Vilna, a new play by Ira Fuchs directed by Joseph Discher, will begin its limited Off-Broadway World Premiere engagement at the Theatre at St. Clement’s (423 West 46th Street, between Ninth & Tenth Avenues) on Monday March 11th. Opening Night is set for Wednesday March 20th (7pm). This limited Off-Broadway engagement continues through Sunday April 14th only.
Mark Jacoby, best known for his roles on Broadway including Gaylord Ravenal in Show Boat (Tony Award nomination) and Father in Ragtime, among others, will be joined by Sophia Blum, Brian Cade, Paul Cooper, Sean Hudock, Nathan Kaufman, Tom Morin, Seamus Mulcahy, James Michael Reilly, Patrick Toon, and Carey Van Driest.
Vilna, inspired by a news report of the discovery of the escape tunnel at the site of the Vilna ghetto, tells the heroic story of Motke Zeidel and Yudi Farber from the ages of 11 through 28, actual people who come of age in the remarkable city of Vilna during its degradation in the years before World War II and its destruction during the war. As the home they knew collapses, going from vibrant metropolis to stifling ghetto and ultimately the Ponar killing pits, they face painful moral choices to save others while putting their own lives at risk. Vilna contains an important message for today in light of the rise of political polarization, hate crimes, xenophobia and wealth inequality, the same issues seen in Nazi Germany.
“Because we are three generations removed from the Holocaust, the world’s collective memory of it is fading away. This emboldens people and institutions to promulgate Anti-Semitic lies and tropes and engage in violent hate crimes. Anti-Semitic lies, misinformation and hatred-mongering will never disappear. They serve a useful purpose as a politically exploitative tool of demagoguery to manipulate public sentiment; a tried and proven tool for capturing attention and consolidating power, effective at every level of political organization. Furthermore, the current autocratic rulers of Sovereign states that collaborated with the Nazis are taking advantage of the historical distance from the Holocaust to revise the historical record of their country’s complicity and memorialize Nazi collaborators as heroes. The question is, when does this Anti-Semitic activity, historical revisionism and world-wide enthusiasm for Neo-Nazi ideals become sufficiently amplified in frequency and volume to cause the alarm that we are on the verge of another anti-Semitic calamity of world-wide proportions?” said Mr. Fuchs.
Playwright Ira Fuchs is a lifelong resident of New York City. He graduated with a BA in English from Queens College of CUNY in 1974. While in college he started writing plays that were staged at the original Playwrights Horizons, founded by Bob Moss in a YWCA on Eighth Avenue. After graduating he spent 45 years as an entrepreneur working with computer technology from mainframes to microcomputers. He has consulted and worked for companies such for AT&T and Microsoft. He is the author and publisher of two books on Microsoft’s SharePoint platform. In 2016 he returned to writing plays and enrolled in a six week play writing workshop at Hollins University where Bob Moss is a faculty member. One assignment was to write a full length play, in three days, based on a news article published that day. In The New York Times was a story about the discovery of an escape tunnel in the Ponar death pits outside of Vilnius.
Director Joseph Discher’s Off-Broadway credits include The Violin starring Robert Lu Pone (world premiere) and Ben Butler (NYC premiere) at 59E59. Regional: Ben Butler at Barrington Stage Company, Majestic Theater, and New Jersey Repertory Company (world premiere); Shakespeare Theatre of NJ: A Child’s Christmas in Wales, The Diary of Anne Frank, Wittenberg, Our Town, Henry IV: Part One, To Kill a Mockingbird, Arms and the Man, The Grapes of Wrath, The Tempest, Amadeus, Galileo, Of Mice and Men, The Fantasticks, Twelfth Night, Scapin, Much Ado About Nothing, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged); Florida Studio Theatre: One Man Two Guvnors. Theatreworks: The Weir, Red, and As You Like It; Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis: Julius Caesar. (www.joedischer.com)
Sophia Blum is a proud Jew originally from Rhode Island who now lives in Brooklyn. Off-Broadway: Public Enemy (Pearl Theater). Regional: The Bungler, Shakespeare LIVE! (Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey); Antony and Cleopatra (Orlando Shakespeare Theater); King Lear, CSC2’s Romeo and Juliet (Commonwealth Shakespeare Theater); Breaking Legs (Ocean State Theater Company). Look for her this summer in the film, 17 Brides starring Chadwick Boseman.
