Downhill) for a Yiddish theater in Buenos Aires. Hirschbein's 38 Yiddish dramas were also performed in Russian, Hebrew, English, German, Spanish, and French by theater troupes all over the world.
One of Those by Paula Prilutski, adapted and translated by Allen Lewis Rickman
Directed by Kevin Place
June 18, 2020 at 5:30 PM, live-streamed and then available to view on-demand until June 21 at midnight
About the play: When Judith, still reeling from the loss of her mother, clashes with her father's new wife, she rebels against the patriarchy and is thrown out of her home. With no options available, the strong-willed Judith makes choices she will forever regret; and despite her best efforts and the help of family and friends, Judith finds herself unable to escape the chains of her history.
About the playwright: Paula Prilutski (1876 - unknown) was one of the very few women playwrights in the Yiddish theater to have been identified. Born in Warsaw, Prilutski originally wrote in Polish and switched to Yiddish after being introduced to the Yiddish Theater scene in Poland. In addition to full-length plays, she wrote one-act plays and poetry. One of Those was originally presented by the legendary Esther-Rokhl Kaminska - "The Mother of Yiddish Theater" -in Warsaw in 1912. Prilutski's fate during World War II remains unknown to this day.
About the translator: Allen Lewis Rickman is a playwright, director, and actor. His work has been presented in six languages and produced internationally. He adapted, directed and wrote supertitle translations for three plays in Yiddish for the Folksbiene and two for New Yiddish Rep. Rickman has had a long career in theater, television and film. His numerous acting credits include Relatively Speaking on Broadway and award-winning television series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as well as a significant amount of work in Yiddish Theater.