LOST IN YONKERS Arizona Theatre Company Play Guide 1 1 Play Guide America Plays! Special Edition, Volume IV of V
Oct 24, 2015
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Play GuideAmerica Plays! Special Edition, Volume IV of V
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3 WHO WE ARE4 INTRODUCTION TO THE PLAY4 THE CHARACTERS5 SYNOPSIS5 NEIL SIMON9 JUDY KAYE10 WORLD WAR II12 LIFE ON THE HOMEFRONT DURING THE WAR17 YONKERS19 IMMIGRATION21 ANTI-SEMITISM27 JEWISH COMEDY THROUGH THE YEARS
It is Arizona Theatre Companys goal to share the enriching experience of live theatre. This play guide is intended to help you prepare for your visit to Arizona Theatre Company. Should you have comments or suggestions regarding the play guide, or if you need more information about scheduling trips to see an ATC production, please feel free to contact us:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Lost in Yonkers Play Guide compiled and written by Jennifer Bazzell, Literary Manager. Discussion questions and activities prepared by Jeana Whitaker, Tucson Education Manager, Cale Epps, Phoenix Education Manager and Gary Edwards, Phoenix Education Associate. Layout by Gabriel Armijo.
Tucson: Jeana WhitakerEducation Manager(520)884-8210 ext 8506(520)628-9129 fax
Phoenix: Cale EppsEducation Manager(602)256-6899 ext 6503(602)256-7399 fax
Support for ATCs Education and Community Programming has been provided by:OrganizationsAmerson SurveyingAPSArizona Commission on the ArtsBank of America FoundationBlue Cross Blue Shield of ArizonaCity Of GlendaleCity Of PeoriaCommunity Foundation for Southern ArizonaFord Motor Company FundJP Morgan CHASENational Endowment for the ArtsPhoenix Offi ce of Arts and CulturePICOR Charitable FoundationScottsdale League for the ArtsTargetThe Boeing CompanyThe Marshall FoundationThe Johnson Family Foundation, Inc.The David C. and Lura M. Lovell FoundationThe Hearst Foundation, Inc.The Maurice and Meta Gross FoundationThe Max and Victoria Dreyfus FoundationThe Stocker FoundationThe Stonewall FoundationTucson Electric Power CompanyTucson Pima Arts CouncilUnion Pacifi c FoundationPhoenix Suns Charity
IndividualsMr. Craig AltschulJessica Andrews and Timothy W. ToothmanAnonymous (1)
Mr. and Ms. Barry BakerMs. Beth A. BankMr. Robert BegamMs. Gayle BentleyMr. and Mrs. Joel BezMs. Denise BirgerAnn and Neal BlackmarrMr. Tom BoboMs. Gayle BrezackMr. Tom CarlsonShirley J. ChannMr. and Mrs. Robert ClarkMr. and Mrs. Tyrone ClarkMr. Thomas ChapmanMs. Mimi CohenJan CopelandMs. Kathleen CummingsMr. and Mrs. James DarlingMr. Craig DeanMr. Larry Deutsch and Mr. William ParkerMr. Jim DeGirolamoMs. Jill DoddyMr. Jerry D. DrossosMr. and Mrs. Bruce L. DusenberryEdward and Barbara FarmilantMr. and Mrs. Burton and Zelda FaigenMr. Peter FaurMr. and Mrs. Eric FreedbergMr. Patric Giclas and Mrs. Gail GiclasMs. Florence M. GoldwaterDr. Mary Jo GhoryMs. Laura GrafmanMr. and Mrs. Jon GrasseMr. Greg B. HalesMr. Brian Hauser
Ms. Megan HiltyMr. Bill KelleyMr. Rich and KraemerMs. Moniqua LaneMr. Raul LeonMrs. Ann C. LynnMr. and Mrs. Doug McClureMr. and Mrs. James J. MeenaghanMs. Thelma MillerMs. Barbara MontandonKevin Moore and Michael PortoMr. and Mrs. Fred A. Nachman IIIMs. Linda PedrigiMr. Bryan PerriMs. Dana Pitt, Donald Pitt Family FoundationRobert PresentMr. Michael RatliffSteve RatliffVicki RatliffSusan RollinsMs. Dina RomeroMs. Karen T. ScatesDrs. John and Helen SchaeferMr. and Ms. Mark and Amy SchiavoniMr. and Ms. Michael and Enid SeidenMaurice and Shirley SevignyMs. Peggi SimmonsMs. Wendi SorensenMr. and Mrs Robert StoweMs. Val SundbergMs. Janet TraylorMr. Brad TrebingMr. Chuck WatsonRonald and Mary WeinsteinMr. Tom WhalenMs. Mary White
Ms. Rebecca Winninger
29 THE JEWISH MAFIA31 MOMENTS IN HISTORY32 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
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Arizona Theatre Company is a professional, not-for-profi t theatre company. This means all of our artists, administrators and production staff are paid professionals, and the income we receive from ticket sales and contributions goes right back into our budget to create our work, rather than to any particular person as a profi t.
Each season, ATC employs hundreds of actors, directors and designers from all over the country to create the work you see on stage. In addition, ATC currently employs about 100 staff members in our production shops and administrative offi ces in Tucson and Phoenix during our season. Among these people are carpenters, painters, marketing professionals, fundraisers, stage directors, computer specialists, sound and light board operators, tailors, costume designers, box offi ce agents, stage crew-the list is endless- representing an amazing range of talents and skills.
We are also supported by a Board of Trustees, a group of business and community leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to assist the theatre in fi nancial and legal matters, advise in marketing and fundraising, and help represent
the theatre in our community.
Roughly 150,000 people attend our shows every year, and several thousands of those people support us with charitable contributions in addition to purchasing their tickets. Businesses large and small, private foundations and the city and state governments also support our work fi nancially.
