C’mon in: Amherst Community Theater, Yiddish Book Center welcome visitors back with new events, programs

  • Amherst Community Theater will put on its first production since early 2020 with “Broadway Melody,” which takes place April 29 and 30 at the Amherst Middle School. Image from Amherst Community Theater website

  • “Chess Players at the Jewish Club in Lodz,” from a new photography exhibit at the Yiddish Book Center that opens during a free “Community Day” on May 1. Chuck Fishman/Yiddish Book Center website

  • A free “Community Day” May 1 at the Yiddish Book Center includes a look at rare books in the collection. Image from Yiddish Book Center website

Staff Writer
Friday, April 22, 2022

The pandemic has played havoc with musical groups, theater companies, dance troupes and others in the past two years. But many have now returned to live performances — and now it’s Amherst Community Theater’s turn.

ACT, which staged its last performance, “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical,” in January 2020, will stage its new show, “Broadway Melody,” a musical concert of Broadway songs, on April 29 at 7 p.m. and April 30 at 2 p.m. at Amherst Regional Middle School.

That same weekend, the Yiddish Book Center on the campus of Hampshire College, which reopened last year for limited visitation, will celebrate the new year with a “Community Day” of free events May 1, including the opening of a new exhibit of photography.

Amherst Community Theater productions have typically been staged at Bowker Auditorium at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in January, an option that has not been available since “Matilda,” a musical adaptation of the Roald Dahl story of the same name, was performed there in early 2020.

So this year, the group wanted to “give opportunities to singers as well as give back to the community” by staging the new show at the middle school auditorium.

“Broadway Melody” is directed by Kimberly Overtree Karlin, with musical direction by Cindy Naughton, and includes 35 cast members. It’s a “stunning combination of eclectic community theater, both contemporary and vintage, with “singers of all ages,” according to press notes.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 10 years and under, and can be purchased at the the door (cash or check only). Proof of COVID vaccination (or a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours) is required for all audience members age 5 and up. Masks are also required for all audience members age 2 and up. For additional questions, call Sam Karlin at (413) 265-8900.

At the Yiddish Book Center, meanwhile, the free community day on May 1 will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will include a number of events, including the opening of “Roots, Resilience and Renewal — A Portrait of Polish Jews, 1975-2016,” an exhibit of work by photographer Chuck Fishman. He first traveled to Poland as a college student in search of what remained of Jewish life and culture in a country that had been devastated by the Holocaust.

Later, as a professional photojournalist, Fishman went back to Poland during the course of nearly four decades, and his black and white photographs speak “to themes of resilience and renewal, exploring and elucidating the myriad faces and facets of recovery and re-generation,” as press notes put it.

In other programs, Rachelle Grossman, the book center’s bibliography and collections manager, will give a behind-the-scenes look at some of the rare books in the collection, and a short film will be on view with selected interviews that are part of the center’s Wexler Oral History Project, focusing on the contributions for women to Yiddish culture; a Q&A follows with the project’s director, Christa Whitney.

And at 2 p.m., professor Allison Schachter of Vanderbilt University will give a talk on the role women played in the making of Jewish “modernity” as she introduces the female writers, artists, and intellectuals who participated in the transformation of Jewish culture in the 20th century.

That lecture will be livestreamed, and reservations for the talk can be made at YiddishBookCenter.org.

All visitors to the book center over age 12 are required to show proof of COVID vaccination and that they have received a booster shot. Vaccines are also required for children who are eligible; children under 5 are permitted in the building unvaccinated. Visitors are also required to wear face masks and to adhere to social distancing requirements to protect the safety of themselves and others.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.