Remembering Adrienne Cooper

It is with great sorrow and a sense of great loss that I share the sad news that Adrienne Cooper, beloved singer of our people, passed away on Sunday, December 25th.

A singer, a writer, an educator, a poet, a master communicator- a pioneer  Adrienne was one of the most popular and significant interpreters of Yiddish song over the last 50 years.

Adrienne who understood the power of the Yiddish songs, saw the need to contextualize them for new, young audiences audiences for whom Yiddish was not a nostalgic exercise but an avenue of exploration, unlike  previous Yiddish singers of the past.

Along with Henry Sapoznik, Adrienne co-founded KlezKamp, the Yiddish Folk Arts Festival, held annually for close to 30 years. At KlezKamp, thousands of young singers and instrumentalists have flocked to hear her Yiddish song workshops and found insights and inspiration to commit themselves to exploring and building this culture for their generation.

Klezkamp spawned numerous other festivals and gatherings, all over the globe – Klezkanada in Montreal, YiddishFest in St. Petersburg, the Ashkenaz festival in Toronto and many others.  In each of these, Adrienne Cooper was always a key figure – performing, teaching and inspiring.

Adrienne and I began our musical collaboration 20 years ago. It was always about newly interpreting beloved songs and materials to make them relevant and appealing to varied audiences.

We traveled together to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, and many other cities, where young people would come to participate in her workshops and I had the pleasure of co-teaching many of these classes.

For the Folksbiene, Adrienne co-created a Jewish Food Show called Esn with her colleagues Frank London and Lorin Sklamberg, of the Klezmatics.  At every performance the audience was treated to an entertaining concert of Yiddish song, and ending with a delicious snack cooked fresh by Adrienne.
She also narrated a concert version of Abraham Goldfadn’s Di Bobe Yachne, The Witch, in 2004.

She recorded a CD, called In Love and in Freedom, a collection of Jewish labor songs- that we curated together- and for which she wrote the liner notes.

One of our most successful and meaningful collaborations was Ghetto Tango, a collection of wartime Yiddish theater songs. It was released on the Traditional Crossroads label, and we toured with that production as well as other programs of Yiddish song for many years.

She had a unique effect on audiences- always uplifting them musically, always teaching them, always entertaining them, but never in a didactic way.

For the last 11 years of her life, Adrienne was the cultural and educational leader of the Workmen’s Circle, where she worked for social justice and Yiddish causes, always looking for alliances and opportunities to promote the younger generation of Yiddish artists.

She is survived by her mother Bunny Cooper, and her daughter Sarah Gordon who has taken up the mantle of Yiddish performance bringing new sounds and interpretations with her band Yiddish Princess.

We will miss her terribly.

— Zalmen Mlotek —

Funeral and Memorial Services for Adrienne Cooper

Memorial Service in California:
Time: Wednesday, December 28th, 11:00 a.m.
Location: Congregation B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA

Time: Wednesday, December 28th, approximately 12:30 p.m. (directly after the memorial service)
Location: Oakmont Memorial Park, 2099 Reliez Valley Road, Lafayette, CA

Memorial Service in New York:
Time: Sunday, January 1st, 12:00 p.m.
Location: Ansche Chesed, 251 West 100th Street, New York, NY

Times: Saturday, December 31st , Motzi Shabes, 6 p.m. – 11 p.m.,
Sunday, January 1st (after the service), 5 p.m. – 10 p.m
Monday – Thursday Jan. 2 – Thursday Jan. 5  11am-2pm / 6pm-9:30pm
Location: Apartment of Sarah Gordon, 612 Argyle St., #4E, Brooklyn NY (near the Newkirk Plaza stop on the Q train).

Celebrating Bel Kaufman’s 100th Birthday

Best Selling Author, Educator and Lecuturer, Bel Kaufman has accomplished a great deal in her first 100 years, and if that weren’t enough, she is also the grand-daughter of  the great Sholem Aleichem.