All of this is in support of our mission: to create professional theatre that continually strives to reach new levels of artistic excellence and that resonates locally, in the state of Arizona and throughout the nation. In order to fulfi ll its mission, the theatre produces a broad repertoire ranging from classics to new works, engages artists of the highest caliber, and is committed to assuring access to the broadest spectrum of citizens.
ARIZONA THEATRE COMPANY: WHO WE AREThousands of people make our work at ATC possible!W
Temple of Music and Art in Tucson, Arizona
Herberger Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona
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INTRODUCTION TO THE PLAYINTR
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Meet the Kurnitz family. Grandma is the matriarch with a will of iron and a hardwood cane who spared no rod in raising her four children. When her two teenage grandsons are forced by circumstances to live with her for a year, the clash of generations and battle of wills lead the whole family to learn important lessons about duty, devotion, trust and love. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for Best Play, and as comical as it is poignant, Lost in Yonkers is the masterwork of Neil Simon's career and is certain to leave you spellbound with laughter and tears.
Model by Scenic Designer Michael Schweikardt
Jay: A not-quite-sixteen-year-old young man.
Arty: Jays brother; a thirteen-and-a-half-year-old young man.
Eddie: The father of Jay and Arty.
Bella: Eddies sister and Jay and Artys aunt.
Grandma Kurnitz: Eddie and Bellas mother and Jay and Artys grandmother.
Louie: Eddie and Bellas brother and Jay and Artys uncle. Grandma Kurnitzs son.
Actor Ryan DeLuca who plays Jay in ATCs production of Lost in Yonkers
Actor Max Carlisle-King who plays Arty in ATCs production of Lost in Yonkers
Gert: Eddie, Bella and Louies sister and Jay and Artys aunt. Grandma Kurnitzs daughter.
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Actor Preston Maybank who plays Louie in ATCs production of Lost in Yonkers
Playwright Neil Simon in 1966
Jay and Arty are about to spend the longest year of their lives. In order to pay off a debt he accrued while their mother was sick, the boys father Eddie must leave them with their Grandmother Kurnitz while he travels selling scrap iron for the war effort. Grandma Kurnitz is a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails German-Jewish immigrant who wants nothing to do
with having two teenage boys in her house. Despite the fact that she runs a candy store, Grandma Kurnitz patience for children is non-existent. Her goal to toughen up the boys clashes with their Aunt Bellas desire to shower them with attentionand ice cream. But Aunt Bella has some surprises of her own that threaten to upset the delicate peace in the
Actor Kate Goehring who plays Bella in ATCs production of Lost in Yonkers
precariously-balanced household. And when Uncle Louie arrives, with a gun and a mysterious black bag, the boys learn life lessons about family, love and responsibility that will stay with them for the rest of their days.
"If Broadway ever erects a monument to the patron saint of laughter, Neil Simon would have to be it." Time magazine.
Marvin Neil Simon was born in the Bronx on July 4, 1927. He was the second son of parents Irving and Mamie Simon. He spent his childhood in Depression-era Manhattan which greatly infl uenced his later plays. He attended both New York University and the University of Denver and served in the Army Air Force Reserves. He began writing in the late 1940s, primarily working with his older brother, Danny Simon, crafting radio and television scripts. Both men wrote for The Robert Q. Lewis Show and The Phil Silvers Show before joining the writing team of the weekly variety show Your Show of Shows in the early
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Poster for the movie Adaptation of Barefoot in the Park
1950s. The show featured some of the best comedic minds all working in the same room, including Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart and Carl Reiner. He also wrote for acting legends Phil Silvers, Jackie Gleason, Red Buttons, Garry Moore, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca.
In 1961, Neil Simons fi rst Broadway play Come Blow Your Horn, about two brothers who resist taking over their fathers business ran for 678 performances. He followed up that production with a musical, Little Me, which received mixed reviews. Two years later, in 1963, he struck comedy gold with Barefoot in the Park (which starred Robert Redford). Throughout the rest of the 1960s, Simon churned out hit after hit including his beloved The Odd Couple (1965), Sweet Charity (1966), Promises, Promises (1968) and Plaza Suite (1968). In the early
By the early 1980s, Neil Simon had conquered the world of radio, television, fi lm and Broadway comedy. However, he managed to hit an even
Fun Fact: Neil Simon is the only playwright to have had four plays simultaneously running on Broadway.
Fun Fact: Danny Simon actually originated the idea and script for one of Neil Simons most famous plays. When Danny Simon was going through a divorce he lived with another divorced man which gave him the idea for The Odd Couple. When Danny experienced writers block after starting the play, Neil took over and completed it.
1970s, he continued his streak of successes with The Out of Towners (1970), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971) and The Sunshine Boys (1972). However in 1973, Neil Simon experienced a heartbreaking personal loss in his life when his wife of twenty years passed away. His next hit play Chapter Two (1977) tells the story of a widower who must start his life over again.
Poster for the movie adaptation of The Odd Couple
Poster for the original Broadway production of Lost in Yonkers
higher career high with the premiere of Brighton Beach Memoirs in 1983, which was the fi rst of his autobiographical trilogy of plays that also include Biloxi Blues (1985) and Broadway Bound (1986). The plays detail the story of Simons childhood in New York, followed by his entrance into the Army and his transition to Broadway playwright. Then, in 1991, his follow-up play Lost in Yonkers premiered; the critical success of the play was astounding and Simon won his fi rst and only Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the play.
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Neil Simon has continued to write plays up until the present day, most recently Jakes Women (1992), The Goodbye Girl (1993), Laughter on the 23rd Floor (1993), London Suite (1995), Proposals (1997), The Dinner Party (2000), 45 Seconds From Broadway (2001), Roses Dilemma (2003) and Oscar and Felix (2004). His popularity as a playwright is undiminished fi ve decades after his fi rst Broadway show premiered. He is certainly the most successful American playwright in history, having received more Academy and Tony Award nominations than any other writer.
Fun Fact: Neil Simon is the only living playwright to have a Broadway theatre named after him.
