Arnold Mittelman, founder and Producing Artistic Director of NJT, says that the organization came into being after he came to the surprising realization that there was no such entity, either in name or purpose.
Mittelman says that the NJT evolved out of conversations he had with longtime associates Eli Wallach, Jack Klugman, and Theodore Bikel, among others. He received a generous seed donation allowing him to explore interest in the subject with others in the American theater community, and in early 2007 he participated in the International Conference of Jewish Theaters in Vienna.
"Jewish Americans have had an extraordinary impact on the musical theater and dramatic theater in this country. Demographically, theater audiences across America and philanthropy directed to our regional not-for-profit theaters have been profoundly impacted by Jewish Americans. And the creative contributions of Jewish artists—playwrights, composers, lyricists, actors, musicians, choreographers, directors, and designers—are beyond measurement." Mittelman continues, "These contributions need to be acknowledged, preserved, and presented—and not just to Jewish audiences."
After finding that interest was widespread, Mittelman incorporated a not-for-profit company in order to receive philanthropic support. In association with American Theater Festival, NJT successfully launched its Inaugural Season with a production that could not have been more fitting—The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer at the historic Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale. Following a blockbuster week in March 2008 and a back-by-popular-demand, 2-week return in November 08, plans are underway to present this theatrical concert in major venues across the country.
NJT brought Theodore Bikel starring in Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears to Parker Playhouse in January 2009 immediately following its Theater J world premier in Washington DC. By special arrangement with National Jewish Theater, this important new musical play travels to New York City, Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago beginning in November 09.
OUR MISSION: National Jewish Theater, a not-for-profit company which celebrates Jewish culture, history and identity as well as the creative contributions of Jewish theatrical artists-playwrights, composers, lyricists, actors, musicians, choreographers, directors, and designers-by creating, preserving and presenting these works to diverse audiences across America, and throughout the world.
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