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Charge Nbc Biased for Not Reviewing Yiddish Play; Nbc Theater Critic Says ‘nonsense’

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Charges of “unfairness and discrimination” against Edwin Newman and NBC News for not reviewing “Light, Lively and Yiddish” have been filed by Ben Bonus and Max Eisen, producer-star and press agent for the Broadway show, with the City Commission on Human Rights. The radio and television theater critic called the charges “nonsense.” The complaint charged that “the present attitude of NBC News and Mr. Newman is unfair, discriminatory and a disservice to theater-goers and the community.” The two Broadway figures also charged that Mr. Newman, NBC News’ chief theater critic, “has refused” to cover the show and “has effectively convinced” his superiors not to let any other staff members do so or broadcast “features” on the show. They added that Mr. Newman and his associate, Leonard Probst, “have reviewed every show that has opened in a Broadway theater this season, and for many seasons in the past, and have just about reviewed every off-Broadway show that has opened this season.”

After noting that the Yiddish theater has been a “cultural asset” in New York for more than 75 years and that Mr. Bonus had been a “leading performer here for the past six years,” the complainants added that “it is hoped that this action will bring NBC News and its critic, Edwin Newman, to recognize the great cultural diversity of this city and the metropolitan area, and to review, recognize and report the many cultural and theatrical events initiated by these many groups when it is done on a professional level.” They criticized Mr. Newman’s contention that he could not and should not review a show that is almost all in Yiddish, and noted that he did not review “To Be Or Not To Be…What Kind Of A Question Is That?,” an off-Broadway revue in English that recently had a limited run of five weeks.

Mr. Newman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that in his nearly five years as NBC theater critic, he had covered foreign-language productions only “occasionally,” including a Bonus show “a few years ago.” Concerning “Light, Lively and Yiddish,” he asserted that “it can’t possibly be of interest to people who can’t understand Yiddish,” which he said included himself. “There is no service I can perform” for those who can, he contended. He said that he decided with his producer Thomas Furey, that “these shows would not be reviewed.” He said that “I hope the show runs forever; I hope all shows run forever,” but that as far as the charges of “discrimination” were concerned, “I really hate to dignify this nonsense.” Joseph R. Burstin, manager of another current mainly-Yiddish Broadway show, “The President’s Daughter,” which Mr. Newman did not cover, said the complainants were seeking publicity. He asserted that NBC had “a right to review whatever they want to review.”

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