Fun Fact: The last time ATC produced a Neil Simon play was a 1975-1976 season production of The Sunshine Boys. The only other two Simon plays ATC has produced are The Odd Couple and The Gingerbread Lady.
Actor Spencer Rowe who plays Eddie in ATCs production of Lost in Yonkers
Costume Sketch for Arty by designer David K. Mickelsen
Actor Kerry McCue who plays Gert in ATCs production of Lost in Yonkers
At heart, his plays tell the stories of fl awed but fascinating human beings. His locales instantly call to mind not only the New York City of today, but the New York City of a bygone era Yonkers, Manhattan, Brighton Beach, Riverside Drive, Second Avenue, Central Park West and others. These locales come to life because Neil Simon writes them so accurately, so completely and with so much affection. As the Kennedy Centers biography of Neil Simon succinctly describes his appeal, Perhaps the secret to Simon's success is his abilityto show us -- between, in, and around the funny lines -- the pain, aspiration, and sheer panic behind all those unforgettable characters.
Neil Simons Plays
Come Blow Your Horn (1961)Little Me (1962)Barefoot in the Park (1963)The Odd Couple (1965)Sweet Charity (1966)The Star-Spangled Girl (1966)Plaza Suite (1968)Promises, Promises (1968)The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1969)The Gingerbread Lady (1970)
The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971)The Sunshine Boys (1972)The Good Doctor (1973)God's Favorite (1974)California Suite (1976)Chapter Two (1977)They're Playing Our Song (1979)I Ought to Be in Pictures (1980)Fools (1981)Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983)
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1957 Emmy Award for Your Show of Shows1959 Emmy Award for The Phil Silvers Show1965 Tony Award for Best Author - The Odd Couple1967 Evening Standard Award - Barefoot in the Park1968 Sam S. Shubert Award - Sweet Charity1969 Writers Guild of America Award The Odd Couple1970 Writers Guild of America Award The Last of the Red Hot Lovers1971 Writers Guild of America Award The Out-of-Towners1972 Writers Guild of America Award The Trouble With People1975 Special Tony Award for contribution to theatre1975 Writers Guild of America Award The Goodbye Girl1978 Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay - The Goodbye Girl1979 Writers Guild of America Award Laurel Award1981 Doctor of Humane Letters from Hofstra University1983 American Theatre Hall of Fame1983 New York Drama Critics Circle Award - Brighton Beach Memoirs1983 Outer Critics Circle Award - Brighton Beach Memoirs1985 Tony Award for Best Play - Biloxi Blues1986 New York State Governor's Award1989 American Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievement1991 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play - Lost in Yonkers1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama - Lost in Yonkers1991 Tony Award for Best Play - Lost in Yonkers1995 Kennedy Center Honoree1996 William Inge Theatre Festival Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater2006 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor
Biloxi Blues (1985)The Female Odd Couple (1986)Broadway Bound (1986) Rumors (1988)Lost in Yonkers (1991)Jake's Women (1992)The Goodbye Girl (1993)Laughter on the 23rd Floor (1993)London Suite (1995)Proposals (1997)The Dinner Party (2000)45 Seconds from Broadway (2001)Rose's Dilemma (2003)Oscar and Felix: A New Look at the Odd Couple (2004) Costume Sketch for Jay by
designer David K. Mickelsen
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Actor Judy Kaye who plays Grandma Kurnitz in ATCs production of Lost in Yonkers
Costume Sketch for Grandma Kurnitz by designer David K. Mickelsen
JUDY KAYEJudy Kaye (who plays Grandma Kurnitz) returns to ATC where she last appeared in Souvenir in her Tony Award-nominated performance as Florence Foster Jenkins. She also performed Souvenir at the York Theatre (Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Awards); at the Berkshire Theatre Festival and in Los Angeles (LA Ovation Award/Best Actress), Westport, San Francisco, Baltimore, Sarasota and Rochester. She also starred as Mrs. Lovett on Broadway and in the National Tour of Sweeney Todd. This is Ms. Kaye's second appearance in Lost in Yonkers, following her critically acclaimed portrayal of Grandma Kurnitz at The Old Globe. Last year, she appeared at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London in the new Harold Prince musical Paradise Found, which is currently in development. Ms. Kaye appeared in Bells Are Ringing and Face The Music for the Encore! Series in NY and in LAs Reprise Series in Zorba. Highlights of her career include the Broadway productions of Phantom of the Opera (Tony Award, Drama Desk nomination),
Mamma Mia (Tony and Drama Desk nominations), On the Twentieth Century (Theatre World Award, Drama Desk nomination) and Ragtime (Theatre LA Ovation Award). She portrayed Musetta in La Boheme, Eurydice in Orpheus in the Underworld and Lucy Lockett in The Beggars Opera, all at the Santa Fe Opera. Other roles range from Sally in Follies, Maggie in The Man Who Came to Dinner, Penny in You Cant Take It with You, and Kitty Dean in The Royal Family to Mama Rose in Gypsy. Ms. Kaye has appeared with symphony orchestras around the country and the world, and sung at the White House twice. Her cabaret shows are very popular and her current show is a salute to Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. She is the voice of Kinsey Millhone for the Sue Grafton/Random House Audio Book Alphabet Mystery Series. For more information, visit judykaye.com.
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WORLD WAR IIThis country went to warA war between us and the Japanese and the Germans Eddie, Lost in Yonkers
References to World War II in the Play
General Rommel: Famous German Field Marshal during World War II Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel lived from November 15, 1891 to October 14, 1944. He was nicknamed the Desert Fox because of his skilled leadership of German and Italian forces in North Africa. He had been a highly decorated offi cer in World War I before being promoted during World War II. He was never offi cially a member of the Nazi Party and became increasingly outspoken in his criticisms of Hitlers policies. When Nazi offi cials suspected him of being complicit in an assassination attempt on Hitler, he was given the choice of killing himself or forcibly being given poison he opted for the former to protect his family.
