The 104-year old National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) has launched its Fall extension of the critically-acclaimed, Joel Grey-directed Yiddish language production of the ageless classic Fiddler on the Roof, playing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (MJH) by dedicating its Monday, September 3rd 7PM performance to the memory of its longtime friend and collaborator Theodore Bikel.
A champion of the Yiddish language and Jewish culture, Bikel starred in Fiddler on the Roof over 2,200 times, holding the record for having played the iconic role of Tevye more than any actor in the show’s history. His work lives on though his wife Aimee Ginsburg Bikel who oversees the Theodore Bikel Legacy Project, a foundation that perpetuates the ideas and passions that were wellsprings of Theodore Bikel’s work. Bikel’s last public appearance was at NYTF’s 2015 KulturfestNYC, the 1st International Festival of Jewish Performing Arts, where he was honored with a lifetime achievement award. Bikel was a firm believer in investing in the next generation as means of passing on cultural identity.
“Theo’s connections to the role of Tevye, to the Yiddish language, and to the NYTF were very deep”, says Aimee Ginsburg Bikel, “…and this production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ in the original language of Sholom Aleichem, author of the original works on ‘Tevye the Dairyman’, would have moved him greatly. The last film he made, ‘Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem’, explored these themes. We are thrilled that the NYTF is dedicating this performance to Theo, and that this production has found such a wide and enthralled audience.”
NYTF Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek adds, “Theo was a dear friend of the NYTF Folksbiene, and we will never forget his contributions to Yiddish music.”
“Outside of the world of performance, Theo was a brilliant human rights advocate, proponent of celebrating heritage and diversity, and union leader”, said NYTF CEO Chris Massimine, adding, “It is fitting that on Labor Day we commemorate our extension by honoring his commitment to ushering a divided world closer together.”
The Yiddish language Fiddler on the Roof is based on the Tevye the Dairyman vignettes by Sholem Aleichem and is translated by Shraga Friedman. Tony Award winning Fiddler lyricist Sheldon Harnick and producer/director Harold Prince have been consulting with NYTF on the production. In addition to Joel Grey, the creative team features choreography and musical staging by Staś Kmieć, music direction by NYTF Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek, casting by Jamibeth Margolis, C.S.A., and an all-star design team of Tony Award winners and nominees including set design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Ann Hould-Ward, sound design by Dan Moses Schreier, lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski, wig and hair design by Tom Watson, and props design by Addison Heeren.
The Yiddish language Fiddler on the Roof plays Off Broadway at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Edmond J. Safra Plaza, 36 Battery Place, through October 25th. To echo Theodore Bikel’s ideological and artistic notions, subject to availability, NYTF will be allotting a limited number of $40 tickets for individuals 40 years of age or younger for Fiddler’s Fall extension. Using code 40Fiddler, those tickets can be ordered over the phone, online, or at the box office and must be claimed by presenting a government issued photo ID. The show is presented with English and Russian supertitles. Learn more at www.NYTF.org.