On May 15th, 2011 The National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene in association with Alliance Bernstein Global Wealth Management honored Bel on her 100th birthday. Our tribute to Bel was joined by Eleanor Reissa and the cast of  The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer, and celebreties including Nobel Laureate Elie Weisel, Tony Winning Producer Emanuel Azenberg, Fiddler on the Roof Lyricist Sheldon Harnick, Emmy Award Winning Actor Fyvush Finkel, Humorist Marilyn Michaels and Academy Award Winning Actor Eli Wallach.

ShalomTV was on hand to capture the speeches from this illustrious assembly, followed by a speech by Bel herself.

Hershele Blog #7 by Dani Marcus

Dani Marcus

Every audience is different.  This is one of those obvious givens that I somehow forget and relearn with every new production. As much as I try to show up with the same intention and energy f or every show, there is this variable that I can always count on to affect what I do and how I feel about it.  Never is this more true than when I work at the Yiddish Theatre.
For starters, the collective reaction we receive is greatly influenced by how many Yiddish speakers there are in the audience versus non-Yiddish speakers.  When I do a show in English, it’s pretty safe to assume that most of the a udience is on the same page with their level of basic comprehension. Of course, in any theatrical event, every member of the audience is bound to digest what they are watching and hearing in a slightly different way than the person sitting next to them, but you can safely assume that the majority of your house is receiving the information at the same time and responding at roughly the same moment. This is not so in Hershele-land.
See, the crazy and wonderful thing about doing a play with super-titles, is that there are several different ways to experience the play as an audience member. Our Yiddish speakers in the h ouse just sit back, watch, listen and react as they are moved to. They may or may not pay any attention to the supertitles, but they take in the play as we give it to them. We are able to time what we do naturally, to the rhythm of their reactions.

Then there is a whole other component. Now, the supertitles are timed so smoothly and beautifully, that there is barely any overlap, but there can be a moment’s lag as the non-Yiddish speakers negotiate reading the translation of what they are seeing.  There is on occasion, this funny double reaction that happens as those who speak the language laugh  directly after the line is said and those who do not, laugh as they translate. It takes some getting used to, but I have grown to be quite tickled by it.

By the by, for those of you out there who don’t speak Yiddish and are daunted by seeing a show with Super titles, it’s actually really easy and natural and only takes a minute or two to get used to. I know this because I don’t speak Yiddish. Besides, the great thing about Hershele is that it is universal in concept, humor and flavor. A non-Yiddish speaking friend of mine who came to see us a few days ago said that he would only occasionally glance at the supertiles to make sure he was getting the plot but that he preferred to just listen and watch so as not to miss any of the action onstage and he still felt like he really “got” the show. You really can choose how you take in the show and I think that is rather fantastic.

The other thing that I have grown to love about performing in the Yiddish Theatre is how interactive the audiences can be.

Comparing the Broadway and Yiddish Theatre Audiences



Motl Didner once showed me a cartoon illustration of two audiences side by side. As I remember it, the “typical” theatre audience was drawn to be seated upright with their hands folded in their laps, a respectful, sedate, common expression on all of their faces. This was juxtaposed with the rendering of the Yiddish Theatre audience, filled with people leaning forward, half standing, calling things out to the stage, hitting on another as they reacted to something funny, unwrapping a sandwich, and singing along. My imagination may be adding a few details here, but you get the point.

While I have not witnessed such boldness as the exaggerated cartoon displays, I totally get it! Yiddish speaking audiences are different and they are a delight. They get just that much more involved in what they are seeing. If they think something is funny, they often say so. If they recognize a tune, they’ll begin to sing along. Many people in our audiences recognize the melody of our finale and they almost always begin to clap, without being cued by the actors. This is something that I have never experienced when doing a musical in English. I imagine this kind of audience participation goes back a long way when there were many operating Yiddish theatres in New York City. I have a special gratitude to the Folksbiene for keeping this tradition alive and allowing me to experience this unique relationship between the actors and the Yiddish audience.  In between shows on Sunday I came across a woman in our particularly enthusiastic matinee audience who told me that I was delicious. I happily and truthfully exclaimed, “you were delicious too!.”

At the Drama Desk Awards by Motl Didner

Matthew "Motl" Didner - Associate Artistic Director

What a thrill it was to represent The National Yiddish Theatre – Folkbsiene at the 56th Drama Desk Awards on Monday May 23rd at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Fyvush Finkel Live! was nominated in the category of Outstanding Revue. It was quite an honor just to direct living legend Fyvush Finkel, together with his virtuosic sons Ian and Elliot Finkel, the very talented June Gable and Merwin Goldsmith and a first rate orchestra. We put together a show that made a lot of people happy. To be acknowledged by the Drama Desk was the icing on the cake.

To put this in perspective, there were over 250 shows from Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway which were eligible for a Drama Desk in the 2010-2011 season, of which about 40 were nominated.
We were in good company, other nominated productions included The Book of Mormon (the evening’s big winner), Anything Goes, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and individuals including Al Pacino and Sutton Foster.

Drama Desk Host – Harvey Fierstein

Harvey Firestein kept things moving as host (the show only came in one hour over schedule). Presenters included Marsha Mason, Liev Schreiber and Katy Holmes. Numerous luminaries of the stage and screen were present and dressed to the nines, sipping champagne. Ellen Barkin looked phenomenal.

The competition in our category was fierce. We were up against Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway and Newsical the Musical.

In the end, we were bested by the Beatles. (For those of you haven’t heard of the Beatles, apparently they were a group of soccer hooligans who needed a haircut and are now being imitated by a group of Americans who don’t have a xylophone and when I asked them to play “Romania, Romania” they said they never heard of it.)

Had we won, Fyvush would have delivered the acceptance speech. But just in case he got called off to Hollywood at the last minute, I prepared the following remarks:

“Wow. What a thrill it is to be up here. [As I hold the award in my left hand] this thing is heavier than you’d think.

It’s amazing that in 2011 a little Yiddish theater that just won’t give up after 96 years is here alongside the best and brightest from Broadway.

Congratulations to Rain and Newsical the Musical. We’re all winners just for being nominated.

[Then I would fish out my notes from my inner right tuxedo jacket pocket]

This award belongs to the whole team, Fyvush, Ian, Elliot, Merwin and June, the fantastic musicians; our producers Zalmen Mlotek and Georgia Buchanan; our choreographer Shorey Walker, the design team Roger Hanna, Izzy Fields, Natalie Robin, Bruce Ellman and Rory Dale – you guys made the show look and sound great; our stage manager Marci Skolnick and the crew Shevek Major-Peer, Dale Carman, Bradley Cherna, Scott Crawford, Bill Toles, Rebecca Cullars and Dinah Finkelstein; and of course our office staff who keeps the Folksbiene running Itzy Firestone, Jill Goldstein, Catherine Farrell, Ashley Bundis, Jordan Mann and Lani Kennedy. Mazel Tov everybody. We did it!

But most of all thanks to Fyvush for bringing this project to the Folksbiene and insisting that this pisher should direct.

Lang zol lebn der Yidish teater. Long live the Yiddish theater.


Oh well! I’ll invoke the old saying, “It’s an honor just to be nominated.”
And as a Brooklyner, our Borough motto – “There’s always next year!”

Oh yeah, and if you haven’t seen The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer yet, get your tickets now.
And if you have seen it, see it again and bring your friends and family with you.

Zayt mir gezunt un shtark


A Hershele Blog #6 by Dani Marcus

Dani Marcus

The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer is officially open. Huzzah!

The first show tends to inspire a grand smorgasbord of emotions. There is so much anticipation for the first audience, especially when doing a comedy. How will this collective of strangers and friends fit into the show we have created? Will they laugh? Will they laugh where we think they will laugh? Will they be with us?

