American Premiere of pleytem tsuzamen (Refugees Together)
National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) proudly announces production on the American premiere of pleytem tsuzamen (Refugees Together), a new Yiddish theatrical concert from creator Josh Waletzky and director Michael Barakiva, running for two performances only. Purchase tickets here.
pleytem tsuzamen (Refugees Together) is a call for solidarity with those who are most threatened. Confronting our current reality, the songs present a dynamic fusion of traditional forms with the social, political, and personal challenges posed by the world today — and they embody the power of music to foster the courage we need to “link arms and take to the streets together against bloodshed and hatred.”
The cast includes Daniel Kahn (voice, accordion, guitar), Sveta Kundish (voice), Sasha Lurje (voice), Polina Shepherd (voice, piano), Josh Waletzky (voice), Merlin Shepherd (clarinet), Ilya Shneyveys (accordion, piano), Jake Shulman-Ment (violin), Beth Silver (cello), and Deborah Strauss (violin).
Waletzky wrote these songs for this chosen group of master Yiddish singers and instrumentalists—the foremost contemporary performers on the global Yiddish scene. The work was first presented in a workshop concert in July 2019 at the Yiddish Summer Weimar festival, where it originally was commissioned.
In the resurgent interest in Yiddish theater of the past decades, one gap has stood out. “Where is the newly-written material, Yiddish texts written today, about our world today?” pleytem tsuzamen (Refugees Together) answers that question resoundingly. Michael Barakiva directs the production, which features music and lyrics written by Josh Waletzky and a new book by Jeyn Levison. Levison also serves as creative producer. The production features sand art by Ukrainian Jewish artist Zhenya Lopatnik. The show will be presented with supertitles in English and Ukrainian.
National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene presents the American premiere, long-delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 26, 2023 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. at Edmond J. Safra Hall at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, in Battery Park City.
Josh Waletzky is the foremost Yiddish songwriter of the 21st century. Ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin has called him “the poet laureate of new Yiddish songwriting. He blends a deep sensitivity to poetics and heartfelt messages with a native’s ear for the sinuous and sensual sound of eastern European Jewish melody.” Critic Seth Rogovoy has written, “If Stephen Sondheim wrote in the language and musical idiom of his forebears, he would be Joshua Waletzky.”
To date, institutional support for pleytem tsuzamen comes from The League for Yiddish, The Yiddish Book Center, Western States Center, Yiddish New York, and The YIVO Institute.