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Yiddish Theatre

The Architecture of Evil Intruding on the Innocence and Awareness of a Jewish Adolescent in Hiding: The Diary of Anne Frank at the Media Theatre
By Henrik Eger
I have seen many productions of “The Diary of Anne Frank” around the world, including those where the stage designers meticulously replicated the cramped quarters of the hiding place at 263 Prinsengra
Hidden Inside The Amsterdam Attic: A Guide to The Secret Diary of Anne Frank
By Henrik Eger
I was deeply moved by your performance. As someone who has seen ANNE FRANK around the world, I have never witnessed a production which showed as much pain, joy, and exuberance the way yours did.
Defanged Fagin, Abused Children, and Oliver! The Annual 'Cash Cow'
By Henrik Eger
Sometimes, events are so horrid and so deeply covered by the scar tissues of the victims, that it can take several years before one stumbles across hidden information. While talking with the president of the World Federation of Jewish Holocaust Child Survivors (WFJHCS) on the way to see OLIVER!, I discovered some unexpected aspects of the way Jewish children were treated during the Nazi period. Even though the two performances of OLIVER! in Britain and the United States took place two years ago,
It's Never Too Late to recover Jewish History:Back to The Boulevard
By Henrik Eger
A review of Back to the Boulevard and an effective process for interviewing Jewish communities and transforming their stories into an onstage production

Back to the Boulevard by Julianne (Bernstein) Theodoropulos invites us to travel to the past, to Depression-era Northeast Philadelphia, and meet Jewish “settlers” who turned fields and farms into a thriving community, complete with homes, shops, including kosher stores, and restaurants, all centered around Temple Shalom, a world of much joy an
Potok, Potok, and Posner: Asher Lev’s journey from the novel to the play
By Henrik Eger
The genesis of Chaim Potok’s MY NAME IS ASHER LEV,
based on interviews with his wife, Adena Potok, and Aaron Posner, playwright and artistic director of the world premiere at the Arden Theatre, Philadelphia
“Don’t ask me what happened. It’s best not to know!”: A DYBBUK, or Between two worlds
By Henrik Eger
The United States, one of the world’s richest and most powerful countries, is experiencing such bad economic times that many cultural institutions are struggling. Worse, to the chagrin of many members of the theatre world, more and more established and respected theatres are forced to close their doors for good, including the very active and innovative Arizona Jewish Theatre and the much talked-about Jewish Theatre of San Francisco.
Inside the Brain and Heart of Shylock, the Jew: The Quintessential Merchant of Venice
By Henrik Eger
Depending on the Zeitgeist, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE has been used to stoke anti-Semitic feelings in theater-goers for centuries. In its worst form, this controversial Shakespeare play got full support from the Nazi cultural establishment, under the condition that the wedding of the Jewish daughter with her Christian husband had to be cut out as marriages between Jews and “Aryans” were not allowed.
Flowers and Applause for a Theatre Critic: Irene Backalenick’s 90th birthday
Irene Backalenick is turning 90 on August 12, 2011. Last year, she wrote, “who knows when i’ll run out of steam and collapse —but i expect to exit this life, when it happens, sitting in the fifth row center watching a marvelous play…..irene
From Sholem Aleichem and Chagall to the Fiddler on the Roof: A short glossary of historical events, characters, and actors
By Henrik Eger
Fiddler on the Roof is one of the best conceptualized, written, and composed musicals in theatre history. Based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem, it deals with life from as wide and broad a range of perspectives as could be found in musical theatre, including “persecution, poverty, and the struggle to hold on to one's beliefs in the midst of a hostile and chaotic environment.” This musical of musicals was performed in a magnificent production at the Walnut Street Theatre Philadelphia, the oldes
Leni Riefenstahl: Hitler’s Film Jezebel or Female Faustus?
By Henrik Eger
Doctor Faustus, alchemist and astrologer in Germany during the Renaissance, wanted to discover everything there was to be discovered and become rich and famous. He therefore made a pact with the devil, who wanted only one small thing—his soul.
Portrait of the Amazing Irene Backalenick, Doyenne of Jewish Theatre Critics
By Henrik Eger
In her 90th year, Backalenick is still navigating her way through the labyrinth of New York, unafraid of searching for new basement theaters or of mingling with the festive crowd at an opening on Broadway
Gather your insights and an ounce of chutzpah: On becoming a theatre reviewer
By Henrik Eger
Congratulations on having found your way to the world of learning about drama, theatre history, directing, playwriting, dramaturgy, and acting. Most likely, you have studied with one or more knowledgeable teachers or professors of theatre arts who have encouraged and inspired you to move forward. In this letter to you, I would like to show you how you can apply what you have learned at your high school, college, or university to writing your first theatre review. Working toward publishing your w
“Haunt me no longer!": Redemption for Bernie Madoff, the American Scrooge, in 2011?
