Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
A festival of Yiddish culture? We're so happy, we could plotz
Seems you can't keep a good language down.
Speakers of Yiddish, the traditional tongue of Eastern European Jewry, have mostly gone to their great reward.
But many of their favourite words, from "bagel" and "klutz" to "chutzpah" and "nosh," have found their way into English parlance.
A forthcoming Hollywood comedy starring the defiantly gentile Steve Carell employs a vulgar Yiddishism in its title. Paramount Picture will release Dinner for Shmucks July 23.
"Yiddish is in vogue," notes Debbie Maslowsky, the Winnipeg musical theatre vet who co-stars in Tuesday night's opening show of the third annual Mameloshen Festival of Yiddish Entertainment and Culture.
Mameloshen means "mother tongue" in Yiddish. Festival godfather Laurie Mainster insists that you don't have to be Jewish, or even understand the language, to have a good time.
"People go to the opera without understanding the words," says Mainster, 84, the original mad man of Winnipeg's advertising business.
"Good music is good music."
This year's festival, scaled down slightly from its opening two incarnations, offers mostly Winnipeg performers. The exception is the May 25 closing show, featuring Toronto performer Mitch Smolkin's tribute to the golden age of Yiddish on Broadway.
The second show, May 17, marks the return of local singing sensations Richard Yaffe and Jane Enkin, as well as Aliza & the Klezmer Gypsy Band and the students of the Gray Academy for Jewish Education.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery's 320-seat Muriel Richardson Auditorium is the site for all three shows.
Tonight's opener is already sold out. Maslowsky and her co-star, Shayla Fink, are performing a tribute to the Barry Sisters, a New York duo who brought Yiddish songs to mainstream radio and TV in the 1940s through the '60s.
Too young to have caught them first hand, Maslowsky remembers hearing their songs on the late Winnipegger Noah Whitman's radio and cable TV programs when she was a girl.
"Whitman had one of the original Videon cable TV programs," recalls Maslowsky, a co-star of Manitoba Theatre's Centre's recent production of The Drowsy Chaperone.
"He'd play the records on TV and show the album covers. It made for great radio."
Mameloshen Festival of Yiddish Entertainment and Culture.
Winnipeg Art Gallery
Tuesday, May 17 and 25
Tickets $14-$15; phone 477-7510
Find this article at: