Paula Vogel

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Bringing Sholem Asch to Broadway 90 Years On

In May, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel spoke with the Forward about her new play, “Indecent,” which had just opened at Manhattan’s Vineyard Theater. “I’m interested in trying to rediscover the innocence we had as a people before the entire paradigm changed,” she said.

With “Indecent,” Vogel, 64, has breathed so much new life into a Sholem Asch classic that it is slated to emulate the original and head to Broadway.

“Indecent,” which tells the story of the Yiddish author Asch’s acclaimed, controversial early play “God of Vengeance,” delves into the innocence she spoke about. It’s a paean to the ecstasy and melancholy of 20th-century Jewish life, even during and after the Holocaust. Audiences and critics adored it; “Indecent” became a finalist for Columbia University’s 2016 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, a prize eventually won by a little play called “Hamilton.”

“Indecent,” which Vogel co-created with director Rebecca Taichman, will move to Broadway next April. In doing so, it will fulfill a dream for Vogel, who has never had one of her plays produced on the Great White Way. It could also echo its inspiration’s impact in the theater world. When Asch’s play appeared on Broadway in 1923, he was in scarce Jewish company; when “Indecent” transfers, Vogel will be one of few woman playwrights represented.

For Yiddishists, Vogel’s work is a welcome cultural stimulus. “Indecent” has also sparked renewed interest in “God of Vengeance,” prompting the New Yiddish Rep to stage a revival of Asch’s play. New York’s Up Theater Company also produced an adaptation of the play, Atar Hadari’s “Merciful Father,” this fall.

“Indecent” marks the latest brilliant moment of Vogel’s career. We’re looking forward to seeing how she’ll astonish us next.

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