Meet Bryna Wasserman: The Award-Winning Director Revitalizing Yiddish Theatre

Photo credit: Joan Roth

Photo credit: Joan Roth

When award-winning theatre director Bryna Wasserman—her accolades include the 2000 Montreal English Critics Circle Award of Distinction, the 2010 Mlotek Prize for Yiddish and Yiddish Culture, and the 2011 Quebec Drama Federation Award “in recognition of immense contributions to and support of the development of theatre in Quebec”— took the helm of the New York City-based National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) in 2011, she had three goals.

The first was to find NYTF a permanent home. “We’d been wandering Jews for a century, going from one theatre to another,” she says. “There was an urgent need to change this.” The second goal was financial: to put the non-profit NYTF on solid footing. Lastly, she wanted the company’s 2015 centennial to foster a contemporary appreciation of Yiddishkeit.

All of this, of course, had to be done while making sure that the theatre staged at least one annual production and brought performances to diverse communities throughout, and beyond, the five boroughs of New York City.

Wasserman sat down with Eleanor J. Bader to discuss the overall state of Yiddish theatre and the ups-and-downs of running the NYTF. Along the way, the conversation touched on the plight of immigrants under Trump and the challenges facing all non-profit theatres.