Artists and performers from around the world are uniting for four days of virtual Purim celebrations that include music and caberet performances, a special reading of of the Megiles Ester (The Book of Ester) in Yiddish, and singalongs.
Artists are from Israel, Canada, Australia, Romania, Argentina, and the USA, of course, including stars from the critically-acclaimed Yiddish staging of Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Academy Award-winning actor Joel Grey.
The International Purim Celebration is Feb. 22-25, with daily events.
It is presented by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene and the Museum of Jewish Heritage: Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in lower Manhattan.
Monday, February 22 at 1 PM ET
The Purim celebration begins with one of Folksbiene! LIVE’s signature programs, NYTF Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek’s Living Room Concerts. This one features Yiddish Purim song, with signalong welcomed.
Tuesday, February 23 at 1 PM ET
National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene Associate Artistic Director Motl Didner will present a Purim-themed episode of 15 Minute Yiddish featuring an original Purim Shpil, the earliest form of Yiddish theater, performed by 15 Minute Yiddish fan favorite characters Helen, Murray, Professor Thompson, Sophia, Scott, and Wayne.
This episode also marks the Season 2 finale. Didner’s weekly lessons have gained a cult following, teaching adults the basics of Yiddish conversation—no experience necessary.
Wednesday, February 24
National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene will introduce a new quarterly series, Hava Tequila Cabaret.
The inaugural episode is hosted by Adam B. Shapiro, one of the stars of the award-winning Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish.
This fun-filled event brings together a cast of young and rising talent—most who’ve starred in National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene productions like Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish and The Sorceress, including, Dani Apple, Stephanie Lynne Mason, Daniella Rabbani, Lauren Jeanne Thomas, Bobby Underwood, and Mikhl Yashinsky. Michael Winograd will join Daniella Rabbani to perform a duet.
Hava Tequila Cabaret is a benefit for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene through permission from Theatre Authority, Inc.
This program is available on demand—watch any time beginning Wednesday, February 24 at 7 PM ET through Sunday February 28 at 7 PM ET. As with all Folksbiene! LIVE programming, other Purim Celebration events will remain for free on the website after their start time.
Thursday, February 25 at 7 PM ET
This final event of the celebration will feature a lively reading of the Megiles Ester (Book of Ester) in Yiddish—as translated by the great poet Yehoash, featuring a cast of international readers. In alphabetical order, because that’s the only fair way:
- Rivka Augenfeld (Yiddish activist, Montreal, Canada),
- Cantor Arianne Brown (Adas Israel Congregation, Washington DC),
- Mendy Cahan (Founder of Israel’s Yung Yiddish),
- Jeanette Friedman (NYTF Board of Directors alumna),
- Rafael Goldwasser (Internationally renowned actor, Buenos Aires, Argentina),
- Anna Fishman Gonshor (Lecturer, McGill University, Montreal, Canada),
- Zalmen Mlotek (NYTF Artistic Director),
- Maia Morgenstern (Director, State Jewish Theater, Bucharest, Romania),
- Freidelle Mrocki (Singer and Yiddish teacher, Melbourne, Australia), and
- Shmuel Atzmon Wirtzer (Founder of Israel’s Yiddishpiel Theater).
Each event is available “on-demand” from its start time at https://nytf.org/.
The Hava Tequila Cabaret is available for limited time starting February 24 at 7 PM ET through Sunday February 28 at 7 PM ET. All other programs will remain on the website with free access.
History of Purim in a Nutshell
So you don’t have to read the ganze megillah (entire book)
So it is a festive holiday, kind of a Jewish Mardi Gras, with children especially dressing in costume and using noisemakers to symbolically scare away the bad guys who tried to exterminate us.
As with most Jewish holidays, the general theme is: they tried to kill us, we survived, so let’s give thanks and let’s eat.
And as with any special holiday celebrated by any religion, there are special holiday foods.