Brian Cade is a New York based actor and a proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA. New York credits include Julius Caesar, The Tempest, The Constant Couple and The Imaginary Invalid. Regional credits include The Liar, Black Coffee, Misalliance, Alls Well That Ends Well, Richard III, Bobby Gould in Hell, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Balcony. TV credits include “Quantico,” “Gotham,” “Bull,” “Nightcap!,” “Billions,” and “House of Cards.”
Paul Cooper is New York based actor originally from St. Louis, MO. Regional: Shakespeare Theatre of DC: Hamlet (Laertes); Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey: Buried Child; The Guthrie: Concrete Orange; The Berkshire Theatre Festival: Design for Living; Arena Stage: The Play About the Baby (The Edward Albee Festival); St. Louis Actor’s Studio: Good, King Lear, Blood Brothers (The Labute New Theatre Festival); The Black Repertory of St. Louis: Julius Caesar; Stray Dog Theatre: Psycho Beach Party. TV: “The Gifted” (Fox). Training: MFA Yale School of Drama.
Sean Hudock is an actor, producer and writer based in Brooklyn. Theatre includes She Calls Me Firefly (SoHo Playhouse), Sex with Strangers (Cleveland Play House), nine seasons with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey including The Diary of Anne Frank, The Lion in Winter, Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, Romeo & Juliet; Alabama Shakespeare Festival, LA Theatre Works, Arena Stage. Film/TV: Private Romeo, “Alternatino with Arturo Castro” (Comedy Central), The Chaperone (Masterpiece). His play Hans & Sophie, inspired by a student-led Nazi resistance movement, is currently in development around the country. @SeanHudock
Mark Jacoby‘s Broadway appearances include leading roles in Elf, Sweeney Todd, Man of La Mancha, Ragtime, Show Boat (Tony, Outer Critics, and Joseph Jefferson nominations), The Phantom of the Opera, Grand Hotel, and Sweet Charity (Theatre World Award). Also in New York: Critical Darling for New Group, Sitting Pretty for Hypothetical Theatre, Enter the Guardsman for Vineyard Theatre (Drama Desk nomination). Elsewhere: Five Presidents (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre/Bay Street Theatre), Sleuth (Maltz/Jupiter Theatre), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Asolo), The Play’s the Thing (Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, directed by Joe Discher), Life x 3 (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), Fiddler on the Roof (Walnut Street Theatre/Barrymore Award), The Visit (Goodman and Signature Theatres/Helen Hayes Nomination), and Nine (Joseph Jefferson Award). Recent on-camera appearances include TV’s “The Blacklist,” “Madam Secretary,” and “The Good Fight;” and on the big screen, The Post.
Nathan Kaufman‘s regional theatre credits regional theatre credits include Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Florida Studio Theatre, Human Race Theatre Company, Texas Shakespeare Festival, Shadow Lawn Stage, New Century Theatre, Bohemian Archaeology. Film: One Fall, Gym Rats, Potatoes for Pado, Liozna. TV: “The View,” “What Would You Do?” (ABC); “Secrets Of America’s Favorite Places” (Discovery Family). Co-Creator of the Broadway musical, Gettin’ The Band Back Together. Nathan is the host of web series “Unique New York With Nathan Kaufman.” BFA: Purchase College Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film. www.unywnk.com www.nathankaufman.com
Tom Morin‘s Off-Broadway/New York credits include Measure for Measure (NY Classical Theatre); The Rivals (Pearl Theatre Company); Twelfth Night, A Christmas Carol (Titan Theatre Company). Regional: Peter and the Starcatcher (Walnut Street Theatre); The Liar, The Cripple of Inishmaan (Centenary Stage Company); tours of The Winter’s Tale, Marriage of Figaro (Shakespeare Theatre of NJ); Twelfth Night, Macbeth (Great River Shakespeare Festival); The Front Page, Guys and Dolls (Monomoy Theatre). Co-founder of Polish Your Passion. Education: MFA in Acting, Ohio University; BA in Theatre & Political Science, College of the Holy Cross. @tom_pypnyc, www.tom-morin.com.