By Henrik Eger
Since the Madoff scandal hit America, Dickens’ CHRISTMAS CAROL is becoming a play about Madoff—by default. And going by the most recent events, the question arises, will there be redemption for Bernie Madoff in 2011?
An interview with Irene Backalenick, Doyenne of Jewish Theatre Critics
By Henrik Eger
Irene Backalenick, one of the most prolific critics of Jewish theatre in New York City and Connecticut for many years, recently wrote her 100th review for All About Jewish Theatre. In honor of that event and to celebrate her 89th birthday on August 12, 2010, AAJT presents this interview with deep gratitude.
From Itzhak Perlman to becoming one of the best fiddlers on the roof: Interview with Alexander Sovronsky, floating and fiddling on the roofs of the Walnut Street Theatre shtetl
By Henrik Eger
Alexander, I was profoundly moved by your presence on stage. You and your music pulled on many a heart-string, many a brain-string in the audience. I saw you as the figurehead of a ship in 1905, forced to leave Russia for good, but also as the chronicler and good spirit that stays behind to support those Jews who did not know that worse was yet to come.
The Sexual and Political Chameleon of Berlin:The Ambiguities of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf’s Life in I Am My Own Wife
By Henrik Eger
One of Germany’s most famous Jewish poets in the 1930s, Else was attacked viciously by Nazi thugs in Berlin and fled to Switzerland. Eventually, she made it to her beloved Palestine where she was not allowed by the rabbis to give her famous poetry readings because they were in German—in spite of her protests and references to Theodor Herzl, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, and many other Jewish writers and leaders who had written in German, too.
An Unlikely Pair and the Lessons They Teach Us through Metronome Ticking
By Kira Loretto
These hauntingly beautiful instructions are the beginning lines of Metronome Ticking, a powerful docudrama that I had the fortune to take in last week at Temple University. The play, which takes place in Nazi occupied Europe during the rise of the Third Reich, is based on the real life letters of two individuals divided by the war—one, a Third Reich Correspondent and Propaganda Officer, the other an Austrian Holocaust survivor fleeing persecution with her family. The disparate story lines are wo
"Why is it so hard to be a Jew?": The yearning for acceptance and love in Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass
By Henrik Eger
“Sylvia was in my body. Almost scary,” said Renee Weisband, Artistic Director of Isis Productions, about her role as Sylvia Gellburg, the troubled heroine of Arthur Miller’s only all-Jewish play, Broken Glass, and performed at the Walnut Street Theatre Studio in Philadelphia. Sylvia, a Brooklyn woman, identifies so much with the victims of the infamous Kristallnacht in Germany in November 1938 that she loses all feeling in her legs and can no longer walk, becoming as bedridden and horrified by h
Visiting Jewish War Veterans, Visiting Mr. Green
By Henrik Eger
Some time ago, the Jewish War Veterans of Delaware County (near Philadelphia) invited me to conduct a workshop, “We are what we say.” Being German and non-Jewish, I almost felt like a modern-day Daniel entering a Jewish lions’ den. I went to the synagogue extra early to get to know the World War II veterans a bit better before the program began. The educational director had promised not to reveal my nationality to anyone, but almost everyone asked me all the same. I told them that I would share
You may go, but forever be my friend: American premiere of powerful Nathan the Wise at the People’s Light and Theatre
By Henrik Eger
The Nazi propaganda machinery juxtaposes those images with “healthy” Germans: Aryans, the true rulers of the world. Christianity, “German Christianity,” is portrayed as the only true religion. It’s against this background that German theatres reconsider their repertoire: Nathan the Wise becomes Nathan the Muffled, Nathan the Invisible, and then Nathan Who?—in spite of various protests by intellectuals and theatre people here and there. German theatres are told in no uncertain terms that Nathan t
Dear Naava Piatka
By Henrik Eger
When I met you at the international conference of the Association for Jewish Theatre in Vienna two years ago, I was immediately struck by your passion for theatre, for the arts, for people. And when I saw you up on stage, bringing parts of the past into our own lives, I was fighting tears, but, at the same time, you also made me laugh and feel empowered by your art, your work, your life.
