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September 21, 1990 - Image 138

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-09-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 1990

Continued from Page 136

Masterbard I

Wish It's Customers and Friends
A Happy and Healthy
New Year






Yiddish Theater

Support the

March of Dimes

EMP11-1 OFF FCIS FOUNDADON

!•••

,

••i



rious Yiddishist education at
home and school, with
classes in Yiddish as well as
Hebrew, English, and — be-
cause this was Montreal —
French.
Yiddish theater has
always attracted to itself the
community's strong feelings
about the culture as a whole.
So twenty years ago, when
Moishe was a long-haired
idealistic college kid, he de-
termined to be a Yiddish
actor.
"Then I got a call from a
well-known manager. The
legendary Polish Yiddish
star Ida Kaminska had
arrived in New York. First
they were going to create a
huge national tour. Then
they were going to organize
an ensemble to do reper-
tory. He said I would be a
welcome member." Moishe
talks about love behind a
particularly matter-of-fact
voice. "So I went."
Between one class and the
next he caught a Greyhound
bus south. When the border
guards discovered he had
only 40 Canadian dollars in
his jeans pocket, not even
enough for a return ticket,
they turned him around and
sent him home to Montreal.
But it didn't occur to him to
give up his big chance. Three
months later a lift with a
respectable-looking uncle
got him across the border —
still without enough cash for
a ticket back.
The huge national tour
folded, and the welcome
member earned not quite
enough to live on, but
Moishe took an extra job as
Yiddish newscaster at Radio
WEVD, the Station That
Speaks Your Language, and
made Yiddish theater his
home. He worked with the
older actors.
He watched them from the
wings. He sat in their dress-
ing rooms and listened to
their stories of trouping on
six continents. They were
his glamorous, witty,
demanding, brave,
temperamental zeydes and
bubbes; he was their gentle
dreamy grandson.
"Those were pretty amaz-
ing years, because that was
the end of when all those
actors were alive. You could
still have the atmosphere.
Madame Kaminska, for in-
stance — her bearing was
still that of an aristocrat.
You always felt honored to
be in her presence, drawn to
her. She was a magnet. I was
privileged. I am the last link
in the goldene keyt, the golden
chain.
Now that Moishe has
become the adoring father of
a baby girl, he is more de-

termined than ever to
preserve the chain of culture
for posterity. Although he
continues to perform in
American theater and films
as well as in Yiddish —
nobody can live solely on
Yiddish theater — he has es-
tablished an agency called
Golden Land Connections, a
"Jewish entertainment
resource," and is currently
producing Those Were the
Days, his third successful
musical revue.
He marvels that when
they played at the mammoth
Westbury Music Fair on
Long Island, "they loved it!"
His eyes widen but his voice
is quieter than ever.
"Imagine it! Three thou-
sand people, a full house,
three thousand people
laughing! Imagine! They
were loving Yiddish
theater!"
What needs bridging
above all is language. As a
producer, Moishe grapples
with Yiddish itself, the
theater's heart and also its
heartache. If a show mixes
in too much English, it is
Yiddish theater no longer. It
becomes "Jewish" theater,
i.e., a show which is in some
way of Jewish interest, or a
show based on Yiddish
original material. (Both
these genres are popular.
The Jewish Repertory
Theatre in New York City,
an "American" theater, re-

Yiddish theater has
always attracted
the community's
strong feelings.

cently produced Goldfadn's
classic operetta The Witch
with the dialogue translated
into English but with the
song lyrics in the original
Yiddish.)
On the other hand, if the
actors speak only Yiddish,
many potential ticket-
buyers will stay away.
By now even older au-
diences have usually grown
up speaking English and
continually whisper transla-
tions from row to row. So
producers avoid the more
literary repertoire and often
try English synopses in the
playbills, or narrators who
come out in front of the cur-
tain between scenes to ex-
plain what's going on.
Sometimes bits of dialogue
in English are woven in to
make sure everyone is
following. ("What do you
mean, why am I crying too.")
Technology helps: subtitles
projected against the wall
beside the stage, or simulta-
neous translations through
headphones.

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