National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene [NYTF] is America’s preeminent Yiddish theatre. It is the longest continuously-producing Yiddish theatre company in the world and the oldest consecutively-producing performing arts institution in the US. Founded in 1915, “Folksbiene” (the “People’s Stage”) continues its mission to preserve, promote and develop Yiddish theatre for current and future generations and to enhance the understanding of Yiddish culture as a vital component of Jewish Life.
NYTF is the sole survivor of fifteen Yiddish companies that played to enthusiastic audiences on the Lower East Side in the Golden Age of Yiddish Theatre in the early 20th century. Founded under the aegis of the Workmen’s Circle, the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre became an independent nonprofit in 1998, with a commitment to make the world of Yiddish theatre accessible, enjoyable and relevant to new generations and audiences beyond its core Yiddish-speaking constituency. In recognition of its role in the Jewish immigrant experience, the theatre was renamed National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. Today, English and Russian supertitles accompany each performance.
Each season, NYTF presents more than 120 programs and performances to a combined audience of over 150,000 individuals. The company’s mainstage productions, touring shows, signature concerts, literary readings, workshops, lectures and family programs, continue the legacy and traditions of an immigrant people in a contemporary venue. They cheer new generations of artists working in Yiddish who are reinforcing Jewish identity, renewal and pride within a multicultural world.
NYTF’s acclaimed repertoire encompasses classic plays and musicals from the Yiddish theater cannon, new adaptations of Yiddish literary masterpieces and newly created works, including the 2002 world premiere of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Yentl in Yiddish; Di Neksdorike, The Lady Next Door (2003); On Second Avenue (2005); Di Yam Gazlonim!, The Yiddish Pirates of Penzance (2006); the U.S. premiere of I.B. Singer’s Gimpel Tam (2008); Theodore Bikel’s Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears (2009); The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer (2010); Fyvush Finkel Live! (2010); The Golden Land (2012); the Broadway Yiddish musical The Megile of Itzik Manger (2013); and the 1923 Rumshinsky operetta The Golden Bride (2015)
Productions and programs are open to all who wish to gain a deeper appreciation of Yiddish language and culture. NYTF’s core audience draws from among the two million Jewish Americans in the tri-state region, but critical success, awards and audience enthusiasm are winning the attention of a broader theatergoing public from across the country and around the world.
Yiddish has embodied the hearts and minds of the Jewish people for centuries. It speaks with humor and passion of the human condition, our strengths and frailties, our hopes, fears and longings. NYTF is uniquely positioned to serve as a living resource of this rich cultural legacy. In celebration of its enduring vitality, NYTF was presented a 2007 Drama Desk lifetime achievement award for “for preserving for 92 consecutive seasons the cultural legacy of Yiddish-speaking theatre in America.”
NYTF celebrated its 100th Anniversary in June of 2015 with KulturfestNYC, the 1st international festival of Jewish performing arts in New York City, featuring over 140 performances by artists from North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The Festival’s success inspired an even larger version of KulturfestNYC in 2016, this time spanning from May through August.
In its 103rd season, NYTF expanded its mission to include the restoration lost and forgotten works of the Jewish arts and was a producer on the Broadway stage play Indecent. Now in its 104th season, the company has presented Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish garnering rave-reviews and marking a historic six month run of an NYTF production.