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The Essence: A Yiddish Theatre Dim Sum
Thursday, October 17th @ 3:00 PM
by and with
Allen Lewis Rickman,
and Steve Sterner
featuring the work of too many great
Yiddish authors and composers to list
Allen Lewis Rickman is best known as an actor from his performance in the Coen brothers’ Oscar-nominated A Serious Man (for which he also wrote the Yiddish-translated dialogue) and his recurring role on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. He has acted on Broadway (in Relatively Speaking), in numerous shows Off-Broadway (for the Mint, Mirror Rep, JRT, etc., including Theda Bara And The Frontier Rabbi in the York’s Mufti series), in dozens of regional theaters (Paper Mill, Cleveland Playhouse, Virginia Stage, et al), and in Yiddish theatre. Other film/TV acting credits include Barry Levinson’s Emmy-winning You Don’t Know Jack, John Turturro’s upcoming Fading Gigolo, and Law & Order: SVU; and he performed his own material on television onQuick Wits with Wayne Brady, Are We On? with Buck Henry, and Michael Moore’s The Awful Truth.
Rickman adapted, directed, and wrote supertitle translations for The Lady Next Door and A Novel Romance for the Folksbiene, and co-adapted, directed, acted in, and wrote translations for their Yiddish Pirates of Penzance, which was nominated for a Drama Desk award. He co-wrote and directed The Small Empire (A Music Hall Musical) on commission from New Jersey’s Centenary Stage Co., and co-wrote and directed The Big Bupkis! A Complete Gentile’s Guide To Yiddish Vaudeville for New Yiddish Rep. This past summer he directed and produced Dancing On Nails Off-Broadway; other directing credits include E.S.T., the Hasselfree competition at Lincoln Center, Pulse, and the Duplex.
His co-written farce Off The Hook was produced in Paris, Copenhagen, Luxembourg, and Madrid, and has had three regional productions stateside; his co-written-and-directed video “The Führer’s Funnyman” was broadcast nationally three times and singled out by the NY Times in their Broadcast Highlights. With his writing partner Karl Tiedemann he recently completed his first commissioned screenplay about, of all things, NASCAR.
Yelena Shmulenson-Rickman started singing and studying piano in her native Ukraine at the age of six; she emigrated to the U.S. with her family in 1993. She recently completed the run of The Golem of Havana at LaMama and will be reprising her role in Covers in St. Petersburg, Russia. Other stage credits include six seasons with the National Yiddish Theatre/Folksbiene, two seasons at the Ellis Island Theatre, Bronx Express and The Unlucky Man In A Yellow Cap (both Fringe NYC), Frank (‘Klezmatics’) London’s musical of A Night In the Old Marketplace, the tour of Lady of Copper, I.B. Singer’sEnemies: A Love Story in Russian, and Off-Off Broadway productions of Flowers For Algernon, H. Leivick’s Displaced Wedding, The Lilac Minyan, etc. TV: Boardwalk Empire (as ‘Mrs. Manny Horvitz’), Life On Mars. Film: Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd, Romeo And Juliet In Yiddish, and the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man, in which she played The Terrifying Shtetl Wife With An Icepick. Yiddish is her fifth language.
Steve Sterner is a native New Yorker who has appeared on Broadway in Oh, Brother! (and in the Mufti revival at the York), Yiddle With A Fiddle, andThe Sheik of Avenue B; Off-Broadway in That’s Life!, The Grand Tour, Kuni-Leml, Vagabond Stars, and many others. For years his voice was heard as the Singing Fire Hydrant on ABC-TV, and he succeeded Julius LaRosa as the star of The Spectacular Days of Radio at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. At the Folksbiene Yiddish Theater Steve performed in Double Identity, An American Family, Yentl, A Novel Romance, Hershele Ostropolyer, and as ‘The Pirate King’ in Di Yam Gazlonim, the Yiddish version of The Pirates of Penzance.
As a pianist Steve conducted and played keyboard for A Yiddish Vaudeville starring the late Bruce Adler and 1040, a new musical with Mike Burstyn. He has accompanied Robert Merrill, Jerry Vale, Joan Collins, Joanne Woodward, and many others. As a composer, Steve wrote the scores for the musicals Loversand Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, which have been performed in the U.S. and all over the world. He has composed music for and accompanied over three hundred silent films at Film Forum in New York (where he is the house pianist) as well as at Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the Moving Image, and BAM Rose Cinemas at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. As a cruciverbalist, Steve has constructed crossword and acrostic puzzles for the New York Times and other national publications.
Matt Temkin When not designing the type for those challenged in Yiddish, Matt can be found working as a drummer and percussionist. He is the house drummer at the Steven Wise Free Synagogue, and played On Second Avenue and A Yiddish Vaudeville for the National Yiddish Theatre/Folksbiene. He is currently finishing his Master’s Degree in Musicology at Brooklyn College where he is writing his thesis on rhythm sections in Post-World War II American Jewish recordings. He thanks his bicycle for providing many hours of exercise.
Written and Directed by Allen Lewis Rickman
Musical Direction and Arrangements by Steve Sterner
Graphics by Kenny Funk/Coffee Cup Design
Supertitles designed by Matt Temkin
Supertitle Operator: Shane Baker
Special Thanks To
New Yiddish Rep, Dr. Jeffrey Veidlinger, Dr. Joel Rubin, YIVO and its excellent staff, The Dorot Collection at NYPL, The Picture Collection at NYPL, Fyvush Finkel, The Congress for Jewish Culture, the late Sheila Rubell, Melanie Mintz, Motl Didner, Herb Latner.
An earlier version of The Essence: A Yiddish Theatre Dim Sum was published in the anthology Yiddishkeit (Abrams, 2011; Harvey Pekar & Paul Buhle, eds.)