Map of the division of the Allied and Axis Powers
World War II, or the Second World War (often abbreviated as WWII or WW2), was a global military confl ict lasting from 1939 to 1945, which involved most of the world's nations, including all of the great powers: which eventually formed two opposing military alliances, the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million military personnel mobilized. In a state of "total war," the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial, and scientifi c capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Marked by signifi cant events involving the mass death of civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it was the deadliest confl ict in human history, resulting in 50 million to over 70 million fatalities.
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German infantry and armored vehicles battle the Soviet defenders on the streets of Kharkov, October 1941.
Guadalcanal: The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal and codenamed Operation Watchtower by Allied forces, was fought between August 7, 1942 and February 9, 1943 on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacifi c theatre of World War II. It was part of the Allied strategic plan to protect the convoy routes between the US, Australia, and New Zealand.*
South Pacifi c: The South West Pacifi c was one of two theatres of World War II in the Pacifi c region, between 1942 and 1945. The South West Pacifi c theatre included the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies (excluding Sumatra), Borneo, Australia, the Australian Territory of New Guinea (including the Bismarck Archipelago), the western part of the Solomon Islands and some neighboring territories. The theatre takes its name from the major Allied command, which was known simply as the "South West Pacifi c Area."* *- from www.wikipedia.com
The war is generally accepted to have begun on September 1, 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany and Slovakia, and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and most of the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth. Germany set out to establish a large empire in Europe. From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or subdued much of continental Europe; amid Nazi-Soviet agreements, the nominally neutral Soviet Union fully or partially occupied and annexed territories of its six European neighbors. Britain and the Commonwealth remained the only major force continuing the fi ght against the Axis in North Africa and in extensive naval warfare. In June 1941, the European Axis launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, giving a start to the largest land theatre of war in history, which, from that moment on, was tying down the major part of the Axis military power. In December 1941, Japan, which had been at war with China since 1937 and aimed to dominate Asia, attacked the United States and European possessions in the Pacifi c Ocean, quickly conquering much of the region.
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Allied Forces on D-Day, the Normandy Invasion in June, 1944.
The Axis advance was stopped in 1942 after the defeat of Japan in a series of naval battles and after defeats of European Axis troops in North Africa and, decisively, at Stalingrad. In 1943, with a series of German defeats in Eastern Europe, the Allied invasion of Fascist Italy, and American victories in the Pacifi c, the Axis lost the initiative and undertook strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded France, while the Soviet Union regained all territorial losses and invaded Germany and its allies.
The war in Europe ended with the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops and the subsequent German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. The Japanese Navy was defeated by the United States; and invasion of the Japanese Archipelago ("Home Islands") became imminent.
The war ended with the total victory of the Allies over Germany and Japan in 1945. World War II altered the political alignment and social structure of the world. The United Nations (UN) was established to foster international cooperation and prevent future confl icts (such as World War III). The Soviet Union and the United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War, which would last for the next 46 years. Meanwhile, the infl uence of European great powers started to decline, while the decolonization of Asia and Africa began. Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic recovery. Political integration emerged as an effort to stabilize postwar relations. -from www.wikipedia.com
LIFE ON THE HOMEFRONT DURING THE WARThe onset of World War II brought the United States out of the Great Depression. Throughout the 1930s, Americans all over the country had struggled to provide for, and even feed their families because of a series of fi nancial issues, droughts and crop problems. When war was declared in 1941 following the Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor, industry in the United States was suddenly re-awakened and, though it sounds strange, prosperity returned to U.S. citizens because jobs became abundant.
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T Costume Sketch for Bella by designer David K. Mickelsen
A real-life Rosie the Riveter works during World War II
Changes in the Workforce
Lost in Yonkers takes place beginning in August of 1942. During the 1940s the United States saw a huge change in industry operations. As the United States entered the War in 1941, those workers who had previously been hired in production jobs, primarily white men, were in short supply as they were recruited into combat roles. This opened the door for women and minorities to fi ll positions that were previously not available to them. They were called production soldiers, and would participate in every aspect of the war industry, from making combat clothing, to building fi ghter aircrafts and weaponry. In some instances industry machinery was adapted so that it could be handled by unskilled workers who needed to step into the role quickly, opening up employment opportunities even after the war was over. Womens roles were not simply limited to industrial production, they also provided a huge support for agriculture (Womens Land Army), in community service roles such as nursing, the USO and The Red Cross. They even became pilots: The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) were a group of civilian female pilots employed to fl y military aircraft under the direction of the Unites States Army Air Forces. In 1942, between the months of January and July only, estimates for the proportion of jobs that would be acceptable for women were raised from 29% to 85%.
Rosie the Riveter
A widely recognized icon from that era was Rosie the Riveter, an advertising campaign used to encourage women to go to work in support of the war effort. The term Rosie the Riveter was fi rst used in a 1942 song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb
All day long, whether rain or shine, shes part of the assembly line. Shes making history, working for victory, Rosie the Riveter.
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To boost morale and to raise civil spirits of those not involved overseas or working directly in support of the war effort building weaponry and machinery, activities and groups such as the Civil Air Patrol and the Coast Guard Auxiliary were set up. Civilians were employed in reconnaissance, search-and-rescue, and transportation missions around the country, and towers were built in coastal or border towns to spot enemy aircrafts.
USOThe United Service Organizations (USO) was founded in 1941 in response to a request from President Franklin D. Roosevelt for civilians to provide morale and recreation services to uniformed military personnel. The presidents request led to a grouping of six civilian organizations to unite to provide non-military assistance to the troops. Those organizations formed the United Service Organizations (abbreviated USO). The groups were The Salvation Army, Young Mens Christian Association (YMCA), Young Womens Christian Association (YWCA), National Catholic Community Service, National Travelers Aid Association and National Jewish Welfare Board.