Anne Frank, Alive in Philadelphia
By Henrik Eger
I never thought I would witness the day when I would see Anne Frank liberated, alive in the city of brotherly love: Anne Frank, remembered as the author of the world’s most famous diary and as the heroine of historical dramas and films, the girl who inspired countless period pieces, performed in schools all over the country.
Vienna, Detroit, Jerusalem: Thought-provoking Jewish Theatre Conferences on Three Continents
By Henrik Eger
While driving from Philadelphia to Michigan, I found it difficult to imagine a conference that could match last year's spectacular International Theatre Conference in Vienna, Austria. However, the Association for Jewish Theatre (AJT) and the Jewish Ensemble Theatre’s (JET) Artistic Director Evelyn Orbach ensured that this year’s conference in Detroit brought together some of the best Jewish and pro-Jewish theatre professionals and board members from the US and Canada, and from as far as Berlin,
Inside the heart of Darkness: Metronome Ticking at Kristallnacht world premiere in Germany
By Henrik Eger
The son of a Holocaust survivor and the son of a Third Reich officer together on stage:
METRONOME TICKING, Kristallnacht world premiere in Germany
Dov and Ali: Women as victims or bridge builders?
By Henrik Eger
DOV AND ALI — Women as victims or bridge builders?:
Open letter to the President of the Muslim Women's Coalition and the President of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance
Driving Miss Daisy toward the US Elections
By Henrik Eger
No subject gets discussed more often and more vehemently around the world than the sharp decline of the American economy and the upcoming election between a Democratic African-American presidential candidate and his white Republican opponent. I do not know many plays that made me think of these hard and challenging times as much as Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry—a writer who intimately knows not only the Jewish world, but the tension and underlying racial currents in the United States—the onl
Location, location, location: How theatre critics construct and deconstruct 'The Producers' in Berlin and in Philadelphia
Adolf Hitler liked the grand, 1,750-seat Admiralspalast Theater in Berlin so much that he had a huge royal box built for him and his Nazi entourage to see a fare of his favorites: light operettas like The Merry Widow which he saw during World War II. Little did he know that three generations later, he would be ridiculed at the same theatre with the gay mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, sitting in that famous, although now reduced, royal box during opening night of The Producers by Mel Brooks and
Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story on Stage
By Henrik Eger
He was Jewish, young, handsome, rich, educated, and had a higher IQ than most people anywhere in the US. And yet, he failed, gave in to his obsession with Richard Loeb, his best friend and object of his admiration, and, together in 1924, they made legal history. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb lured Bobby Franks, a young kid in Chicago, into their car, stuffed a gag into his mouth, crashed a heavy chisel against his skull four times, and carried his naked, still-warm body into a culvert along th
Jewish Titans clashing in Israel and the US: House, Divided by Larry Loebell
By Henrik Eger
My grandfather, a military officer during WWI brought up his sons to believe in militarism as a kind of religion where Germany had to be defended against evil on a permanent basis. One of his sons, my father, although critical of his father’s life, became a propaganda officer and foreign correspondent in Occupied France during WWII, where he vehemently supported the Third Reich. My father had nothing but negative things to say about Jewish people whom he clearly did not know, let alone understan
Changing the world, one play at a time: Israeli/Palestinian Play Festival at Philadelphia’s Interact Theatre
By Henrik Eger
Although Philadelphia is separated from Jerusalem by 9313 kilometers (or 5787 miles), in the city of Brotherly Love feelings still run high among Jewish-Americans on Israeli-Palestinian issues. The Interact Theatre, under Artistic Director Seth Rozin, which aims to “change the world, one play at a time,” presented free staged readings of four plays (see below) and a panel discussion as part of the Israeli-Palestinian Theatre Festival, all centered around the world premiere of Larry Loebell’s Hou
World premiere of a Jewish “Danse Macabre” based on I.L. Peretz’s Yiddish play Bei Nakht Oyfn Altn Mark
By Henrik Eger
According to Glen Berger, who wrote the book and lyrics for Marketplace, “Peretz’s original play is filled to brimming with moving, startling poetry, but is lacking in anything that could be called ‘plot’.” Not wanting to lose the poetry of the play, he and composer Frank London and director Alexandra Aron (who conceptualized the project), “married it to music, with many of Peretz’s original lines either directly incorporated into song or inspiring the songs.”

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