Two sisters separated by the Holocaust reunite in the aftermath of World War II in Barbara Lebow's powerful and profoundly moving A Shayna Maidel. ICT artistic director Shashin Desai directs Liza de Weerd, Larry Eisenberg, Laura Howard, Charles Pasternak, Julia Silverman and Erin Anne Williams in a four-week run June 11 through July 3 at International City Theatre in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Low-priced previews begin June 8.
International City Theatre first presented A Shayna Maidel as part of its 1992 season. "Our audiences were deeply affected," says Desai. "We wanted to reprise one play from our archives in celebration of our 25th Anniversary, and this beautiful play kept calling to me."
Rose Weiss (Laura Howard) emigrated to America as a young child with her father, Mordechai (Larry Eisenberg). Ill with scarlet fever, older sister Lusia (Liza de Weerd) stayed behind in Poland with Mama (Julia Silverman), planning to follow later. Now, it's 1946 and Rose is a young woman living in Manhattan when she learns that Lusia has been liberated from a concentration camp and is coming to New York. After a fifteen-year separation, the two women are almost like strangers and must struggle to reconnect. A Shayna Maidel is a bittersweet portrait of a family divided by distance, time, and life experience.
"This is not a depressing play about the Holocaust," emphasizes Desai. "Lebow develops the relationship between these two women, sisters who are virtual strangers, with insight and gentle humor, and in the end it's an uplifting, even cathartic experience."
A Shayna Maidel premiered in 1985 at the Hartford Stage Company in Hartford, CT, and it opened in New York City a year later. Since then, it has been performed to acclaim in theaters all over the country.
New York Times theater critic Mel Gussow called A Shayna Maidel "a deeply personalized study of sisterhood, family and a crisis of faith. Moving among her characters and shifting back and forth in time, the playwright draws a comprehensive portrait of a family devastated by war."
"It's an emotional powerhouse of almost overwhelming proportions," wrote the Hartford Journal Inquirer.
The set designer for A Shayna Maidel is Stephen Gifford; lighting and sound design are by Chris Kittrell; costume design is by Kim DeShazo; hair and wig design are by Tony Gagliardi; property designers are Patty and Gordon Briles; production stage manager is Maya Rodgers; and casting is by Michael Donovan Casting.
Born in Brooklyn, Barbara Lebow moved to Atlanta in 1962 and joined Academy Theatre's developmental workshop, becoming Playwright in Residence. Among her plays with first productions there are The Left Hand Singing, The Adventures of Homer McGundy, Cyparis, The Keepers, Trains, A Shayna Maidel, Little Joe Monaghan, Tiny Tim is Dead, and several plays for young audiences. Theaters producing her work include Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Hartford Stage Company, Jean Cocteau Repertory Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, and the Berkshire Theatre Festival. Now living in Santa Barbara, Barbara facilitates play creation with disenfranchised segments of the population, including homeless and addicted individuals, youth at risk, developmentally and physically disabled persons, women in prison, and residents of the Probation Department's Los Prietos Boys Camp. She has received a grant from the Fund for Santa Barbara, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a TCG/Pew Theatre Artists Residency, an NEA/TCG Residency, an Atlanta Mayor's Fellowship in the Arts, and a Georgia Governor's Award in the Arts.
Shashin Desai, founding artistic director of ICT, has directed more than 150 productions, including classic and contemporary dramas, comedies, and musicals, including Facing East; the West Coast premiere of the newly discovered Mark Twain comedy, Is He Dead?; the world premiere of Velina Hasu Houston's Calling Aphrodite; To Kill A Mockingbird; Judgment at Nuremberg; the American premiere of My Boy Jack; The Crucible; Black Comedy; A View from the Bridge; Lend Me a Tenor; Noises Off; Flyin' West; A...My Name is Alice; and The Price.
Liza de Weerd (Lusia) has been seen in Los Angeles as Julia in The Fourth Wall (the Production Company); Holga in After the Fall (Open Fist); Lainie in Two Rooms (NoHo Arts Center); Ariadne in the West Coast premiere of Carpe Dream and Anna in Burn This (The Theatre District). Film and television credits include Monk, Lie to Me, Big Love, Grey's Anatomy, and Paul Verhoeven's Dutch language World War II thriller, Zwartboek (Black Book).
Laura Howard (Rose) studied acting at USC School of Theatre. She made her professional theater debut as Bertha in The Antaeus Company's production of The Father. A working commercial and television actor, Laura is best known for her lead role in Michael Eisner's breakout web series, Prom Queen, for which she won a TV Guide Best Web Actress Award.