Yiddishpiel Celebrates Sholem Aleichem’s 150th Birthday

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Treistman, Atzmon-Wirtzer and Bodo in The Little People

The Yiddishpiel Theatre presented a festive performance of The Little People (De Kleine Mentshelach)  by Sholem Aleichem on May 15, 2010, celebrating 150 years to his birth. This production was directed by Shmuel Atzmon-Wirtzer, Director and founder of the Yiddishpiel, and performed by Atzmon-Wirtzer, Yaacov Bodo and Israel Treistman, in the presence of Knesset Member Dr. Lea Nass-Arden, Deputy Minister of Pensioner Affairs and Bat-Sheva Shtrauchler, Deputy Chair of the Israel Women’s Network.

Bat-Sheva Shtrauchler, Shmuel Atzmon-Wirtzer and Dr. Lea Nass-Arden/Photo: Itzik Biran

Composed of comic and satirical sketches by Sholem Aleichem, the play was first adapted to the stage by Eliyahu Goldenberg and premiered in 1962 with Goldenberg, Atzmon-Wirtzer, and Shmuel Rudenski. The current version premiered at the Israel Festival in 2009.

The Little People brings the gentle humor of Sholem Aleichem to life, with many of three of his most beloved characters making an appearance: Tuvia the Milkman, his wife Golda and Menachem Mendel. The play is set in the town of Kasrilevke, where the swamp in the center of town is, according to Sholem Aleichem, the epitome of beauty. The townspeople are poor, but their dreams are rich and lavish – especially Tuvia’s. Menachem Mendel convinces Tuvia to become a partner in his stock exchange business, and promises him great wealth. Tuvia gives Menachem Mendel his little bit of hard-earned money, and already imagines himself rich as a Rothschild. However, this venture, as all those of Menachem Mendel’s, ends in failure, and the money goes down the drain. Except that it is not only the loss of his money that Tuvia mourns, but also his vanished dream – the dream of being a rich man, even temporarily, or in his words, “even for a moment.”

The Little People/Photo: Itzik Biran
The Little People/Photo: Itzik Biran

The Little People (De Kleine Mentshelach)
Stage Adaptation: Eliyahu Goldenberg, Staging and New Direction: Shmuel Atzmon-Wirtzer, Based on Original Direction of: Eliyahu and Shmuel Bunim, Musical Direction: Misha Blecharovitz, Scenery Design: Ruti Turner, Lighting Design: Misha Chernyavsky, Simultaneous Translation: Lora Sahar

With: Yaacov Bodo, Shmuel Atzmon-Wirtzer, Israel Treistman