An Up-and-Coming Musical Theater Star’s Crash Course in Yiddish

editor Wednesday 12 July 2017 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share by email Printer friendly

By Marjorie Ingall.. Or: How to act in a foreign language you don’t speak, while simultaneously singing and dancing. Stephanie Lynne Mason has luminous eyes as huge and dark as an anime character’s. “I’m not gonna lie,” she told me with a sigh, “I had a total meltdown the other night. I just sat there sobbing at my keyboard for about 15 minutes. This show feels like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time.” It was week one of rehearsal for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s show Amerike, which runs July 10-Aug. 6. I’d asked NYTF if I could follow a young non-Jewish, non-Yiddish-speaking actor from casting to first performance, and they introduced me to Mason, one of the leads. I figured I’d be shadowing her for six months or so. On the first day of rehearsal, I learned that performances started in three weeks.

NYTF is legit off-Broadway theater. The company, now in its 103rd consecutive season, co-produced this year’s Tony-winning play IndecentAmerike’s creative team has a raft of Tony and Drama Desk nominations to its credit. Mason and three of the other leads have done a host of Broadway shows and national tours. Detroit-born Daniel Kahn, the show’s only Yiddish speaker, fronts a klez-punk-cabaret band and co-headlined NYTF’s third annual Yiddish Soul concert at Central Park SummerStage last month. (His performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in Yiddish, published the day before news broke of Cohen’s death, is a showstopper, with nearly a half-million YouTube hits.)

In other words, this is not amateur hour. Read the full story.



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