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News Release

Lovin Yiddish Theatre In Leeds
August 1, 2004

YIDDISH theatre is alive and kicking as packed houses that attended two performances of On 2nd Avenue by Canadian troupe Wandering Stars will testify.

A splinter group of the famous Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre in Montreal, the six-strong troupe, making its European bow, gave a nostalgic musical tour tracing the history of Yiddish music from Eastern Europe to Second Avenue on New York's Lower East Side where vaudeville flourished.

The founder's daughter and artistic director Bryna Wasserman said: "Yiddish theatre is very important to us. We are preserving the literature, history and language.

"It's important to show the world, especially with antisemitism around, that there are Canadian cousins devoted to spreading the language and culture of Yiddishkeit in the event of adversity.

"We look everyone in eye and say we are hear to be contended with, we are responsible for maintaining our culture, our Yiddishkeit and no matter what is happening in the Europe we want to be present.

"This is an affirmation of our survival."

For comic double act Aron Gonshor and Sam Stein there is simply nothing like seeing the reaction of audiences to Yiddish-based music and comedy.

Gonshor said: "There is something very special about Yiddish music and humour. It creates in you a passion and is hard to put your finger on why, but it's a combination of knowing that through that venue you are able to create a kaleidoscope of cultural values that you grew up with.

"It transmits to the actor and audience, and the trick is to be able to send that Yiddish transmission across the stage to the audience and to bring it out.

"We are lucky because you can see an immediate response as it is within so many people. The music and laughter in Yiddish somehow brings it out.

"It's a very big key that can open up the door.

He added: "There is something very special about Yiddish humour.

"Over centuries, Jews have developed a very stinging self-deprecating humour, a way of being able to deal with the world, with its trials and tribulations. It is remarkable.

"Passion is held inside every person and is released at certain points. Yiddish taps into that passion that everyone has and when we bring it out, it erupts.

"Yiddish brings out very strong emotions. People laugh, cry and wonder what happened to them because they have no control over that emotion. That is the magic of theatre, stage and Yiddish, it is the magic of music and song."

Stein added: "The programme has some of the best songs and vaudeville acts that took place on Second Avenue in its heyday during the early part of the 20th century when it was known as the Yiddish Broadway.

"There were hundreds of wonderful theatres with countless number of stars that enticed people to come in.

"The comedy element is my personal favourite, there is nothing that touches me more than making people laugh. Day-to-day existence can be very trying, so this is an escape. It is a visceral response.

"We recognise that the passion is there to deliver that gift to the audience. We are just facilitating the transmission.

"To take a person through that type of rollercoaster emotional ride is an incredible thing.

"Technology has also helped because so few people can translate Yiddish. By displaying sub-titles on a large screen brings Yiddish to a wider audience."

© 2004 Jewish Telegraph