Bob Hope performs with the USO in 1944
Another popular activity that united millions of people was the scrap drives. Resources during World War II became quite scarce resulting in rationing of all sorts of commodities such as meat, sugar, coffee, dairy products, fat, canned foods, fuel, and shoesto name but a few. It became a patriotic duty to not only purchase what was a fair amount, ensuring that there would be enough for all, but also to recycle. Schools and communities organized scrap drives across the country, collecting anything from chicken wire, or farm machinery, to even an historic canon (an unfortunate mistake), to build ships and weapons.
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TA World War II era poster promoting Victory Gardens
A World War II era poster promoting Victory Gardens
People would save aluminum foil from gum or candy wrappers, collecting them until they had a large enough ball to hand in for recycling. Even the currency changed during the war as copper became a scarce commodity and pennies were changed from copper to zinc-coated steel. It has been suggested since that time that these scrap metal drives actually yielded very little of essential value, but provided a great morale booster.
Other essentials that were in high demand at the time were rubber and nylon. Because of the rubber shortage gasoline was rationed to prevent too much car usage and subsequent need for new tires. A 35mph speed limit was also implemented for the same reason. Because of the embargo on Japanese silk, nylon was now used to make parachutes, resulting in a rationing of womens stockings. It was said that each chute required the equivalent of 36 pairs of stockings.
In 1941, as a way of overcoming food shortages due to rationing, a National Victory Garden Program was launched. Gardens were set up and maintained by people of the community wherever they could fi nd space: on empty lots, in public gardens, or even on rooftops. Portions of San Franciscos Golden Gate Park were converted into victory gardens, and still to this day The Fenway Victory Gardens in Boston, Massachusetts and the Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota remain active gardens. By 1943, nearly half of all vegetables grown in the U.S.
As the economy was boosted by the war industry, people found themselves with more money to spend but fewer goods to buy. The government introduced War Bonds, a system in which individuals could buy bonds at of their face value, with the guarantee that the government would pay back the full face value after a set number of years. This not only supported the defense budget of the country, but it also offered some form of a savings account. It was suggested that people should put up to 10% of their salaries towards War Bonds, and as incentive, special Minuteman fl ags were fl own above factories when all their workers belonged to this Ten Percent Club.
came from Victory Gardens, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 20 million Victory Gardens were planted in those few years.
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Famous 1940s Actors Referenced in the Play:
William Holden: An American actor who lived from April 17, 1918 November 12, 1981 who became one of the top box offi ce draws of the 1950s (and eventually won both the Academy Award in 1954 and an Emmy Award in 1974). He is ranked at number 25 on the AFIs list of 100 Greatest Stars.
Jean Arthur: An American actress who lived from October 17, 1900 June 19, 1991. She was well-known for her screwball comedies, especially during the 1930s and 1940s.
Bette Davis: Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis lived from April 5, 1908 October 6, 1989. She performed on fi lm, television and in theatre. She is remembered for her willingness to play unsympathetic characters.
George Brent: George Brent lived from March 15, 1899 May 26, 1979. Irish by birth, he became well-known in American fi lm and television.
Betty Grable: Betty Grable lived from December 18, 1916 July 2, 1973. She was an actress, dancer and singer most best known as having the most beautiful legs in Hollywood (which were reportedly insured by her studio for $1,000,000). Her pinup photo was the most popular of the World War II era.
James Cagney: James Francis Cagney, Jr. lived from July 17, 1899 March 30, 1986. Best known for playing tough guys, he was ranked 8th on the AFIs list of Greatest Male Stars of All Time.
Humphrey Bogart: Humphrey DeForest Bogart lived from December 25, 1899 January 14, 1957. The AFI listed Humphrey Bogart number one on the list of the Greatest Male Stars of All Time.
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The war effort at home through the 1940s gave unity and support to a nation that had just found its way out of a depression. The labor required to support a country at war gave opportunities to those who had been previously excluded from the workforce, and with ideas such as War Bonds personal saving hit an all time high. There are even some examples of initiatives created in the early 1940s that have survived to this day: the USO still employs celebrities and entertainers to perform for troops overseas and in 2009 First Lady Michelle Obama planted a kitchen garden that harks back to the idea of a Victory Garden in the White House lawn. - written by Amber Tibbitts, Artistic Intern
Fun Facts About Yonkers
Yonkers is named for Adrian Van der Donck also known as De Jonkheer (young Gentleman or Young Nobleman). Over time Jonkheer became Yonkers.The fi rst elevator safety devices (which eventually made modern skyscrapers possible) were invented in Yonkers in 1854 by Elisha Graves Otis.The fi rst street lighting in the country was introduced in Yonkers in 1861.The fi rst elevated-mass-transit-system in the world was invented in 1867 by Yonkers resident Charles T. Harvey and fi nancially backed by a group of Yonkers investors.Samuel Tilden, former Governor of New York State and resident of Yonkers was the fi rst Presidential Candidate to win the popular vote but lose the electoral vote (1876).The fi rst golf course in the US was founded in Yonkers in 1888. Bakelite, the fi rst completely synthetic plastic, was created in Yonkers in 1906. The fi rst FM broadcast came from Yonkers in 1940. Lost in Yonkers was actually fi lmed in Cincinnati, because it was too expensive to transform Yonkers to look like it did in the 1940s and Cincinnati neighborhoods had been preserved very well.
-Reprinted with permission from Cleveland Playhouse "Lost in Yonkers Study Guide"
The play takes place in Yonkers, New York, in an apartment above a candy store. Yonkers is a city located just north of Manhattan, above the Bronx, and is home to approximately 200,000 people. It was founded in 1645 by the Dutch, who occupied what eventually became New York City prior to the English. The initial land grant was given to a man named Adrian van der Donck, who was known as the Jonker, or Esquire, of the area. The city was subsequently named after the Jonker, and this name ultimately became Yonkers.
