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Theater J Announces Yiddish Theater Lab Readings

Theater J Announces Yiddish Theater Lab Readings

Theater J, the nation's largest and most prominent Jewish theater, continues its signature Yiddish Theater Lab with readings of two plays in May. The plays are The Rented Bridegroom by Rinne Groff (adapted from a play by Osip Dymov) on May 6 at Foundry Church and Yankl the Blacksmith by David Pinski on May 20 at the Goethe-Institut. These readings follow the first full production of the Yiddish Theater Lab,

The Jewish Queen Lear, which recently completed a successful run at Georgetown University's Gonda Theatre. In its review of The Jewish Queen Lear, 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."

Theater J is dedicated to celebrating and preserving our 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. From the beginning, there was hope that audiences would be intrigued by what the Yiddish Theater Lab discovers and shares; the enthusiastic audience response to the four sold-out 2018 readings and to The Jewish Queen Lear has exceeded all expectations.

"The Yiddish Theater Lab has become a signature achievement of Theater J, bringing thousands of audience members to appreciate English-language translations of the lost treasures of the Yiddish theatrical repertory. We are thrilled to continue this work with two stunning new versions of Yiddish plays, Rinne Groff's exquisite adaptation of Osip Dymov's The Singer of His Sorrows, and Nahma Sandrow's searing new translation of David Pinski's Yankl the Blacksmith."

Tickets are Pay-What-You-Can and are available at or 202-777-3210.

The Rented Bridegroom

By Rinne Groff, Directed Johanna Gruenhut

Produced in partnership with The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics' CrossCurrents festival

May 6, 2019 at 7:00 PM

Foundry Church, Community Commons Room, 1500 16th St. NW

A feisty young woman, caught in a love triangle between the highbred son of her employer and a poor but adoring klezmer-player, must decide whether to stoop for love or money. And why is stooping the only choice anyway? Set in a shtetl of romanticized memory, this heart-breaking comedy is based on the classic Yiddish play The Singer of His Sorrows by Osip Dymov.

Yankl the Blacksmith

By David Pinski, Translated by Nahma Sandrow

Directed by Adam Immerwahr

Produced in partnership with JxJ Festival, a program of the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center

May 20, 2019 at 7:00 PM

Goethe Forum, Goethe-Institut Washington, 1990 K St. NW

When Yankl, the town drunk and a notorious philanderer, gets married, everyone predicts that it won't last. Everyone, that is, except Yankl's young wife. Can her faith in him stop Yankl from falling back into his old way of life? Can people change? And if they can, is there any guarantee that they won't change back? This sensual exploration of the power and limitations of relationships rings just as true today as it did when it was written over 100 years ago.

About the Artists
Osip Dymov (1878 - 1959) is the pen name used by Yosif Isidorovich Perelman, a prolific writer, journalist and Yiddish playwright. Born in the Russian Empire, in modern-day Poland, Dymov immigrated to the US at the age of 35 at the invitation of Yiddish actor and theater director Boris Thomashefsky where he sought to improve the artistic quality of Yiddish theater. His play The Bronx Express (1919) was so successful that it was translated into English and produced at the Astor Theatre on Broadway in 1922. It was given a reading as part of the Yiddish Theater Lab in 2018. Over his career, Dymov published more than 25 plays, a short story collection, a book of selected works, two volumes of memoirs, and dozens of essays and newspaper articles.

Rinne Groff's plays and musicals, including Fire in Dreamland, Compulsion or the House Behind (which will be produced at Theater J in June, 2020), Saved, The Ruby Sunrise, In the Bubble, Moliere Impromptu, Jimmy Carter Was a Democrat, Orange Lemon Egg Canary, What Then, Inky, and The Five Hysterical Girls Theorem, have been produced and commissioned by Yale Rep, Playwrights Horizons, The Public Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Berkeley Rep, Trinity Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Women's Project, P.S. 122, Clubbed Thumb, Target Margin, and Andy's Summer Playhouse, among others. Groff is a recipient of a Whiting Writers Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an OBIE Award grant.

Director Johanna Gruenhut most recently directed Actually at Theater J and returns next season to direct Groff's Compulsion or The House Behind.

David Pinski (1872-1959) was a Yiddish language writer whose work included short fiction and novels as well as plays. He was born in Mogilev in present-day Belarus and later lived in Warsaw, Berlin, New York City, and Israel. His plays include Isaac Sheftel (1899), Der Oytser (The Treasure) (1902-6), Family Tsvi (1904), Yenkel der Shmid (Yankl the Blacksmith)(1906), Gabri un di Froyen (Gabri and the Women) (1908), Mary Magdalene (1910), and Professor Brenner (1911), and King David and His Wives (1923?).

Nahma Sandrow is the translator of The Jewish Queen Lear, recently produced by Theater J. She has written two award-winning off-Broadway musicals based on Yiddish material: Kuni-Leml and Vagabond Stars. She wrote the libretto for the opera Enemies, A Love Story (composer Ben Moore), based on I.B.Singer's novel and for the music-theater piece Artemisia, Light and Shadow (set to a seventeenth-century Italian aria). She authored Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theater and other books and articles about Yiddish and other theaters. Her feature articles and reviews have appeared in the New York Times and elsewhere.

Director Adam Immerwahr, Theater J's Artistic Director, directed The Jewish Queen Lear and next season directs Sheltered by Alix Sobler.

Support for Theater J's Yiddish Theater Lab comes from The Marinus and Minna B. Koster Foundation, the Leshowitz Family Foundation/Terry Singer, Elaine Reuben, and the Chaim Schwartz Foundation.

About Theater J

Theater J, a program of the Edlavitch DCJCC (EDJCC), is a nationally-renowned, professional theater that celebrates, explores and struggles with the complexities and nuances of both the Jewish experience and the universal human condition. Our work illuminates and examines ethical questions of our time, inter-cultural experiences that parallel our own, and the changing landscape of Jewish identities. As the nation's largest and most prominent Jewish theater, we aim to preserve and expand a rich Jewish theatrical tradition and to create community and commonality through theater-going experiences.

Theater J has completed its Around Town season, while the EDCJCC building undergoes transformative renovation. We return to the EDCJCC in September for the six-show 19/20 season.

About the Edlavitch DCJCC

The Edlavitch DCJCC works to preserve and strengthen Jewish identity, heritage, tradition and values through a wide variety of social, cultural, recreational and educational programs and services. The EDCJCC is committed to welcoming everyone in the community; membership and programs are open to all. Follow on Twitter (@16thstreetj), like on Facebook, and find more information at

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