Veteran stage actor Mike Burstyn back in Israel to costar in Yiddishpiel production

Music for the production was composed by Dov Seltzer, and the director of the play is Tzedi Tzarfati, who confesses that he does not speak Yiddish, but says it doesn’t matter.

October 11, 2014 21:44
2 minute read.
Mike Burstyn

American-Israeli actor Mike Burstyn. (photo credit: Courtesy)

American-Israeli stage and screen actor Mike Burstyn will be back in Israel to co-star with Jacob Bodo in the Yiddishpiel production of Nikolai Gogol’s immortal classic comedy of errors The Government Inspector, also known as The Inspector General, that began on October 9 and will run through to December 6, with most performances at the Arison Theater Hall in Tel Aviv, which is the new home of Yiddishpiel.

Music for the production was composed by Dov Seltzer, and the director of the play is Tzedi Tzarfati, who confesses that he does not speak Yiddish, but says it doesn’t matter, because he’s very familiar with Gogol – in Hebrew translation, of course.

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From Tzarfati’s perspective, the director has to know the nuances of the play, but not necessarily the language.

As is the case with all Yiddishpiel productions, Der Revisor, as it is called in Yiddish, will also be performed in Rishon Lezion, Eilat, Herzliya, Netanya, Bat Yam, Ashdod, Or Akiva, Yagur, Beersheba, Kiryat Motzkin, Jerusalem, Kiryat Haim, Rehovot, Ashkelon and Givatayim.

Burstyn, who made his initial stage appearance as a very young child, was in Israel last year on a celebration tour to mark his 60th anniversary in show business.

He has appeared in several Yiddishpiel productions since the company was founded by actor Shmuel Atzmon-Wircer in 1987 with the backing of Shlomo Lahat, who was then the mayor of Tel Aviv and an avid Yiddish theater enthusiast.

Initial audience response was largely positive, and against all odds Atzmon-Wircer cultivated a new, young audience, which was almost as loyal to Yiddish Theater as the patrons for whom Yiddish was a first language. In building up a following, Atzmon-Wircer did something very clever: he took in actors and budding actors from the former Soviet Union who were finding it difficult to break into Israeli theater because their Hebrew wasn’t good enough and their Russian accents were too thick. He had his wife coach them in the pronunciation and meaning of Yiddish texts, and some of them spoke such a beautiful Lithuanian-style Yiddish on stage that it was difficult to comprehend that this was far from Mama Loshen for them.

At the same time Atzmon-Wircer introduced simultaneous Russian translation for the relatives and friends of his performers, and thus ensured full house after full house. The actors began to feel more confident – and better still, they began to understand their lines.

Yiddishpiel’s extensive repertoire includes Yiddish classics, plus Yiddish translations of popular works by Israeli, American, French, Russian and Spanish playwrights. The company has toured abroad extensively and has participated in numerous Jewish and specifically Yiddish culture festivals.

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