Every actor handles their nerves differently, but most of us have some experience with the pre-first show butterflies. It can be exhilarating. For those of you not terrified by roller coasters, it’s a lot like that feeling in the pit of the stomach just before going down the first big drop. You are strapped in. There’s no turning back.  Stephen Sondheim’s Little Red Riding Hood sums it up best when she sings that she’s excited, “well, excited AND scared.”  And may I emphasize that the scared part is quite conspicuous when doing a play in a foreign tongue.

There is no time like the first time. The feet hit the stage and it begins. Hershele begins in a blackout and I admit that I cherish this moment with the audience, this moment of: you can’t see me and I can’t see you but I know that you are there and I am about to say something to you-are you ready? Am I ready?!

Adaptor/Director Eleanor Reissa

How very much I love the way our director, Eleanor Reissa crafted the opening of this show. Her concept is that we connect as ourselves, first with one another and then directly with the audience before we become our characters and dive into the story.
The opening of our opening was particularly electric for me, not just because of the usual shot out of a cannon jitters, but because I had done the show last year. The only thing more exciting than experiencing something for the first time is re-experiencing something that you’ve not felt in some time and reliving the tingly gorgeousness of the time before.  It’s déjà vu, only you know exactly what you are recalling and all the senses are poised to feel what they felt before. The crazy thing is that as it turns out, there is no such thing as reliving. Every moment is one created anew. This is why the theatre is a magical event. Anything can and does happen and that is what we all sign up for willingly.

The first revelation I had of newness took place in the midst of this lovely prologue of our opening show. I felt a palpable transformation in the room. I entered the stage feeling a distinct delineation between us (the actors) and them (the audience) and by the time we morphed into our characters and began the actual story it just felt like us. This happened before the first audible response. There may have been an enthusiastic intake of breath, but I had yet to hear the first trickle of giggles. It was just a feeling, a knowledge that our audience had accepted the invitation to come and play.

Hershele Blog #5 with Guest Blogger Ari Jacobson

Ari Jacobson

On Sunday, I had a moment of Present.

So often, I spend my life in a hazy cloud of time, thinking/planning/wishing/stressing/worrying about the past and the future, and almost never actually experiencing the present.

My father likes to quote Richard Alpert: “Be Here Now.” Easier said than done! Especially as an actor, we live all our lives preparing for the next audition, wishing and hoping to be cast, or looking back on the last one: What did I do wrong? Was it my clothes/hair/smile? Did I hit a false note? Did I seem fake? Was I too old/young/tall/short/fat/skinny? Did I not study hard enough in acting class? Am I just not good enough?

Then… lightning strikes, magic happens, we get that call! We’ve been cast! What a feeling! The world is a bright, happy place and all is well and good.

This lasts for all of two seconds.

Then comes the realization that, having been cast, now I actually need to DO THE SHOW. That I’ve got two and a half weeks (including an extra half because I’m a newbie to this already mostly assembled cast) to learn all my lines in a language I don’t speak, prepare my songs, learn my blocking and choreography, and somehow make it all flow together 7 times a week for the paying audience. Hello neurosis, goodbye present.

So there I was, walking up the concrete steps behind my Washington Heights apartment, heading for Baruch College to perform at our opening show, and I had a moment.

The sun was shining, the air smelled fresh after a spring rain, and I was exactly where I wanted to be. I had to stop for a second to really take it all in: how many times, from college through 5 years of living in New York, had I wished and dreamed and hoped and planned for something like this?

I’m in an Off-Broadway show. It’s a GREAT show, funny, catchy, quick, touching. Tony-nominated director. Star with multiple Broadway appearances. INCREDIBLY talented cast, each one more giving, helpful, friendly and professional than the last. A show, a cast, and a theatre company that I can really believe in, and get behind with my whole heart.

Has it been easy? No. Decidedly no. Two and a half weeks of strange looks from subway strangers as I quietly spoke/sang to myself in Yiddish. Two and a half weeks of long, tiring rehearsals. And of course, let’s not forget that the Folksbiene has survived for 95 years because of the enormous passion of those who keep it going, and whenever you gather that many passionate people together in a small room for two and a half weeks, there’s going to be the occasional explosion.

