AMHERST — The Yiddish Book Center in will present a weekend program, The Plays of Sholem Asch, Nov. 1-3.
Sholem Asch (1880-1957) was Yiddish literature’s first modern celebrity, almost a one-man global brand. Born in Poland in 1880, he shot to fame in the 1900s thanks to acclaimed productions of his early plays in Polish, German, and Russian translation. As Asch’s great-grandson David Mazower explains, “Long before he became a best-selling novelist, my great-grandfather was at the forefront of the modern Yiddish theater revolution of the 1900s. His plays really do mirror the Jewish experience—they explore migration, morality, gender, politics, spirituality, love, and lust.”
Asch’s prolific output of novels and plays included bestsellers in English translation and smash hits on the Yiddish stages of Warsaw and New York. While he is best-known today for his play Got fun nekome (God of Vengeance)—whose obscenity trial and frank depiction of two women in love inspired Paula Vogel’s Tony Award-winning hit Indecent—Asch wrote more than 20 more plays exploring interfaith love, the Jewish underworld, Messianic dreams, and class and power in the Jewish world.
The program will be led by three leading scholars of Asch and the Yiddish theater: Professor Joel Berkowitz, historian of the Yiddish theater and co-founder of the Digital Yiddish Theatre Project; Yiddish Book Center Bibliographer David Mazower; and actor, translator, and author Caraid O’Brien.
The three-day program will feature lectures titled “Becoming Sholem Asch,” “Women in Sholem Asch’s Dramas,” and“Sholem Asch’s Onstage Shtetl.” In addition to the lectures, Joel Berkowitz and Caraid O’Brien will lead a workshop session of selected readings from Asch’s plays in Yiddish and English translation, followed by a Q&A. The weekend will wrap up with David Mazower in conversation with Berkowitz and O’Brien.
Space is limited, so early registration is advised.
To learn more and to register, visit yiddishbookcenter.org/sholem-asch-weekend.