The traditional Purim sweet is the triangle-shaped hammentaschen, or Haman’s pocket. The name refers to Haman, the villain in the Purim story. It’s a cookie filled with poppy seed paste.
Don’t ask me why it’s poppy seed paste – as Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof – it’s a tradition.
Here’s a hammentaschen recipe from Delish.com
Bake them ahead in time to nibble while you watch the International Purim Celebraton.
Morre about the actors and others.
Hava Tequila Cabaret Participants (in alphabetical order)
Dani Apple was last seen in the Folksbiene’s production of The Sorceress. After growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, she graduated from The Boston Conservatory at Berklee with a BFA in musical theatre. Dani has previously performed regionally at Virginia Musical Theatre, The Barn Theatre, Cain Park, the Beck Center, and Traguna Productions. She has also performed in the Festival of New Musicals at the Goodspeed Opera House and in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Her favorite quarantine activity has been singing duets with her dog, Clarence!
Stephanie Lynne Mason NYTF credits include Hodl in Fidler Afn Dakh, Mirele in the 2017 production of Di Kishefmakherin and Gussie in Amerike, the Golden Land. Other favorites include covering the principal daughters in the 2015 Broadway Revival of Fiddler on the Roof, touring the country as Dyanne in Million Dollar Quartet, and having the opportunity to play Louise in Gypsy. Special thanks goes to Motl, Zalmen, Dominick, Jamibeth and everyone at NYTF, as well as Adam and especially Merete Muenter for helping make this video possible.
Adam B. Shapiro has been a Folksbiene regular for several years, beginning with the title role in Gimpel Tam, and appearing in The Megile of Itsik Manger, The Golden Bride, and as Der Rov in Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. Other Off-Broadway credits include Bastard Jones, Death of a Salesman (in Yiddish), The Boys from Syracuse, and The Mikado Re-imagined. TV/Film credits include The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Master of None, 30 Rock, The Mysteries of Laura, Friends From College, Adam Sandler’s The Cobbler, and the role of Bella in HBO’s Emmy-Winning film, The Normal Heart. Adam is also a MAC Award winning cabaret performer and his debut single, “Warm as Winter,” can be found on iTunes, Apple Music, and Spotify.
Daniella Rabbani is best known for her role as Rabbi Zoe in CBS’ God Friended Me. Upcoming projects include HBO’s Scenes from a Marriage (with her 17-month-old daughter Paz, who you may have seen in Folksbiene’s Chanukah Spectacular). Her directorial debut film OMA, inspired by her experience as a third generation Holocaust Survivor, is available on Amazon Prime. Daniella made her Off Broadway debut in Gimpel Tam and participated in countless concerts with Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek. It is her greatest privilege and joy (nakhes, if you will!) to sing Yiddish music. She is a local girl – a BFA: NYU Tisch/ Stella Adler Studio.
Lauren Jeanne Thomas is an actress and multi-instrumentalist, based in NYC. She was most recently seen as the Fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, Off-Broadway. Other recent credits include Once (Reza, Nat’l tour) and The Goree All-Girl String Band (NYMF).
Bobby Underwood is a Brooklyn-bred actor and comedian. Folksbiene credits include the Immigration Officer in Amerike – The Golden Land, the Organ Grinder in Di Kishefmakherin, and the Constable (Der Gradavoy) in the Drama Desk-winning Fiddler in the Roof in Yiddish. He is a lifelong fan of Tom Lehrer and is thrilled to revive a (slightly edited) Lehrer classic for Hava Tequila.
Mikhl Yashinsky. Born in Detroit, educated at Harvard. With the Folksbiene: Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish; The Sorceress (for which he was hailed by The New York Times for bringing a “keen, if malevolent, psychology” to the title role). Direction: Brundibár; The Happy Prince (Michigan Opera Theatre); Tosca (Lowell House Opera). Co-author of new Yiddish textbook In eynem (Yiddish Book Center) and translator of the memoirs of theatrical pioneer Ester-Rokhl Kaminska (forthcoming from Syracuse University Press). In 2019, Yashinsky was named to the Forward 50, the historic newspaper’s annual list of “influential, intriguing, and inspiring” American Jews.
