About the Presenters
Wendy Heller is Associate Professor of Music and Director of the Program in Italian Studies at Princeton University, and serves on interdisciplinary committees for the Programs in Women and Gender, Judaic Studies, and Renaissance Studies. She has won numerous fellowships and awards from such organizations as the American Council of Learned Societies, Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies Villa I Tatti, and the Columbia University Society of Fellows. Her numerous publications on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century opera include Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women’s Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice (University of California Press, 2003), which won the best book award in 2004 from the Society for Early Modern Women and was also named a Finalist for the Otto Kinkeldey Prize from the American Musicological Society. An accomplished professional singer, Heller also served as Cantorial Soloist and Director of Music at Congregation Klal Yisrael of the South Shore (Massachusetts) for 15 years.
Alice Stone Nakhimovsky
Olga Litvak is a specialist in Russian Jewish culture and the author of Conscription and the Search for Modern Russian Jewry (Indiana University Press, 2006). A Professor of Judaic Studies and the Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at SUNY Albany, she has written and lectured on a wide range of subjects related to the study of Russian Jewry, including urban violence, literary life, war and revolution, and contemporary historiography. Litvak is currently working on several projects, including a biography of Sholem Aleichem and a study (tentatively called Marc Chagall and the Expresionist Moment in Jewish Culture) of the central role played by Jewish artists, critics, patrons, and dealers in the development of Russian art in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Alice Stone Nakhimovsky is Professor of Russian and Jewish Studies at Colgate University. She has published on Russian Jewish literature and Russian Jewish life more generally. In Russian-Jewish Literature and Identity (Johns Hopkins, 1992), she examined historical changes in Russian-Jewish self-perception through close analyses of the writers Babel, Grossman, Jabotinsky, Galich, and Roziner. Witness to History, The Photographs of Yevgeny Khaldei (Aperture, 1997), written with A. D. Nakhimovsky, presented the works of the well-known Russian-Jewish photojournalist. Recent subjects of interest include humor and food (“Mikhail Zhvanetsky: The Last Jewish Joker,” in Forging Modern Jewish Identities [Vallentine-Mitchell, 2002] and “You Are What They Ate: Russian Jews Revisit Their Past,” Shofar, Fall 2006). Her translation of Grisha Bruskin’s Past Imperfect will be published by Syracuse University Press later this year.
Michael C. Steinlauf
Mark Slobin is Professor of Music at Wesleyan University and the author or editor of 14 books, two of which—Fiddler on the Move: Exploring the Klezmer World (Oxford University Press, 2000) and Tenement Songs: Popular Music of the Jewish Immigrants (University of Illinois Press, 1982), both on Jewish music—have received the ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award, while Chosen Voices: The Story of the American Cantorate (University of Illinois Press, 1989) was a Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. With YIVO’s music archivist, Chana Mlotek, he was the editor of Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive (Wayne State University Press, 2007) He has been President of both the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Society for Asian Music.
Michael C. Steinlauf, Associate Professor of History at Gratz College, teaches Jewish history and culture in Eastern Europe and Polish-Jewish relations. He is the author of Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust (Syracuse University Press, 1997), and editor of Polin 16 (2003), dedicated to Jewish popular culture in Poland. His work has been translated into Polish, Hebrew, German and Italian. He is currently senior historical adviser and member of the exhibition planning team of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, soon to rise in Warsaw.
About the Performers and Reciters
Rebecca Joy Fletcher
Spencer Chandler is an actor, director, writer, filmmaker, pianist, composer, cartoonist, painter, linguist, philosopher, chef, inventor, and clown. Mentors and inspirations include Benjamin Franklin, Buster Keaton, Woody Allen, and director Peter Sellars. He is proud to have been the first American invited to join the international troupe of clowns who perform Slava’s Snowshow around the world, including two and a half years Off-Broadway at the Union Square Theater in New York City and touring in the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, and San Francisco. He is the artistic director and founder of Cannery Works, a nonprofit that provides production support to independent artists working in theater, music, film, and visual art (www.canneryworks.org). Spencer has also appeared in several principal roles on prime-time television: Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Deadline, and FOX’s Jonny Zero (guest-starring as Luther the Skinhead). Film credits include Mendy, in which he played an ex-Satmar Hasidic drug dealer; Solidarity; and Young Goodman Brown. He has been working professionally in theater for over 20 years including three seasons with the Folksbiene–National Yiddish Theater. With love for his grandmother, who was born in Poland.
