After many years of development, a pandemic delay and a lot of sweat, I’m pleased that the theatrical production of “Hester Street,” based on the film by Joan Micklin Silver, is finally happening. Joan worked closely with us on the adaptation when we first got started and my only regret is that she didn’t live to see the result. I’m confident that she would have been very pleased.
The first out-of-town production will be in Washington DC with an official opening date of April 1. You can read the details in the press release below, which went out earlier today. Tickets are already on sale at THIS LINK.
If you would like to get involved, you can make a fully tax-deductible contribution here… Donate to Theater J Hester Street.
If you would rather invest in the commercial production of the show, just contact me directly.
Here is the complete press release:
For Immediate Release 10/23/23
OLIVER BUTLER TO DIRECT STAGE ADAPTATION OF
JOAN MICKLIN SILVER’S “HESTER STREET”
Sharyn Rothstein’s new play-with-music will have its world premiere in the Spring of 2024
A new adaptation for the stage of Joan Micklin Silver’s 1976 critically acclaimed film, HESTER STREET will have its world premiere on April 1, 2024, at Theater J in Washington DC, it was announced today by Producers Michael Rabinowitz and Ira Deutchman. The play-with-music adaptation was written by Sharyn Rothstein and will be directed by Oliver Butler. The new original music was written by Joel Waggoner.
Butler has an established career directing in New York and throughout the country, having helmed the Pulitzer and Tony Award-Nominated What the Constitution Means to Me, alongside serving as the Co-Artistic Director of The Debate Society.
Rothstein is an award-winning playwright. Her play By the Water was first produced by Manhattan Theater Club and Ars Nova and was the recipient of the American Theater Critics Association Francesca Primus Prize. Other plays include Tell Me I’m Not Crazy (Williamstown Theater Festival), All the Days (McCarter Theater Center) and Right to Be Forgotten (D.C.’s Arena Stage and Chicago’s Raven Theater). Her television work includes having been a writer/producer of Suits, currently the most streamed show on both Netflix and Peacock.
Joel Waggoner is a singer/songwriter, composer, performer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, teacher, and comedian who can currently be seen on Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building.”
“It is a profound time and opportunity to be working on a play about such a critical and beautiful immigrant experience in New York City” says Butler. “Hester Street tells the story of people as they learn to become a part of a new world, where the act of becoming requires letting go of the past, but retaining enough of yourself to survive. These characters each tell a story that we are experiencing today in our own way, as the world changes and we hope we might exist in it in whatever future emerges. I’m delighted to be a part of it, and to better understand more parts of myself in the process.”
The upcoming production of Hester Street is also a celebration of the late Joan Micklin Silver’s legacy as a writer and director of iconic films. Silver adapted the story from the 1896 novella “Yekl” by Abraham Cahan, the founder of the Jewish Daily Forward. The film was released to rave reviews in 1975 and won Carol Kane an Oscar-nomination for her portrayal as Gitl; a young Jewish immigrant who has trouble assimilating into her new life on the Lower East Side. The film also stars the late Doris Roberts. Hester Street was recently restored by Cohen Media Group and continues to play at theaters across the country.
“The first time I saw the film it took my breath away” Rothstein explained “My great-grandmother came to America alone as a 16-year-old girl and raised her family just north of Delancey Street. The story is personal and rooted in the history of the Lower East Side but is also a universal story about immigrants and refugees who were willing to risk everything to give their children a better life. It’s a story as old as our nation and just as relevant today. With its richness of character, inherent theatricality, and Yiddish humor (that never gets old), I know Hester Street will speak to my generation as beautifully as it spoke to the generation that first encountered Carol Kane in a truly groundbreaking role”.
The world premiere of Hester Street is part of the inaugural season of Theater J’s new Artistic Director, Hayley Finn, who comes to the institution from Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis. Theater J is a nationally renowned, professional theater that celebrates, explores, and struggles with the complexities and nuances of both the Jewish experience and the universal human condition. The production will be one of the most ambitious in its history.
Rabinowitz is an independent Theatrical Producer and has worked at such institutions as McCarter Theater Center, The Public Theater, and The John Gore Organization. Ira Deutchman is a prolific Film Producer, marketer and distributor, as well as a Professor in the School of the Arts at Columbia University. This is his first theatrical project.
Following the world premiere, the producers intend to shepherd the production to Broadway.
More information at http://hesterstreettheplay.com.