Seamus Mulcahy appeared Off-Broadway in Our Town directed by David Cromer. Recently performed as the title role in Charley’s Aunt directed by Joe Discher at The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. Other credits The Revisionist with Deanna Dunagan (The Wallis Annenberg Center), Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika (Kansas City Repertory, directed by David Cromer), the world premiere of Above the Fold with Taraji P. Henson (Pasadena Playhouse), The Winter’s Tale, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tovarich, The Alchemist, Shakespeare in Love, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, and King Lear at Shakespeare Theater of NJ; Rabbit Hole (La Mirada Playhouse), Master Harold… and the boys (Delaware Theatre Company), Romeo and Juliet (Yale Repertory Theater), The Diary of Anne Frank (Paper Mill Playhouse) and The Seagull, Antony and Cleopatra, Henry VI, and A Thought in Three Parts (Yale School of Drama). TV/Film credits: “Elementary,” One Fall, and Killing Lincoln. Seamus started Davy Game Productions, which produced Shakespaws, a DVD of dogs performing Shakespeare. MFA, The Yale School of Drama.
James Michael Reilly‘s Off-Broadway credits include The Comedy of Errors (Aquila Theatre Company). Tour: West Side Story (Europe). Regional: Treasure Island – A Musical Adventure (Fulton Theatre); Oliver! (Pioneer Theatre); A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Inherit the Wind (Geva Theatre); A Christmas Carol, Glengarry Glen Ross, and others (Denver Center); Holmes and Watson (world premiere, Arizona Theatre Company); The Servant of Two Masters, The Bungler, The Taming of the Shrew, and many others (Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey). Red Dead Redemption 2, “Madam Secretary,” “Unforgettable,” “Blacklist,” “Elementary,” “Person of Interest,” “Law and Order.”
Carey Van Driest is co-creative director of Mania Studio, Inc. (@maniastudioinc). New York theatre: Much Ado About Nothing, The International, Othello, The Winter’s Tale, The Importance of Being Earnest. Regional highlights: Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, City Theatre, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Film: Yes, God, Yes (with Natalia Dyer), Scratch, Open House. TV: “New Amsterdam,” “Blindspot,” “The Blacklist,” “Madame Secretary,” “Deception,” “Nashville,” “Bull,” and “Homeland.” Her extensive voiceover work for international documentaries, national commercials, animation and radio can be heard at www.careyvandriest.com.
The remarkable city of Vilna was a highly evolved center of civilization where Jews lived since the tenth century. In the 18th century Vilna was the center of Jewish learning in Europe. Napoleon called it the “Jerusalem of the North.” Vilna was distinguished as a highly evolved center of economic, cultural, educational, and charitable activity. Vilna was the antithesis of the stereotypical shtetl enclaves of Eastern Europe. During the 19th century innovative Jewish industrialists and merchants manufacturing and trading contemporary products such as ready-made clothing and gloves, beer, tobacco, and sugar plants as well as mills, printers and tanneries. The civil infrastructure of the city was second to none in the world: it was the railroad transit hub for merchandise traveling between Russia and Germany. It had a telegraph system in 1838, a telephone network by 1886, a municipal sewage system in 1899, an electric power-generating station and wiring grid in place by 1901. By the late 1800s Vilna had dozens of synagogues, libraries, schools, theaters, museums, medical facilities, scientific institutions, newspapers, periodicals, journals and book publishing houses. The YIVO Institute, an organization that preserves, studies, and teaches the cultural history of Jewish life throughout Eastern Europe, Germany, and Russia, was founded in Vilna in 1925. Renowned scientists, teachers, writers, sculptors, and musicians made their homes there. Yiddish was the common language. At the beginning of the 20th century, Vilna had hundreds of Jewish educational institutions in which 13,000 children studied. Vilna was renamed Wilno in 1921 when Poland was reconstituted, at which time the Jewish community fell into decline. The Nazis completely eradicated the Vilna Jews between 1941 and 1944, and the city was renamed Vilnius after World War II when it became part of Lithuania.
Performances are Monday, Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 7pm, with matinees Wednesday & Saturday afternoons at 2pm & Sunday afternoon at 3pm.
Tickets are $39.50 – $69.50, with premium seats available for $99.50. They may be purchased online at Telecharge.com, by phone at 212/239-6200, or in person at the St. Clement’s box office (423 West 46th Street, between Ninth & Tenth Avenues) one hour prior to show time.
For more information, visit vilna-the-play.org.