But has it all been worth it? Absolutely. From the first moment I saw the faces of our audience, from the Yiddish speaking immigrants who needed no supertitles to their grandchildren, and heard them laughing, singing and clapping along, I knew it was all worth it and more.

As wonderful as this experience has been (and I have no doubt it will only get better as we live with this play and find more and more juice in bringing it to life), eventually it will end. All things must pass. And when it does, and I’m once again waiting in an audition room with several hundred other people for the chance to sing 16 bars before I hear “Thank you…NEXT!”, in the hope that I’ll be cast in an artistically unsatisfying play with a company I couldn’t care less about… that’s when I’ll remember and revel in the moment I had on Sunday. That’s when I’ll remind myself to once again enjoy the present for what it is. And that’s when I’ll hope that my future holds many more moments with the wonderful people I’ve been lucky enough to work with in Hershele, and with the National Yiddish Theatre which brought us all together.

-Ari Jacobson

Ari Jacobson is currently playing the role of Berele in The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer

A Hershele Blog by Dani Marcus #4

I really love rehearsal. I know some actors who tire of repeatedly exploring and breaking down the play. They say, enough already, I just want to put on my costume, stand on the actual set and let an audience full of breathing, laughing, feeling people bring this story to its full life.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing better than having an audience. The audience is the other half of the conversation, or as I like to think of it, the apex of the triangle. My roommate, Francis calls this “the Dani Marcus triangle theory.” The way I see it, the energy travels onstage from one actor to another forming a straight line and that energy shoots out to the audience diagonally and multi dimensionally forming a triangle. Can you see it?
I digress. The point is that I love an audience as much as any exhibitionist…I mean actor, but I really do love the rehearsal process too. There is something special about the time in a rehearsal studio when we’re in plain street clothes, miming props, trying vastly different things every time we work through a scene, and  laughing at inside jokes that no one outside the room would even remotely understand. It’s a sacred time.
It can also be a very frustrating time. I can’t begin to count the number of days I have had during a rehearsal process when I have felt that I would never find a particular moment, or I would never feel ready by opening night, or that I am just a hack and should leave the business immediately. These are dark days and everybody has them. Ultimately though, I love showing up to rehearsal and there is one day in the process that I tend to love most of all and that day was today:

The sitzprobe.

Sitzprobe day is the first time that the singers work with the orchestra. A sitz is a seated rehearsal in which the musical director works through all the musical numbers in the show from top to bottom, running them, and working out any issues as they may arise. This day usually comes right before moving into the theatre and into the tech phase of the process. For me, it is when the production becomes a reality.

As I hear the musicians begin to tune up their instruments, the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. With that sound, I understand that soon we will be sharing the work we’ve been doing with a real, paying audience. I look forward to this moment in every musical I do, and yet I always forget how thrilling it feels until the moment arrives.

I was particularly excited for our sitzprobe today, having done the run of Hershele last year because I know what an integral part of this show the musicians are. This is always the case in a musical, but it is especially true in Hershele-land. The music is like another character in this play.  There is something so evocative about the sound of a klezmer band. When you take a perfect folk tale such as this one and you mix in the secret ingredients of clarinet, violin, accordion, and bass, that is when the magic potion is complete. You shouldn’t take my word on this one; this is something you just have to hear for yourself.

Zalmen Mlotek

Our musical supervisor and orchestrator, Zalmen Mlotek, also the Artistic Director of the Folksbiene conducted the rehearsal with his usual conviction, ardor and fierce attention to detail. And our Musical director, bandleader, and clarinetist extraordinaire, Dmitri “Zisl-Yeysef” Slepovitch led the band with more joy than I have ever seen in any one human being. We are so lucky to be working with such exceptional players. Today was a treat and I can’t wait to have an entire run to make music with all of the people I sitz’d with today.

