Shane Baker

Shane BakerShane Baker is executive director of the Congress for Jewish Culture in New York, an organization devoted to promoting Yiddish language and culture.  He most recently starred with the New Yiddish Rep as Vladimir in the Off-Broadway and European debuts of his own Yiddish translation of Samuel Beckett’s ”Waiting for Godot.”  With the Congress, Baker has produced over 100 Yiddish concerts and events, and published a dozen Yiddish books in the past decade.   He also tours with internationally with Yiddish recitation programs and his hit one-man show ”The Big Bupkis! A Complete Gentile’s Guide to Yiddish Vaudeville”.

Session 1: Waiting for Godot… in Yiddish?

Baker’s translation of Waiting for Godot debuted in New York in 2013 and played the International Beckett Festival in Northern Ireland in 2014.  The New York Times called it ‘more depressing than Beckett’s original’ and the Forward dubbed it ”The Godot We’ve All Been Waiting For”.  Baker will talk about the elements and concepts behind New Yiddish Rep’s Yiddish production of Waiting for Godot in Yiddish, including the ”hidden Jewish history” of Beckett’s most famous text; Baker’s approach to the translation process; audience and critical response to the production in New York and Ireland; and the production as a way forward for Yiddish theater in the 21st Century.  Baker will also present short excerpts from the text in Yiddish, with English translation.

Session 2: Monish:  Reading and Understanding a Forgotten Modern Yiddish Classic

Y.L. Peretz’s 19th century ballad ”Monish”, the tale of a yeshivah student gone bad, is a seminal work in modern Yiddish literature, introducing themes that echo right up through the work of Isaac Bashevis Singer.  Baker will give a short history of the text over the years as Peretz revised it, then lead the class in a guided reading of the poem in English translation, pausing to explore traditional folkloric and Talmudic elements that shape the plot and contribute to the ballad’s meaning.  Baker will also highlight plot and thematic motifs that reappear in other Yiddish literature, demonstrating the lasting influence of this singular work.  Time permitting, Baker will also recite portions of the poem in the original Yiddish, so that students will hear cadence of Peretz’s beautiful poetry

Session 3: Onstage/Offstage:  Joseph Buloff and Luba Kadison in the Yiddish Theater

Luba Kadison was a founding member of the Vilna Troupe, one of the best known Yiddish art theaters of the 20th century.  She and her husband Joseph Buloff played in the original 1920 production of S. An-sky’s ”Der Dybuk” and became international stars during the heyday of the Yiddish stage.  Shane Baker was her secretary and close personal friend during the last 10 years of her life and, using slides and anecdotes, Baker will recount memories shared with him by Luba, thereby lifting the curtain on the ups and downs of the Yiddish art theater movement; the lives and techniques of its actors; and personal reminiscences of such great Yiddish artists and writers as Marc Chagall, Maurice Schwartz, Itzik Manger and Moyshe-Leyb Halpern.