A 1925 silent movie about boxing, a pop-musical tragicomedy focused on obsessive behavior and a play that examines the life of a glamorous Hollywood actress may not seem like three things that have much in common, but they are all part of the National Yiddish Book Center’s second annual Paper Bridge Summer Arts Festival.
The two-week event has something for everyone, with an impressive lineup of musical performances, film screenings, readings, theatrical productions and storytelling that explore Jewish culture. “The Rosenbach Company,” a musical by cartoonist Ben Katchor and composer Mark Mulcahy, uses projected cartoon images and live actors and musicians to tell the story of early 20th-century rare-book dealer and collector Abe Rosenbach and his brother, Philip. The famed Folksbiene Troupe heads to the region for a performance of “Mama’s Loshn Kugel,” a Yiddish revue (with English translation) of classic songs and sketches from the Yiddish theater. Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman introduces and discusses his film “The Last Letter” (2002, in French with English subtitles), which is based on the experiences of Vasily Grossman, a war correspondent during World War II whose mother was killed by the Nazis, as were all the Jews from his hometown. The Socalled Orchestra joins forces with acclaimed clarinetist David Krakauer in concert, performing a unique musical blend of klezmer, jazz and hip hop. Michael Wex discusses his book “Born to Kvetch” (St. Martin’s Press, 2005), which examines the history, evolution and culture of Yiddish. The life story of Hollywood actress and famed acting teacher Stella Adler, daughter of Yiddish stars Sarah and Jacob Adler, is dramatized in a staged reading of a play by Sidra Rausch. The festival closes with a live performance of Paul Shapiro’s original score for “His People” (1925), a silent film by Edward Sloman. The film is set on New York City’s Lower East Side and tells the story of two brothers: Morris, who is studying to be a lawyer, and Sammy, who is secretly training to be a boxer.
Among the other activities offered during the festival are a tour of the National Yiddish Book Center’s warehouse, which houses 1.5 million Yiddish books, and a tour of the book center’s Yiddish Writers Garden.
National Yiddish Book Center, Hampshire College, 1021 West St., Amherst; July 9-20; $8-$15; for schedules and further information, call the listed number or visit the Web site. (413-256-4900 or www.yiddishbookcenter.org)