Dmitri "ZislYeysef" Slepovitch

Oh and by the by, we had one extra performer in the sitz whom I hope will not be joining us onstage. In between tunes we all noticed a cockroach inching his way across the floor. Now I will confess to y’all that I am bug killer. I’m not proud of it, but when I see a creepy-crawly my foot slams down faster than you can say “La Cucaracha”.  But our magnanimous director told us to let the bug be. Thus our six-legged friend waited center stage until the band struck up the next rousing melody and I am telling you, right on cue, that cockroach danced his way, in perfect time across the floor.

Want to  see Dani in action?  Check out her obligato at the 55 sec mark in this clip from Di Yam Gazlonim (The Pirates of Penzance)

A Hershele Blog by Dani Marcus # 3

Good morning! It’s actually 9:40 pm, but I have always thought of “good morning” as one of those utility greetings apropos for any time of day.  What a great, productive day it has been, and oh I am a tired me.

I feel like we just started rehearsals but in actuality we are almost half way through our entire process. I must say we are moving extraordinarily fast through the show and yet, it doesn’t feel rushed. The new folks are brilliant and learning the show at lightening speed and as for us, “old folks” I am really delighted by how much of the show has remained in our bodies.

It’s an odd thing because we haven’t touched the show in a year and a year can be a very long time when you are focused on other projects, not to mention all of the life stuff that can happen in a year’s time. And yet, being back in the same rehearsal room in the Baruch College Performing Arts complex feels immediately familiar. Our wonderful stage management team, Marci Skolnick and Penny Ayn Maas have taped out our set on the floor exactly as it was last year. The eyes see the tape and the body remembers where to go.

The Hershele Ensemble going through their steps (2010)

For me, this process is not only about remembering, it’s about recreating. By recreating, I truly mean creating anew, reinventing, resolving. In almost every show I have ever done I find that there are one or two unresolved moments for me, things that are fluid, that I continue to explore right up through the closing performance, but may never feel quite right. This remount is such a gift because now I have the chance to take what I learned from dong the full run of the show last year and I can go back to the drawing board with some of my choices. Acting is not like completing a puzzle; there is more than one correct way for all of the pieces fit together.  Admittedly it can be hard to divorce myself from choices that I know are tried and true, but as soon as I get out of my own way and just let new things happen, it really is liberating and a whole lot of fun.

I.W. "Itzy" Firestone as Kalmen and Mike Burstyn as Hershele

Another thing I am loving about rehearsals for this remount is that this is not the first time I am saying these Yiddish words.  Folks, believe me when I say that acting in Yiddish is probably the bravest, craziest, scariest thing I have ever done.  I’d like to say that it gets easier, but truthfully, every time I have new foreign words to learn, the fear of losing those words on stage and being lost in abyss of blank space returns.
Today on a break, Itzy Firestone and I were talking about dreams. We were talking about the classic “actor’s nightmare” dream in which you find yourself onstage and you don’t remember your lines. I said to him, Itzy, that’s what it’s actually like in real life for me doing a play in Yiddish. I was half joking…but only half. It is hard for me to trust that my Yiddish lines are really in me, that my mouth muscles have memorized them and the syllables still so strange to my brain will come out the way I want them to, on cue, coherent, and clear. I take this process for granted when doing a play in English, but in the Yiddish theatre I am constantly going over my lines, just to make certain that I know them, almost superstitiously.

However, I can already tell that I am much more trusting of myself this time around. My pronunciation has already been honed. I am very well aware of what I am saying and what is being said to me and so I can almost fool myself into believing that I am actually thinking in Yiddish.  Maybe this is the secret with me and Yiddish theatre, I just need to do everything twice!

Dani Marcus’ Hershele Blog #2

Dani Marcus

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the return of your favorite folk hero and mine!

So, rehearsals for the remount of The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer began on May 2nd  for the returning cast members. However, there are three new additions to our Hershele family and they started a week early to begin the learning process before being thrown to the wolves.
This, I assure you, is not a comment on our company of actors, nor our artistic team. This is to say that I have been in their shoes before; the shoes of the person who joins a production that has already been fully staged and fully formed are running shoes.  I am here to tell you that it can feel like catching a moving train. It really helps to run fast and focused and fearless. Though in my experience, there’s always a healthy dose of fear involved. It exciting and it’s daunting.

