(AMHERST, Mass.) – Eleanor Reissa, the reigning queen of Yiddish cabaret, will present a brand new program featuring a brand-new trio, especially put together for this year’s YIDSTOCK: The Festival of New Yiddish Music, at the Yiddish Book Center on Friday, July 15, at 2:30pm. While Reissa has been a frequent Yidstock performer, this program was devised and commissioned by the festival, and will draw upon Reissa’s decades of experience in theater and on concert stages worldwide, as well as on her personal story as the Brooklyn-born daughter of Yiddish-speaking Holocaust survivors.
Accompanied by the extraordinary pianist Jerry Korman and cutting-edge guitarist Yoshie Fruchter (plus maybe a surprise guest or two), Reissa’s concert will deliver Yiddish classics and lesser-known gems – as well as a few Yidstock-only surprises – in an authentic yet modern context. This new trio celebrates, elevates, and explores the beauty and depth of Yiddish song in all its many facets.
Reissa will be in residence for the entire four-day festival, with scheduled appearances every day – and perhaps some unscheduled ones, too. Reissa will be a special guest vocalist in the festival’s kickoff concert by the Klezmer Conservatory Band on Thursday, July 14, at 8pm, along with fellow special guests Lorin Sklamberg and Frank London of the Klezmatics (London was a charter member of the KCB).
After her headlining show on Friday afternoon, Reissa will be heard from again on Saturday, July 16, at 2:30pm in a panel discussion alongside accordionist/singer Lauren Brody and vocalist/pianist Polina Shepherd, moderated by festival artistic director Seth Rogovoy.
Reissa will then join with all the aforementioned musicians plus several more for the festival’s closing event, the Yidstock All-Stars, on Sunday, July 17, at 7:30pm.
Eleanor Reissa is a “quadruple threat” – a director, singer, actor and writer – in two languages, Yiddish and English. She was nominated for a Tony Award for the very first musical she directed on Broadway – which she also choreographed and in which she starred.
In music and theater Eleanor Reissa has been on the forefront of keeping Yiddish alive, from Tony Kushner’s invitation to read Where the Wild Things Are in Yiddish at the star-studded Celebration for Maurice Sendak to revitalizing Yiddish theatre in NYC when she was artistic director of the Folksbiene.
The New York Times wrote that Eleanor’s work as a “leading singer of Yiddish songs is a tribute to her family’s resilience.” These days she collaborates with exciting new bands – foremost Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars, with whom she just recorded a new album, “Vilde Mekhaye,” as well as solo concerts. The Los Angeles Times called her “A terrific stage presence with a sure sense of storytelling through song and dance, she has made Yiddish her mission. Sometimes she translated, often she didn’t — there was no need.”
As a director, she has shepherded new works including The Scutley Papers by Jamie Wax starring Sally Field, and musicals – from The Threepenny Opera to Cowgirls to classics at the Mint Theater in English and the Folksbiene in Yiddish.
Eleanor Reissa coaches singers and actors, dramaturges new plays, and refreshes abandoned gems. She acts on and off Broadway, most recently in Dan Fishback’s The Material World, directed by Stephen Brackett, where she played a 100-year-old revolutionary. Reissa is an award-winning playwright and a recipient of numerous fellowships and commissions.
Her latest commission is the libretto for the much anticipated opera, Taibele and Her Demon, based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story, for the innovative Gotham Chamber Opera, with composer Judd Greenstein, which she is slated to direct. And this summer, an anthology of her plays – The Last Survivor and Other Modern Jewish Plays – is being published.