The myth of an innocent person turning to evil because a demon has taken possession of the body is common. But it has especially deep roots in Jewish legend.
In late June, the National Yiddish Theatre — Folksbiene announced that Bryna Wasserman, formerly the head of Montreal’s Segal Centre for Performing Arts, will take over as executive director, joining the Folksbiene’s artistic director Zalmen Mlotek. The appointment comes as the Folksbiene finishes its 96th season and begins preparations for its 100th anniversary, in 2015.
Hasidic characters have been getting more screen time, but they are often used to sensationalize ultra-Orthodox encounters with the secular world.
Just after Sidney Lumet passed away, I received numerous e-mails from film students who fondly recalled his visits with them at Columbia University. A few remembered the emotional wallop of seeing “The Pawnbroker” for the first time, in my American film history course. Others praised Lumet’s humility and candor after a preview of “Night Falls on Manhattan” in our campus screening room. Lumet was unaffected, from his perennial sweater-over-shirt to his no-nonsense explanation of making movies. He was a breathlessly busy and prolific director, but he found the time to encourage aspiring filmmakers. The students’ e-mails that arrived after he died April 9 of lymphoma at age 86 were a testament to the smarts and the sympathy that rendered him less an auteur than a mensch.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s grandmom had trunks in her basement. A lot of our grandmothers had stuff stacked away. But our grandmoms were not Bessie Thomashefsky. “When I used to go visit my grandmother at her apartment in Hollywood, she had trunks in her basement and that was a special treat,” said Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony and artistic director of Miami Beach’s New World Symphony, which he founded. In her basement, his grandmother “would open up these trunks, and inside them there were various costumes and scripts and photos and all these things that had been part of her life.”
‘A melody lives and dies and it is forgotten,” actor Rafael Goldwaser says early on in a presentation of “A Gilgl fun a Nign” (“The Metamorphosis of a Melody”). “But a melody can be resurrected.”
On April 7, the eve of Passover, Israeli television did something unprecedented: It aired a film in which the entire dialogue was in Yiddish.
It’s a funny thing, the way a young artist’s raw vitality is often forgotten in posterity, obscured by the seemingly tamer, more popularly appealing self that emerged later. Seven decades after “Our Town” was a Broadway hit, for example, almost no one remembers Thornton Wilder as an experimental dramatist, though he once was one. These days, we perceive him through muffling layers of homespun hokeyness.
In 1946, a fictional memoir of a resistance fighter in the Warsaw Ghetto appeared in a Yiddish newspaper in Argentina. Titled “Yosl Rakover Talks to God,” the piece described the destruction of Jewish Warsaw in such sensitive detail that it was translated into a multitude of languages, propelling its Lithuanian-born author, Zvi Kolitz, into the international spotlight.
On a frigid January evening in New York City, Rebecca Joy Fletcher and Stephen Mo Hanan performed their two-person act, “Kleynkunst!: Warsaw’s Brave and Brilliant Yiddish Cabaret,” before a full house at Helen’s Restaurant, Cabaret & Piano Lounge in Chelsea, as part of a five-day-long European cabaret festival called Kabarett Fête.