Ari Jacobson

Ari Jacobson

Happily, they asked me to join rehearsals for part of this first week to work with Ari Jacobson, our new Berl.  In Hershele-land, wherever Berl goes, Tsipke (that’s me) is never far behind and so I am thrilled that they called me in so that the two of us can establish our own groove as  Tsipke and Berl.

I have also been in my own shoes before, doing a remount or an on-going show in which you get to work with different actors

in the same role. I actually find great joy in this because I feel strongly that the people I play opposite inform most of the choices I make. For not only is there a different set of eyes to gaze into, a different rhythm of speech, different acting choices, there also exists that ineffable thing that changes the dynamic between every two people who ever connect.

Chemistry? Yeah, chemistry.

I was so fortunate to work with the wonderful Nimmy Weisbrod on the last go round.  Now, I feel equally as lucky to find a whole new relationship with Ari.

Rebecca Lawrence

Rebecca Lawrence

I will also dearly miss my friends and dressing room compatriots, Lori Wilner and Daniella Rabbani who are working on new projects and are unavailable for this run, but I’m equally excited to be working again with Joanne Borts, and Rebecca Lawrence and  I also know there is always room for fresh energy, new interpretation and new friendship.

Joanne Borts

Joanne Borts








I look forward to next week when all the players of this incarnation of Hershele will unite.  Let’s make a play!

A Hershele Blog by Dani Marcus #1

Hi there, I’m Dani Marcus and you are reading the first entry of my Hershele blog, which just so happens to be my first blog of any kind. I know little about the art of blogging, but then I don’t speak Yiddish and I am about to embark upon the remount of my 5th production with The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. I figure, if I can be hired to do a play (or five) in Yiddish, I can find my inner blogger.

Five years ago, shortly after this California girl made the inevitable move to New York City, I saw an audition notice for The Pirates of Penzance. The casting breakdown read a little something like this:

Everyone cast in this production must have good comic timing, be able to meet the vocal demands of Sullivan’s score and have a working knowledge of Yiddish. Check, Check…HAH? Yiddish??  It was then that I looked a little more closely at the notice and realized that it was The National Yiddish theatre’s production of The Pirates of Penzance or Di Yam Gazlonim.

In all honesty, I went to this audition as if on a dare. I could not imagine what I would encounter. I was terrified, but wholly curious. That audition was my first experience reading a scene in a foreign tongue. Of course, they had a phonetic transliteration for me, as well as the English translation of what I was saying, but trying to get the phrases to sound like the sample audio tracks I had practiced with was improbable to say the least. That said, people have always told me that I have a good ear. My good ear and a little “Glitter and Be Gay” got me called back.

A miracle got me cast.

(Click to see Dani’s performance in “Di Yam Gazlonim”)

I’ll admit, I did not have the most devout of Jewish upbringings. Have you ever heard the saying that a gentile in New York is more Jewish than a California Jew?  Still, I can’t tell you how much joy it brought my Jewish grandparents when I told them I had been cast in the Yiddish Pirates of Penzance!

I now have 5 Yiddish shows under my belt. It is still rather frightening to act in a language I can’t think in because should I get myself into a bind onstage, it is highly unlikely that I will be able to get myself out of it. However, it is a challenge that I always welcome, and what’s more, the Folkbiene has become a family of sorts.

This lil’ blog of mine is going to chronicle my process for the remount of last season’s smash hit for the Folksbiene, The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer.  Hershele was a wonderful show to be a part of. It is a beautiful gem of a show, whimsically adapted and directed by Eleanor Reissa. We had a fantastic company of actors led by international star, Mike Burstyn. Best of all, our audiences were some of the most delightful and delighted I have ever experienced.

I look forward to the new things I will learn and experience in this remount of the show and to sharing some of them with you here. That’s what blogs are for! Stay tuned. I will share more after my first rehearsal…