SElisha Graves Otis
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Costume Sketch for Gert by designer David K. Mickelsen
The train station in modern-day Yonkers
The Jewish Community in Yonkers
Yonkers developed a signifi cant Jewish community during the 1920s and 1930s, as large numbers of Jews who lived in the Lower East Side and Harlem neighborhoods moved north to Yonkers and the Bronx. The moves were made, in large part, by older immigrants such as Grandma in Lost in Yonkers and their children, such as Eddie, Bella and Gert who were looking for work and middle class places to live. Over time, as Yonkers evolved, the Jewish population greatly diminished in numbers.
The greater Jewish community in America was in a very diffi cult situation in 1942. The government
upheld the immigration quota, thus refusing refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe. There was also great political division amongst Jewish leaders at the time. The Zionist
A City in Between
Yonkers is a place in-between: it lacks the glamour and sophistication of the big city, and isnt as posh as its suburban neighbors further out. Yonkers is no place in particular; it is a safe, family- oriented, working-class neighborhood that no one dreams of running away to. This city is a perfect backdrop for the play since all of the characters feel trapped inside their worlds. All of the characters are Lost in Yonkers stuck in between their challenging past and the promise of a brighter future.Consider what this climate would mean for young Arty and Jay, moving from the outer boroughs of Manhattan to the less urban Yonkers to live with their German immigrant grandmother. Her strong German accent emphasizes her exoticness to the boys who were presumably raised in Reformed Judaism. The Kurnitz family overall seems to be integrated in American society, most likely because of their store and presence in Yonkers; however, the effects of the political and religious tensions surrounding them would certainly infl uence them in some way or another. -written by Kevin Becerra, Dramaturgical Intern & Reprinted from Cleveland Playhouse ask permission
movement strongly believed in the importance of establishing a Jewish state in the homeland. In America, one of the most public voices on the issue was Arthur Hays Sulzberger, a journalist for The New York Times. Sulzberger was a zealous anti-Zionist who encouraged the Jewish population to consider Judaism a religion and not an ethnic group. Many anti-Zionists encouraged Jewish-Americans to downplay their Jewish identity and partake in the American image for fear of an outbreak of anti-Semitism.
News of the genocide taking place in Nazi Germany spread slowly, as little media attention was given to the extermination of the Jews. However, as the Jewish community became more aware of what was happening there they made their opinion known. The most famous instance of the community speaking out against Americas failure to harbor refugees was The Day the Rabbis Marched, when 400 Rabbis marched on Washington, DC in 1943.
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Arizona Theatre Company Play Guide 1919
Immigrate: to come into a country of which one is not a native for permanent residence.
Emigrate: to leave one's place of residence or country to live elsewhere.
Ellis Island in 1905, right before Grandma Kurnitzs family immigrated to America
IMMIGRATION"Let me tell you something. I love this country. Because they took in the Jews. They took in the Irish, the Italians and everyone else Remember this. Theres a lot of Germans in this country fi ghting for America, but there are no Americans over there fi ghting for Germany Eddie, Lost in Yonkers
The fi rst European immigrants to come to America arrived in the 1600s, seeking a new land where they would be free from the constraints that had bound them in their native countries. The vast majority of these immigrants were from the northern European countries such as England, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden. After the initial colonies were established, immigration statistics rose as Ireland, Germany and other European countries joined the growing list of nations sending people to Americas shores. By the end of the 19th century, immigrants were coming from all over the world, including many from Eastern European countries
where their basic human rights had been grossly infringed upon. People came from Asia, from the Middle East and from Latin America, as well. America was seen as the land of opportunity; a land where you were free to be successful as long as you worked hard and had ingenuity.
As immigrants had children and their children had children, a delicate balance began to arise between the old and the new. People learned to integrate their old customs and traditions into their lives while still making enough room to adapt to their new environments. As older generations passed away, they taught their traditions to the younger generations, therefore allowing for culture not to die out with the generation who fi rst immigrated to America. America has often been referred to as a melting pot, meaning that it is a place where traditions and cultures melt together in order to produce something new and exciting.
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Arizona Theatre Company Play Guide 2020
Emigration is easy, but immigration is something else. To fl ee, yes; but to be accepted? - Victoria Wolfe, Spell of Egypt. (1943).
Between 1820 and 2002 the government estimates that 68,217,481 people immigrated to the United States. (Because of poor early immigrant documentation that did not count slaves or people arriving at Pacifi c or land borders, this number is surely low. Also, this is the estimate of legal immigrants, and does not include undocumented immigrants.)In the year 2002, legal immigration was 1,063,732. Also in that year, nearly one in fi ve immigrants intended to reside in New York City or Los Angeles.The largest immigration decade in history was 1901-1910, the decade that the Kurnitz family immigrated to the United States. It is estimated that 8,795,386 immigrants came during that decade.
The Offi ce of Immigration Statistics Page -- http://uscis.gov/graphics/shared/aboutus/statistics/
Immigrants being processed at Ellis Island in 1904
On some level, it is true that America is a place where you will see all sorts of cultures melded together. However, it is also a good metaphor to call America a salad bowl where cultures all get tossed together to live side by side, but the traditions still maintain their own distinctive fl are. How much the cultures here in America have actually fused is a subject that is constantly debated. The United States is still dealing with many questions regarding our immigration policies. Everyone has his or her own opinion about which immigration policies are effective and which should be changed. It is important to note that the desire to come to America to improve you and your familys lives is still strong and is the same desire that captivated people who came here on ships hundreds of years ago.
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ANTI-SEMITISMYou think the Germans would let some Jew in Poland send nine thousand dollars to some Jew in Alabama? Arty, Lost in Yonkers
Anti-Semitic Folk LoreMuch of the hatred of Jewish people was passed on from generation to generation through folk stories that stressed the inhumanity of the Jews. Believe it or not, people took these types of stories seriously and believed them to be fact.
