Saturday 18 January 2020 at 6 PM and 9 PM
In honor of poet and partisan Avrom Sutzkever’s 10th yortsayt (July 15, 1913-January 20, 2010) and at the request of his granddaughter, Israeli actress Hadas Kalderon, we are pleased to bring back this special suite of stories directed by Moshe Yassur and featuring internationally renowned Yiddish theater artists Miryem-Khaye Seigel and Shane Baker. As before, we will be playing the tales in our brand new bijou theater Der Royter Kuter in Chelsea. Seating is highly limited. Book now! Tickets and information here.
To read a review of this unique evening, see Boris Sandler’s Yiddish Branzhe. We’ll also attach an English translation at the bottom of this email.
Or if you can’t make it but would still like to support our work, donate here:
Thursday 16 January 2020 at 6 PM and 9 PM at Versus Real Estate, 346 W 72nd Street, NYC
Stories and songs by two of the best-loved Yiddish cultural creators, featuring our special guest from Brazil, Nicole Borger (Sao Paulo), and Shane Baker. Produced in conjunction with Ticun Brasil and Instituto da Musica Judaica Brasil. Tickets and information here.
Ongoing through Saturday 15 February 2020 at the James Gallery in CUNY Graduate Center
Even if you missed the chance to take a private tour of this event with internationally renowned artist (and the new Komi-Tsar of Visual Arts at the Congress for Jewish Culture!) Yevgeniy Fiks, the exhibition is still open for another month. Among other works, the exhibition features 3 pieces by Yiddish poet and artist Yonia Fain, as well as Fiks’s map of Yonia Fain’s migrations. Fain was a close friend and colleague of Sutzkever’s, and his illustrations are featured in the original edition of Dortn vu es nekhtikn di shtern. And Fiks, well, Fiks is a bright star in today’s Yiddish Cosmos. Art Forum recently chose his show of that very name, Yiddish Cosmos, as one of the most memorable shows of 2019.
Speaking of our coworkers at the Congress for Jewish Culture, Director of Communications and Special Projects Rokhl Kafrissen just published this item on the closing of the Yiddish Fiddler on the Roof in the JTA, and you should keep your eye peeled for more from her very soon, including some exciting Yiddish swag for friends of the Congress as well as
and lastly, as we promised:
A review of Avrom Sutzkever’s Dortn vu es nekhtikn di shtern
Here’s an English translation of Sandler’s Yiddish from Yiddish Branzhe:
Der Royter Kuter––The Red Tomcat
A New Yiddish Theater in New York
This past November, I was invited to the debut of a brand new theater in the New York Yiddish world. It is called Der Royter Kuter––The Red Tomcat, a branch of the Congress for Jewish Culture.
A new Yiddish theater is of course yet another way to connect directly with the Yiddish audience. So what’s not to be happy! But what is the little red tomcat trying to tell us with its “Meow?”
For its premiere, the theater chose two separate stories by Avrom Sutzkever: Lupus and Where the Stars Spend the Night. The choice of these two literary works was compelling and at the same time raised some doubts: compelling––the concept of presenting works not conceived for the theater, and for the very same reason it raised those doubts.
So interest and curiosity for this theatrical innovation drove me out of my home on a cold, rainy evening to journey into Manhattan. I had already read the two stories, which had been sent to me electronically in both the original Yiddish and in English translation. That same “packet” had been sent to each attendee at the premiere, in total 10 people.
The Red Tomcat occupied a small apartment, with the performance taking place in the front room. The intimate salon atmosphere, the walls on which were hanging works by Yonia Fain (incidentally, along with the texts we also received illustrations to the two stories drawn by Yonia Fain, raised in Sutzkever’s Vilna and a close friend of the writer), and one corner into which had been shoved a chair and a small table with a kerosene lamp, a pipe, and a manuscript––the show’s entire entourage, awakening even before the performance began an almost mystic mood to introduce Sutzkever’s surrealist tale Lupus.
The production’s director, Moshe Yassur, is well acquainted with the art of the theatrical hint and how to say much with the barest artistic means, as he has shown in his recent Yiddish productions of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros and Miller’s Death of a Salesman. When the main character of Lupus (Shane Baker) lights the kerosene lantern and a broken, bifurcated shadow spreads out over the walls of the corner, you immediately understand that the location of the “stage” has been chosen with precision.
Baker, as a Yiddish actor, finds himself presently in full bloom, with regular appearances across America as well as for Jewish communities throughout the world. He likes to experiment. And, most importantly, he is faithful to the Yiddish word and to the theatrical tradition.
The dialogue between the author and the shadow named Lupus occurs “between earth and heaven, when it has grown so still that you can hear the breathing of the corpses…” The poet’s vision is riven, because he exists in two worlds––the world of yesterday’s shadows and a present as ephemeral as the “dancer of smoke” who winds her way up out of his pipe.
“Lupus” in Latin means wolf. Growing up, his parents called our hero Velvl, but later, among the Gentiles, he became “Lupus.” And when the Nazis arrived, he went into business selling the dearest merchandise of all, inherited from his father the apothecary: cyanide, with which he “rescues Jews from life.” “But Lupus doesn’t give his merchandise away for nothing. There is a price and the price grows ever higher. And the less cyanide he has, the more precious stones he demands…”
Not an easy piece of “merchandise” for the director and the actor to present. To tell the truth, while reading the story Lupus, I found it somewhat confusing. But during the performance, I gave myself over completely to the artists––Yassur and Baker. They guided me through the intricate paths of Sutzkever’s poetic prose, which is bursting with wild metaphors and allusions.
The second act presents the second Sutzkever tale, Dortn vu es nekhtikn di shtern (Where the Stars Spend the Night). Seemingly two separate tales, and yet they are internally bound. The knot is the Holocaust, the Great Destruction which never ends. It awakens memories and interrupts the continuity of the present with mirage-like figures from the life cut short.
SHE, in contrast to Lupus, enters the present as a ghost in a wedding gown, or perhaps as an angel… and again, as in Lupus, there is a dialogue, now between the poet and the young woman named Lili (Miryem-Khaye Seigel); a dialogue woven of silence, because souls that are in love do not speak with words, just as eternity needs no measurements of time…
We salute the new theater Der Royter Kuter on its successful beginning. The New York Yiddish world has been in need of a literary word spoken with quiet conviction. Fortunately, Yiddish literature is lately being brought out of the libraries where it had been left as in a ritual vault, and there is active digitization of our literature, making it much easier to get hold of without even leaving one’s house. But theater remains a living thread to bind souls together in conversation via the spoken word.
The Red Tomcat finds itself in good hands and on a proper path. Let’s wish it generous supporters and good friends.
––Boris Sandler, YiddishBranzhe 1 December 2019
So we hope you can make it to see the show.
Lastly, as you see, the Congress for Jewish Culture has good things happening right now and coming up in 2020: a new space where we produce cutting edge Yiddish theater, classes, art exhibitions, and new coworkers and advisors. We’ll also be sending out information on our 2020 Yiddish Cultural seder in the coming weeks as well. But to keep it all going, we need your help. We’re most grateful to those who answered our appeals in November and December, and we hope that you will consider donating generously. As we’ve said, any amount helps––if you could look back through the old card files, you’d see how our organization was built on $18 donors from Montreal to Montevideo and from Malmö to Melbourne. And if a few of you want to give even more than that, well, we’ll not say no!
A dank, un hot a gezunt, gliklekh nay yor 2020!