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Theater J completes its four-show 2018-2019 season Around Town with the English language premiere of the Yiddish theater classic The Jewish Queen Lear, a translation of Jacob Gordin's Mirele Efros. The Jewish Queen Lear runs at Georgetown University's Davis Performing Arts Center in the Gonda Theatre March 13 - April 7. The press is invited to Opening Night of The Jewish Queen Lear on Monday, March 18 at 7:30 PM.

The Jewish Queen Lear, much like the Shakespearean tragedy from which it takes its name, is a tale of power, pride and the importance of family. A bold, independent heroine for the ages, the title character, Mirele Efros, is a widow and a hardworking, admired, and astute businesswoman. At the start of the play, Mirele has traveled with her household to the small and unimpressive city of Slutsk for the marriage of her oldest son, Yosele, to Sheyndele. Sheyndele and her parents, Nokhemtse and Khane-Dvoyre, quickly prove themselves to be people of poor character. After the wedding, everyone returns home to the metropolitan city of Grodno where conflict soon erupts between the matriarch and her children. Mirele leaves her home and her wealth to fend for herself. Without Mirele, the children and in-laws run the family business in to the ground and eventually seek her return. The play ends at the bar mitzvah of Mirele's beloved grandson, Shloymele, which Mirele has adamantly refused to attend.

Wildly successful in its time, this 1898 masterpiece of Yiddish theater has been translated into English by Nahma Sandrow. Sandrow is one of the premiere scholar/translators of the Yiddish theater, and wrote the seminal history of the form, Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theater.

The show is directed by Theater J's Artistic Director, Adam Immerwahr. Immerwahr recently directed Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: A Robin Hood Adventure at Cleveland Play House and Familiar by Danai Gurira at Woolly Mammoth Theater. Under his leadership, Theater J established the Yiddish Theater Lab in early 2018, with the goal of reviving and re-imagining neglected works of historical and artistic significance, bringing them to a modern audience. Theater J produced five enthusiastically received stage readings throughout the spring and, just one year later, takes the extraordinary, history-making step of giving a full production to one of these works. "The Yiddish theater is a virtually untapped canon of theatrical repertoire," says Immerwahr. "These plays and musicals were a dominant American cultural art form for decades and have largely been forgotten. The Jewish Queen Lear (Mirele Efros) was, by most accounts, the most popular of these plays-written by Jacob Gordin, the Shakespeare of the Yiddish theater. It's a powerful, unforgettable, and universal story-regularly performed around the world-and I'm delighted to be sharing its English-language world premiere with the Washington, DC community."

Immerwahr has brought together many entities and uniquely skilled artists to bring this epic tale to the stage. The cast is led by estimable DC actor Valerie Leonard (Theater J's The How and The Why) in the title role. Other cast members include Tonya Beckman, Karl Kippola, Sue Jin Song, Alana Dodds Sharp, and Frank X. Mirele Efros' grandson will be played by newcomer Shane Wall and her young adult children will be played by Georgetown University students Healy Knight, Charles Trepany, and Christopher Warren. The show is produced in partnership with Georgetown University's Theater & Performance Studies Program. A local cantor, Arianne Brown of Adas Israel, serves as music supervisor, and Yiddish scholar Miriam Isaacs is advising.

The Yiddish Theater Lab will be presenting three readings in the spring, involving partnerships with the Goethe Institut, The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics' CrossCurrents festival, and the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center's JxJ Festival. Full details will follow in March.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Yiddish Theater Lab is funded in part by the Marinus and Minna B. Koster Foundation.

Looking ahead, Theater J's six-show 2019-2020 season will be produced in the refreshed Aaron and Cecile Goldman Theatre in the newly-renovated EDCJCC. Details of the 2019-2020 season will be announced on March 18, 2019. Says Immerwahr, "The 2018-2019 season offered the exciting opportunity to produce shows at the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, GALA Hispanic Theatre, and Georgetown University. Now I and the Theater J team are eager to return to our home theater, which will be more beautiful and comfortable than ever. We know our audiences will love the new amenities we will be providing in our space, as well as the season of extraordinary, thought-provoking theater on our stage."

BOX OFFICE: call 202-777-3210. Group discount available (10+ tickets).

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