Luisa (reading Mama’s letter): If I could really be with you and put around you mine arms, it would be much better, but that is impossible. It cannot be. If I cannot hold you in mine arms, I hold you anyway in mine heart and this is true for every day in your life since you was born, if you was in Chernov, Poland or Brooklyn, New York, America.
A Shayna Maidel, set in 1946 Brooklyn, NY, (yes, NYC, so shoot me) explores the relationship between two sisters separated by the Holocaust. Rose Weiss, the epitome of the title which translates to “a pretty girl” from the Yiddish, emigrated as a child, and was spared the well-recorded daily horrors and decades of separation and loss suffered by her now-found older sister Luisa. After a surreal flashback to war-torn Poland, this 20-something assimilated liberated and gainfully employed young American woman with her own one bedroom, 3-room apartment and a closet full of pretty dresses answers a late night call (on Shabbas no less!) and reluctantly welcomes an unremembered sister with none of the above. The result is a study in identity and assimilation, privation and privilege with Barbara Lebow reminding us that good fortune is often not a matter of choice, but of chance.
At minimum, A Shayna Maidel allows its audience members to reflect on “those who went before us.” With the convenient metaphorical distance of period setting, the greater and more immediate context of refugees who are “white like us” emerges. According to the Global Rich List http://www.globalrichlist.com/, a website that brings awareness to worldwide income disparities, an income of $32,400 a year places one well within the top 1% of income worldwide. Currently with my income alone (not calculating for dependents and not including my wife’s income), The Global Rich List income calculator places me in the top 0.23% of the richest people in the world, the 13,754,109th richest person on earth! Most of those Americans reading this analysis have been blessed with opportunities; Many with multi-generational land ownership. All still yet with an education that, at minimum, allows them to read. Most of my readers have never known poverty. Few have witnessed and feared genocide aimed at their own ethnicity. Yet there are those of us, perhaps within your family’s recent history, and definitely those with families abroad, who have not been as fortunate. We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from their homes. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18, www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html. Circumstance has been our benefactor. Are we ready to share out good fortune?
Cast: 4w/2m (with doubling, 4 characters are portrayed in shadow and low light)
Regional dialects: NY Polish Jew, Yiddish written phonetically and translated in an appendix
Characters 20s-late 60s,
Running time: approx 2:30 (https://dctheatrescene.com/2007/10/17/a-shayna-maidel/)
Royalties (professional): $80 per performance
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with an intermission
Sets: Single interior, attractive but modest pre-war one bedroom Brooklyn apartment with one scrimmed wall revealing a bedroom. Lighting changes are the only indication of a change in place to and from Poland years before
Costumes: Approximately 14; periods: 1946 NYC well-dressed businessman and young woman, peasant clothing earlier
Props: conventional, period, especially exposed kitchen, dining area and living room
Controversial topics: immigration, privilege, Holocaust
Purchase: ISBN 9780822210191:http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/12910/a-shayna-maidel (not in stock 1/20/2018), http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=1091
Several buying options: https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B00GUGUCW4/ref=dp_olp_all_mbc?ie=UTF8&condition=all
Suitable for: community theatre, summer stock, regional theatre, small theatre
Lead Actress: Melissa Gilbert (Rose Weiss): 1988 Outer Critics Circle Award, Best Debut Performance, 1988 Theatre World Award
Original production (NYC) review:
Recent production reviews:
2007, Washington DC: https://dctheatrescene.com/2007/10/17/a-shayna-maidel/
2010: Long Beach: https://www.backstage.com/review/la-theater/a-shayna-maidel/
2012, Coral Springs, FL: https://www.backstage.com/review/la-theater/a-shayna-maidel/