Yiddish Arts Ensemble
"Hershel and The Hanukkah Goblins," (pictured right) adapted as a klezmer musical from the children's book by Eric Kimmel, was first produced at Spertus Institute of Judaica on December 25th, 1990, as a Jewish family alternative to Christmas productions. The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, under the direction of Lori Lippitz, joined a cast of five professional actors and four juveniles performing a score and script crafted by Lippitz, Maxwell Street violinist Alex Koffman, and director/choreographer Lynn Shapiro.
The success of "Hershel" inspired Shapiro and Lippitz to found The Yiddish Arts Ensemble, a collaboration of actors and musicians dedicated to exposing children and family audiences to Yiddish culture through English-language klezmer musicals based on Yiddish folklore.
A hallmark of YAE productions is live musicians on stage integrated into the fiber of the storytelling. Yiddish is sprinkled throughout lyrics and dialogue to give audiences an authentic exposure to the sound and meaning of "der mameloschen" (the mother tongue).
"Hershel" became one of the company's most popular productions, selling out annual performances at Skokie's North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, and touring throughout Illinois and neighboring states. The YAE production of "Hershel" was also leased and produced by professional theater companies in Texas, Ohio, and Canada. Other Yiddish Arts Ensemble productions include "Ish Kabibble" and "Taste the Soup!"