Folksbiene Comes To Broadway


For the first time in its 103-year history, the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene will be producing a show in a mainstream Broadway — not East Broadway — theater.

This spring, the NYTF will serve as associate producer of “Indecent,” Paula Vogel’s play with music that had a successful run Off-Broadway last season. The play tells the back story of the production of Sholem Asch’s “God of Vengeance,” a groundbreaking 1923 Broadway show that was shut down after police charged cast members with obscenity, in part, for depicting a lesbian relationship on stage.

“Indecent,” created with Rebecca Taichman who directs the show, marks the Broadway debut for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Vogel. NYTF joins Daryl Roth and others as producers, at the Cort Theater.

“This is a big, very important new chapter for us,” says Chris Massimine, executive producer of NYTF. On Dec. 12, the company will mark the beginning of its 103rd consecutive season with a Gala honoring actor Liev Schreiber at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

This season, NYTF is also launching a new initiative to identify and restore historical works of the Yiddish theater, inspired by the success of its recent musical, “The Golden Bride.” That Off-Broadway production, seen by more than 25,000 people, was its “biggest commercial, artistic, financial success, ever,” according to Massimine. “The Golden Bride” was restored from an operetta by Joseph Rumshinsky.

“As we bring art to the next generation, we want to restore art from previous generations,” Massimine says.

“There are pieces that haven’t been performed in years, almost lost, that we are now bringing back. Some are the work of prominent composers and may have even been their master works,” he says. “We want to be sure that the work is restored to a workable, performable state, where it can be on view anywhere. We’re planning readings, workshops, and plan to make the works available on our website.”

NYFT’s artistic director Zalmen Mlotek is spearheading an international effort co-curated by associate artistic director Motl Didner to find Yiddish artworks, searching in archives here and in Europe, most recently in Romania. So far, they have looked through thousands of works, and have identified 300 as priorities to repair.

To do the restorations, NYTF is partnering with educational institutions, pairing science and art, to figure out what the missing links in the manuscripts might be.

At the Gala, they will preview a concert featuring 12 pieces of this newly found material, with performers from the cast of “The Golden Bride” and elsewhere, accompanied by a 16-piece orchestra. They will present a full public concert of these works and others on January 1.

NYTF is also planning to launch a national tour of “The Golden Bride,” with its first performances in early 2018 in Florida.

This season, the NYTF aims to complete its merger with the Museum of Jewish Heritage. “We are creating a beacon of culture in Battery Park City,” Massimine says.