Familiar and new faces, each brings something personal to their performance.
“The Show Must Go On” has been uttered during dark times, and we say it with strength today about Amid Falling Walls because not only is the production a window into our darkest time, it’s also a celebration of resilience and hope of those who endured and their legacies.
This week, our stellar cast begins rehearsals for the world premiere presentation of Amid Falling Walls (Tsvishn Falndike Vent), which features Yiddish songs brought to life in a show that is the first of its kind: the authentic story of resistance and hope through the words and music of 20- and 30-year olds experiencing the Holocaust.
The cast features a number of familiar faces who have appeared on our stage before—and some actors who are new to us—who have all shared their deepest thoughts with us about the importance of this show at this moment in time.
We collected most reflections from the cast before the assaults of October 7th and the aftermath. Here are some of their words—about their heritage, their hopes, and how Amid Falling Walls (Tsvishn Falndike Vent) resonates today.
“In the face of increased antisemitism and Holocaust denial, it’s ever more necessary that a true accounting of what transpired not ever be forgotten. The opportunity to perform this piece at the Museum of Jewish Heritage is not only hopefully a deeply rewarding theatrical event, but also a necessary cultural remembrance that needs to honor the lives of those who were lost,” says Steven Skybell (Tevye in NYTF’s Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish).
“Despite every attempt to erase the humanity of those Jews who suffered in the camps and ghettos, they remained human,” notes Mikhl Yashinsky (NYTF: Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, The Sorceress). “They sang, they told jokes, they fell in and out of love – even as they suffered, unimaginably suffered. I will have this in mind as I prepare and perform. That these were real human beings, and in our playing, we might try to endow them with all the richness and contours and texture of their embattled, enduring humanity.”
Rachel Zatcoff (Broadway: The Phantom of the Opera; NYTF: Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish) says, “It is incredibly meaningful to tell the story of these resilient and hopeful young people from the Holocaust. But what hits me in the sternum is that they were just like us — artists with dreams to create and serve through music and storytelling. It was all brutally torn away from them and now we get to give it breath. It is a privilege and honor.”
For some cast members, their family histories connect them more deeply with the show.
“I come from a family of survivors. Both of the Holocaust and now fighting for their lives in Israel. While I have always felt connected to Amid Falling Walls, the songs and stories have never hit closer to home than they do now. It’s terrifying to see how much these songs written during the Holocaust parallel what we are seeing now. But just like those Jewish artists, we will resist with strength, hope, and art,” says Yael Eden Chanukov (NYTF: Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish; TV: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”).
John Reed (Regional: Something Rotten!, Guys and Dolls) says, “I am the grandson of Polish Holocaust survivors: My grandfather, Jacob Zyberstein, was born in Lodz and my grandmother, Sara Szor, was born in Bialystock. I have grown up listening to their stories and I never heard the same one twice. This performance will be in honor of them and they will be with me throughout the entire creative process.”
As they reflected on the presence of antisemitism today and throughout history, the cast described the resilience of the Jewish people.
“I want audiences to be reminded of the strength and beauty of the human spirit. And of music itself,” notes Daniella Rabbani (NYTF: Gimpel Tam, Hershele Ostropolyer, The Golden Land). “I hope this musical also serves as a reminder of how cruel human beings can be to one another. It’s not a pretty reminder but if we turn away from that truth, we’re doomed. Let us all be activists in our way. Spiritual and otherwise.”
“We are so used to learning about how the Jews died – it is my hope that this production will show us how they lived. Yes, they were surrounded by death and disaster, but through it they created, sang, and made art that kept their hope alive. I want audiences to walk away with that same hope and sense of resilience,” says Jacob Ben-Shmuel (National Tour: The Book of Mormon).
Adds Dani Apple (NYTF: The Sorceress), “This is in honor of the 6 million Jewish lives lost. While working on material like this can be tough to bear, I think of it as an act of resilience. The words of those we lost get to live on. Their voices live on in our voices as we sing these songs. My involvement in this production is a celebration of that.”
Abby Goldfarb (NYTF: Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, Harmony) says, “It is both an honor and challenge to take on this material. Performing the art created during such an unspeakable time brings to light the strength, perseverance, and creativity that remained present. I can’t think of anything more important to be a part of.”
“If there’s one thing we can hope to do with Amid Falling Walls, it’s to confront an all-encompassing darkness, and shine a light into it.,” says Eli Mayer (Regional: Ride the Cyclone, Footloose). “This is a story about how people lived and hoped and laughed where there wasn’t much of any of those things. If they could then, we can now. I hope we bestow audiences with the courage to hope in the face of hopelessness, live in the face of death, and shine a light directly into the heart of a dark room.”
Amid Falling Walls (Tsvishn Falndike Vent) will play a limited four-week-only engagement from November 14-December 10, 2023, at Edmond J. Safra Hall at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (36 Battery Place). Opening night is November 20, 2023.
Tickets for the musical, performed in Yiddish with English subtitles, are on sale now here.
For information about Group Sales, call NYTF at 212.213.2120