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97-year-old company developing new works for new audiences

9/7/2011, 6:11 p.m.

The National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene is developing new, modern works for new audiences this fall, proving that Folksbiene is adding to the great legacy of the Yiddish theater-not just preserving it and keeping old traditions alive.

In September, "Soul to Soul," an innovative concert, explores the intersections between Yiddish and African-American musical folk traditions. Created by Zalmen Mlotek, the concert, featuring an interracial cast, takes a fresh look at some of the commonalities between Yiddish folk/klezmer and Black spirituals, gospel and jazz. According to Mlotek, the African-American and Jewish people have many shared traditions, from the power of song to overcome persecution to the celebration of life through spiritual music.

"Soul to Soul" will be performed at four CUNY campuses from Sept. 19 to 22. It stars actress and folk singer Lisa Fishman, opera's Elmore James and actor Tony Perry. The performances are at Brooklyn College on Monday, Sept. 19 at 12 p.m.; the CUNY Graduate Center on Monday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.; Queens College on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.; and Thursday, Sept. 22 at Lehman College.

Plans are also in the works to stage it again at a major venue in January 2012 to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Two of Folksbiene's new institutional objectives are uniquely served by this production: to build bridges beyond the Yiddish cultural community through partnering and outreach and to continue to modernize by developing inventive new work that adds to the Yiddish theater's great legacy.