— Bibliographic Items

Yiddish Theater: A Love Story

Material Type: 
Katzir Films, New Love Productions

Directed by Dan Katzir

This film tells a dual tale. The first is of Zypora Spaisman, who dedicated her life to keeping Yiddish theater and culture alive into the 21st century and the hardships which that entailed. The film, shot over the last eight days of the year 2000, follows the last eight days of her production of Peretz Hirschbein's 1916 Yiddish play, Grine Felder (Green Fields). These eight days coincided with the eight days of Chanuka. Throughout the film, the viewer is exposed to what seems like a hopeless battle to find funding for the last remaining Yiddish theater company in New York City.

       The other story told is of Yiddish theater itself, some of its history in the United States and some of the people, plays and songs that made it happen and kept it alive. Throughout the film different integral figures of Yiddish theater are interviewed, for instance, Spaisman herself, Shifra Lerer who discusses and plays music of hers and her husband, Ben Zion Vitler, who helped give Mel Brooks his first break. Additionally, this film contains the final interview of Seymour Rechtzeit, who also gives a tour of the abandoned office of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance, where the viewer is exposed to many lost treasures of the Yiddish theater world such as piles of the original scores for many of the old plays.

          An additional important aspect of the film is the fact that since it circles around the final week of the production of Grine Felder, many scenes of the production are interspersed throughout the film. These scenes provide a unique look at a genuine Yiddish play, from the language, to the costumes, to the set designs, and the music. Three songs are sung on stage including Hirshbein's Melach Faint and Die Nacht. The rest of the extra-diegetic soundtrack is comprised of many Yiddish songs that play a prominent role in the film. These songs are:

1. Margarikalach - Performed by Martha Schlamme (Zalman Schnuer)

2. My Yiddishe Momme - Performed by Mike Burstyn (Jack Yellen)

3. Rumania Rumania - Performed by Mike Burstyn (Aaron Lebedoff)

4. Chiribim Chiribim - Performed by the Barry Sisters (Robert S. Applebaum)

5. Tumba Tumba - Performed by Martha Schlamme

6. Rozhinkes mit Mandelen - Performed by Martha Schlamme (Avrom Goldfaden)

7. Wie Nemi Men a Bissale Mazel - Performed by the Barry Sisters (Ben Zion Vitler)

8. Bei Mir Bist du Shein (means that you're grand) - Performed by The Andrew Sisters (Sholom Secunda, Jacob Jacobs, Saul Chaplin and Sammy Cahn)

9. Motole Ben Zion Vitler and Shifra Lerer (Mordkhei Gebirtig)

10. Oyfn Prepetchik - Performed by Ben Zion Vitler (Mark Warshavsky)

11. Uj Wei Dij Keinmol nit Farbalten - Performed by Ben Zion Vitler

12. Bie Dem Shtetl - Performed by Martha Schlamme (Zalmen Rozental)

13. Dos Pastuchi - Performed by Martha Schlamme (Zishe Wainper)

14. S'loifn S'yugn Schwartze Wolkn - Performed by Martha Schlamme (Hersh David Nomberg)

15. Melach Faint - Performed by Joad Kohn (Peretz Hirshbein)

16. Die Nacht - Performed by the Yiddish Public Theater (Peretz Hirshbein)

Trailer to the film: