Yiddish Theater Festival to be held Sept. 8-10

The first-ever Yiddish Theater Festival in the Fingerlakes, starring New York City’s New Yiddish Rep, will include four events over three nights, Tuesday-Thursday, September 8-10, in Ithaca. All Yiddish performances will be accompanied by English supertitles.
“Yiddish theater has a unique ability to both move an audience and make them laugh, even in the midst of sadness,” said Jonathan Boyarin, Cornell’s Mann Professor of Modern Jewish Studies and professor of anthropology, the director of Cornell’s Jewish Studies Program and the festival organizer. “I’m very excited that our community will have the opportunity to see this extraordinary theater company perform.”
The festival will begin on September 8 at 6 pm, at Cornell Cinema, with a screening of “Jewish Luck,” a classic silent Yiddish film starring Soviet Yiddish actor Solomon Mikhoels, with original piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner. The 1920s film is based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories, featuring a daydreaming entrepreneur who specializes in doomed strike-it-rich schemes. No tickets will be required for the film.
The film will be followed by a live performance of David Mandelbaum’s one-man adaptation of “Yosl Rakover Speaks to God,” the story of a pious Jew challenging God during the final days of the Warsaw Ghetto. Mandelbaum is the artistic director and co-founder of New Yiddish Rep. He has been producing and acting in experimental theater in New York for more than 35 years. No tickets will be required for Mandelbaum’s performance.
“Yiddish Theater Dim Sum” will be held on Wednesday, September 9, at 7:30 pm, at Ithaca College’s Hoerner Theater in the Dillingham Center. The program has been described by the New Yiddish Rep as “a fast-moving revue... with scenes, sketches, songs and oddball diversions that run the gamut from the most beautiful poetry to the most rancid melodrama.” The show features Allen Rickman and Yelena Shmulenson, who starred in the prologue of the Coen brothers’ film “A Serious Man.” Tickets cost $5 for general admission or are free for students with a valid college I.D. For tickets, call 274-3252.
The troupe will present its original translation of “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett on September 10, at 7:30 pm, at Cornell’s Kiplinger Theater in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. The play was written in French at the end of 1948 when the truth about the extermination camps had become known. One of Beckett’s best friends, a French Jew, died of malnutrition after being liberated from Mauthausen.
“When seen in this historical context, the characters in the play are transformed from the tramps or clowns they are often portrayed as, and instead can be seen as four survivors of a devastating catastrophe existing in a void of uncertainty,” said Boyarin. “To perform the play in Yiddish evokes both the destruction and the afterlife of hope.”
Tickets for “Waiting for Godot” cost $11 for students or children, or $13 for adults, and are available at www.schwartztickets.com.
The Yiddish Theater Festival is sponsored by Cornell’s Jewish Studies Program, with support from Ithaca College Jewish Studies Program, the Cornell Council for the Arts and many other Cornell units and Ithaca community organizations.
For more information, visit http://jewishstudies.cornell.edu or e-mail akc52@cornell.edu.