The Girl Who Was Killed by JewsIn the year 1267 in Pforzheim, an old woman, driven by greed, sold an innocent seven-year-old girl to the Jews. The Jews gagged her to keep her from crying out, cut open her veins, and surrounded her in order to catch her blood with cloths. The child soon died from the torture, and they weighted her down with stones and threw her into the Enz River. A few days later little Margaret reached her little hand above the streaming water. A number of people, including the Margrave himself soon assembled. Some boatmen succeeded in pulling the child out of the water. She was still alive, but as soon as she had called for vengeance against her murderers, she died. Suspicion fell upon the Jews, and they were all summoned to appear. As they approached the corpse, blood began to stream from its open wounds. The Jews and the old woman confessed the evil deed and were executed. The child's coffi n, with an inscription, stands next to the bell rope near the entrance to the palace church at Pforzheim. Children of the members of the boatmen's guild unanimously pass the legend from generation to generationSource: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Deutsche Sagen (1816/1818), no. 354. http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/anti-semitism/antisemitic_legends.html#Stone
A 13th century depiction of German Jews
The Most Persecuted People in History
For thousands of years, Jewish people have been persecuted in every corner of the globe. There is even part of the Passover Haggadah recited yearly that states, In every generation they rise against us in order to annihilate us. There are many theories as to why Jews have been so viciously persecuted, but the bottom line is that people persecute other people due to ignorance and fear of the unknown.
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A 1614 etching showing Jews being expelled from Frankfurt
This 12th Century French Bible illustration shows Christian crusaders slaughtering Jews
History of the German JewsGrandma Kurnitz makes repeated references to growing up as a girl in Germany, before she immigrated to the United States. Her family was therefore German and Jewish, a common combination throughout history. Recorded history shows Jews living in Germany from at least the fourth century and living in relative harmony with their fellow Germans (though there were generally more restrictions on Jews activities than that of their Christian counterparts). However, the Crusades changed that balance. The Crusades were a series of invasions of the Holy Land by the
Christian community of Europe, the fi rst of which began in 1095 and the last of which took place in 1270 (though even as late as the late seventeenth century, there were still smaller invasions). The Crusades took place because Christian Europe felt that infi dels were living in the land where Jesus had once lived and therefore were defi ling it by inhabiting it with their un-godly ways. The Crusades failed inhabiting, producing only mass death on both sides and horrible relations between Europe and the Middle East. When the Christian invaders returned, suddenly their attitudes toward their Jewish neighbors changed. As the big cities in Europe turned into port cities for world-wide trade, the returned Crusaders did not want Jews taking what they perceived to be their merchant jobs as merchants. Suddenly, Jews were restricted from certain parts of life. Laws began springing up prohibiting
marriage between Jews and non-Jews, prohibiting habitation of certain neighborhoods by Jews, and prohibiting Jews to appear in public without certain garments designating them as Jews. Massacres of Jews took place in present day Germany as Jews were accused of poisoning wells, treason and ritual murder. Throughout the centuries, German Jews would experience some little reprieve from persecution only to fi nd another wave of resentment, second-class citizenship and murder to come.
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Anti-Semitism in the 20th Century
Following World War I, Germany fell from being a great world power to being a starving, humiliated nation. Many German people came to believe that they could have won World War I if only they had not been betrayed at home, a theory that came to be called the Stab in the Back theory. This theory supposed that if only Germany had been composed of pure Aryans, Aryans would have fully supported their army and thus Germany would have won the war. Many groups became the scapegoats in this theory,
An image from a leafl et published after World War I responding to accusations of lack of patriotism of German Jews. It reads 12,000 Jewish soldiers died on the fi eld of honor for the Fatherland
Following World War I, a new stereotype of German Jews was actively propagated by powerful people in Germany. Some of these myths included:
Jews had started the war to bring Europe fi nancially and politically into ruin and make Europe susceptible to Jewish "control." Jews exploited the misery of the war to enrich themselves and prolonged it to lead the Bolshevik Revolution in furthering the aim of world revolution. With their inherited cowardice and instinctive disloyalty predisposing them against defending the nation, Jews were responsible for the pernicious malaise behind the front and stabbed the fi ghting troops in the back (causing the military defeat and democratic/socialist revolution). Foreign Jews dominated the peace negotiations and succeeded in dividing Germans and Hungarians by artifi cial national borders, while their co-conspirators, the domestic Jews, misled the nation into "surrender" and permanent "enslavement." The Jews controlled the complex fi nances of the reparations system for their own profi t. Having established constitutional democracy, Jews used it to weaken the political will of the nation to resist their infl uence and to destroy the basis of superior Aryan blood by promoting intermarriage, sexual freedom, and miscegenation.
- from The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum www.ushmm.org/
but none were so prevalently blamed as the Jews. Adolf Hitler was a fanatical believer in the Stab in the Back theory, blaming Jews, Marxists, Communists, homosexuals, the mentally ill and anyone else who did not fi t his idea of the perfect German for the humiliating German defeat in World War I. Therefore, when Hitler gained power in 1933, he continued spreading the propaganda he had come to accept as fact; many Germans easily bought into his theories because they wanted a simple explanation for their defeat and a defi nable group to blame. They found this group predominantly in the Jews.
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Members of the SA (Sturmabteilung), a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party, holding placards that say: "Germans defend yourselves! Don't buy from Jews." (1933).
Children at Auschwitz concentration camp following its 1945 liberation by the Soviet Army
The Third Reich
In the minds of the Nazi leaders, Jews could not be both Jews as well as Germans, and, according to Nazi ideas, they could not stop being Jews. The Nazis believed that this would split Jews loyalty and therefore they could never really be citizens of Germany. Beginning in 1933, when Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany, he and the Nazis began to systematically create a Germany that would be judenrein (or cleansed of Jews). Their fi rst plan was to make life unbearable for German Jews so that they would be forced to leave the country, though without most of their possessions due to stringent emigration laws. By 1938, the Nazis had succeeded in pushing one in every four German Jews out of the country, a number that
if my mother didnt come to this country thirty-fi ve years ago, I could have been fi ghting for the other sideExcept I dont think theyre putting guns in the hands of Jews over there Eddie, Lost in Yonkers
Many Austrian and German Jews recognized that they would be in grave danger if they stayed in their native countries and, diffi cult as the decision was, decided that they must fl ee their homes. Unfortunately, fi nding countries to take them in proved an insurmountable challenge. While everyone was quick to be taken aback by the Nazi atrocities that were revealed when the Allies began liberating Europe, the truth is that the warning signs were obvious long before photos of Auschwitz or Sobibor came to public attention. The important question is why did the world stand by (knowing full well that Hitler hated and persecuted Jews), and refuse to help. The answer lies in the anti-Semitism that was found all over the world, an anti-Semitism that allowed the Holocaust to happen.
totaled 150,000 people. However, a new problem arose for Hitler when Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 as Austrias Jewish population totaled 185,000.