Rebecca Joy Fletcher is an ordained cantor, playwright, and scholar and performer of European cabaret between the wars, focusing particularly on the remarkable contributions of Jewish cabaret artists in French, Yiddish, German, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, and English. Her theatrical cabaret, KLEYNKUNST! Warsaw’s Brave and Brilliant Yiddish Cabaret, was originally produced by Kabarett Fête in January 2007, then in an expanded version Off-Broadway by the National Yiddish Theater–Folksbiene in November 2007. The New York Times describes KLEYNKUNST! as “illuminating, ultimately touching. . . . Across an emotional spectrum from saucy irreverence, high spirits and nostalgia to the bitterest despair and back to hope . . . Ms. Fletcher delivers a richly rounded and eventually heartbreaking performance. . . .” Degenerate, Rebecca’s show exploring the trials and exploits of four of Berlin’s most beloved performers, was developed under the auspices of the Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92nd St Y Artists-in-Residence program, and premiered at Makor (NYC) in 2005. In both 2004 and 2005, she headlined as The Cabaret Artist in the Washington Heights Arts Stroll, a festival for the arts in upper Manhattan. In the works: A Little Yearning, and GINGI, a trio of women cantor-performers premiering with a series of shows next fall in New York. Ms. Fletcher is represented by Judith Z. Miller (ZAMO!) and Moishe Rosenfeld of Goldenland. She also serves as cantor of Temple Israel, in Staten Island.
Jacob Ben-Zion Mendelson
Lisa Gutkin, violinist, is a member of the Grammy-award winning Klezmatics. A founding member of the “Downtown Celtic” group Whirligig and frequent guest of the Demolition String Band, Lisa composes for film, radio, television and theater, including several episodes of Sex and The City. She appears on more than 100 recordings on labels such as RCA, Capitol, and Narada, and is currently composing the music for a Mabou Mines production scheduled to open next fall.
Jacob Ben-Zion Mendelson, cantor, is the subject of the documentary film A Cantor’s Tale, directed by Erik Greenberg Anjou, currently playing in film festivals throughout the world. In reviewing the film, The New York Times called him “a voice that heralds a culture . . . a documentary filmmaker’s dream.” Raised in Brooklyn, Mendelson is both an international performer and one of today’s leading cantorial masters. For 25 years he has taught at the Hebrew Union College School of Sacred Music and the H.L. Miller Cantorial School at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and has the unique honor of receiving honorary doctorates from both these institutions. Mendelson is a graduate of the HUC School of Sacred Music and the American Opera Center at the Juilliard School. He is the composer of “Weekday Mincha and Maariv” and “Improvisations on Shabbat Shacharit,” published by the Cantors Assembly, of which he was president in 2003–2004. Recently he created the role of Shabtai Tz’vi in the world premiere of Richard Teitelbaum’s Scenes from Tz’vi, performed at both Bard College and the Venice Biennale. Cantor Mendelson’s discography includes Cantorial Recitatives by Legendary Masters; The Birthday of the World, parts I and II; Jewish Music and More, recorded with his wife, Cantor Fredda Mendelson; and, most recently, Hazonos, recorded with Frank London and his son, Daniel Mendelson, and called “jazz album of the year” by Wired magazine.
Paul Morrissett, tsimbl player, is a collector and player of instruments of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia and has studied with many masters of these traditions. A member of the Klezmatics, he has also recorded and performed on instruments including hardanger fiddle, violin, nyckelharpa, gadulka, baritone horn, accordion, and tamburitza, and has been on the staff of numerous music camps including Fiddles and Feet, Lark in the Morning, Buffalo on the Roof, Ashokan Northern Week, and Balkan Music and Dance.
Yankl Salant is currently art director of the literary and cultural journal Afn shvel. For the last year he has been part of a team of lexicographers preparing an English version of Yitskhok Niborski and Bernard Vaysbrot’s Yidish-frantseyzish verterbukh. In 2007 he was reappointed as an instructor in the Uriel Weinreich Program in Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture at YIVO/New York University, where he will teach again this summer. He also appeared at the Folksbiene–National Yiddish Theatre in a 2007 revival of Di yam-gazlonim (the Yiddish adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance), which was nominated for a Drama Desk Award.
Conrad Winslow, pianist, was born in Homer, Alaska, to loving parents and amazing scenery. He graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he studied piano performance and composition, and composed the annual commencement music for the college. Conrad is currently studying composition and film scoring at NYU. He transcribed Kleynkunst! for successive performances of the show.