Purim Celebration Participants (in alphabetical order)
Matthew “Motl” Didner is the Associate Artistic Director of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. Associate Director of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish (Winner of Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards) directed by Joel Grey, Co-director The Golden Bride (Drama Desk Award Nominated: Outstanding Revival of a Musical and Outstanding Direction of a Musical). Other directing credits include The Sorceress, Fyvush Finkel Live! (Drama Desk Award–nominated: Outstanding Musical Revue), Robert Brustein’s The King of Second Avenue, The Megile of Itzik Manger, The Pushcart Peddlers, The Marriage Contract. Yiddish coach An American Pickle starring Seth Rogen, The Immigrant at George Street Playhouse, and, New York City Opera’s Angels in America. Motl was an inaugural Translation Fellow at the Yiddish Book Center and teaches Yiddish language classes and theater workshops at the Workers Circle.
Zalmen Mlotek is an internationally recognized authority on Yiddish folk and theater music as well as a leading figure in the Jewish theatre and concert worlds. For the past 20 years, he has been the Artistic Director and conductor at Folksbiene. He brought Yiddish-Klezmer music to Broadway and Off-Broadway stages with the Tony-nominated Those Were the Days and Drama Desk-nominated Amerike – The Golden Land. He serves as Music Director for most Folksbiene productions, including the recent New York Times Critics Pick The Sorceress and Drama Desk-nominated musical The Golden Bride. His music can be heard in over two-dozen recordings and films and he has taught and performed all over the world and worked with countless singers. His vision brought the critically acclaimed award-winning Fidler Afn Dakh (Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish), directed by Joel Grey, for which he served as music director, to New York City.
About the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene
Now celebrating its 106th season, Tony Award-nominated and Drama Desk Award-winning National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) is the longest consecutively producing theatre in the U.S. and the world’s oldest continuously operating Yiddish theatre company. NYTF, which presented the award-winning Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, directed by Joel Grey, to sold out audiences before it moved to Off-Broadway uptown, is in residence at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek and Executive Director Dominick Balletta, NYTF is dedicated to creating a living legacy through the arts, connecting generations and bridging communities. NYTF aims to bring history to life by reviving and restoring lost and forgotten work, commissioning new work, and adapting pre-existing work for the 21st Century. Serving a diverse audience comprised of performing arts patrons, cultural enthusiasts, Yiddish-language aficionados, and the general public, the company presents plays, musicals, concerts, lectures, interactive educational workshops, and community-building activities in English and Yiddish, with English and Russian supertitles accompanying performances. NYTF provides access to a century-old cultural legacy and inspires the imaginations of the next generation to contribute to this valuable body of work. Learn more at www.nytf.org.
About the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is New York’s contribution to the global responsibility to never forget. The Museum is committed to the crucial mission of educating diverse visitors about Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust. The third largest Holocaust museum in the world and the second largest in North America, the Museum of Jewish Heritage anchors the southernmost tip of Manhattan, completing the cultural and educational landscape it shares with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage maintains a collection of almost 40,000 artifacts, photographs, documentary films, and survivor testimonies and contains classrooms, a 375-seat theater (Edmond J. Safra Hall), special exhibition galleries, a resource center for educators, and a memorial art installation, Garden of Stones, designed by internationally acclaimed sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. The Museum is the home of National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene.
Currently on view is the acclaimed exhibition Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. This is the most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the history of Auschwitz and its role in the Holocaust ever presented in North America, bringing together more than 700 original objects and 400 photographs from over 20 institutions and museums around the world.
Also on view are Ordinary Treasures: Highlights from the Museum of Jewish Heritage Collection and Rendering Witness: Holocaust-Era Art as Testimony.
The Museum receives general operating support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts.
For more information, visit mjhnyc.org.
More events of interest Feb. 22-25
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Friday, February 26, 2021
Saturday, February 27, 2021