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The Evian Conference (July 1938)
"It is a shameful spectacle to see how the whole democratic world is oozing sympathy for the poor tormented Jewish people, but remains hard hearted and obdurate when it comes to helping them" Adolf Hitler (1938).
The Evian Conference is so named because it was held in Evian, France. Thirty-three countries sent delegates to discuss the massive number of political refugees that were fl eeing from Nazi- occupied Germany and Austria. The countries knew at the time that Jews were being stripped of rights and being treated as second-class citizens, but, sadly, this was nothing new and no one was willing to help. Representatives from every country expressed sorrow and sympathy for the plight of the Jews and other political refugees, but informed the Conference that their country simply could not provide for these displaced people. Much of the motivation behind the lack of assistance stemmed from anti-Semitic feelings held by the delegates themselves as well as the people in the countries that they represented. In America, while people were suspicious of any incoming
Nazi Euthanasia Propaganda Poster. Translated it reads, 60000 RM this is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the Community of Germans during his lifetime Fellow Citizen, that is your money, too.
Empty poison canisters and human hair shaved from victims at Auschwitz
refugees who would need jobs, food, and housing in the middle of the Great Depression, people seemed to be particularly suspicious of Jews. The important aspect of this in regards to Lost in Yonkers is that while the events of the play are occurring, millions of Jews were being systematically murdered in Europe. The characters are somewhat aware of the atrocities being committed, but only have so much information and no way to stop whats happening overseas. And while persecution of the Jews to the extent the Nazis carried it out was not part of American history, the Jews were not helped by America or any other countries when they begged to be saved from Hitlers plots. Anti-Semitism was not merely a German problem, but a world-wide problem.
The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews and fi ve million other "undesirables" by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. "Holocaust" is a word of Greek origin meaning "sacrifi ce by fi re." The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial
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During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived "racial inferiority": Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals. In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe stood at over nine million. Most European Jews lived in countries that Nazi Germany would occupy or infl uence during World War II. By 1945, the Germans and their collaborators killed nearly two out of every three European Jews as part of the "Final Solution," the Nazi policy to murder the Jews of Europe.
In the early years of the Nazi regime, the National Socialist government established concentration camps to detain real and imagined political and ideological opponents. Increasingly in the years before the outbreak of war, SS and police offi cials incarcerated Jews, Roma, and other victims of ethnic and racial hatred in these camps. To concentrate and monitor the Jewish population as well as to facilitate later deportation of the Jews, the Germans and their collaborators created ghettos, transit camps, and forced-labor camps for Jews during the war years. The German authorities also established numerous forced-labor camps, both in the so-called Greater German Reich and in German-occupied territory, for
Prisoners at Ebensee Concentration Camp following its liberation
non-Jews whose labor the Germans sought to exploit.
Between 1941 and 1944, Nazi German authorities deported millions of Jews from Germany, from occupied territories, and from the countries of many of its Axis allies to ghettos and to killing centers, often called extermination camps, where they were murdered in specially developed gassing facilities. In the fi nal months of the war, SS guards moved camp inmates by train or on forced marches, often called death marches, in an attempt to prevent the Allied liberation of large numbers of prisoners. As Allied forces moved across Europe in a series of offensives against Germany, they began to encounter and liberate concentration camp prisoners, as well as prisoners en route by forced march from one camp to another. The marches continued until May 7, 1945, the day the German armed forces surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. For the western Allies, World War II offi cially ended in Europe on the next day, May 8 (V-E Day), while Soviet forces announced their Victory Day on May 9, 1945.
In the aftermath of the Holocaust, many of the survivors found shelter in displaced persons (DP) camps administered by the Allied powers. Between 1948 and 1951, almost 700,000 Jews immigrated to Israel, including 136,000 Jewish displaced persons from Europe. Other Jewish DPs immigrated to the United States and other nations. The last DP camp closed in 1957. The crimes committed during the Holocaust devastated most European Jewish communities and eliminated hundreds of Jewish communities in occupied Eastern Europe entirely. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005143
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JEWISH COMEDY THROUGH THE YEARSNeil Simon comes from a long tradition of Jewish comedy that has permeated American culture over the last century. This distinct humor has had an enormous effect on American pop culture and become part of the fabric of the American identity.
Jewish Humor A Survival Tactic
Much of what Americans consider funny was shaped by Jewish humorists. Jewish humor gives us insight into the Jewish psyche. Many theorists have said Jewish humor is about coping, that it is a survival tactic. By looking at life through a different lens, the world becomes more sympathetic. Like the Yiddish proverb states Want to alleviate your big-time worries? Put on a tighter shoe.
Self Deprecating Humor
Before WWII, Jewish humorists tended to do self deprecating humor that was marked by humiliating self-caricature. Many jokes were in Yiddish and were told for specifi c, familiar audiences. There were comedians called Jew Comics, explains legendary comedian and fi lmmaker Carl Reiner. They wore derbies and talked with a thick accent. Such self-caricature was acceptable until Hitler came along, Reiner explains, and then all of the Jewish accents disappeared, because we realized we were giving fodder to the enemy.
Jewish Humor Becomes More Mainstream
After World War II, comedians tended to steer clear of routines that depicted stereotypical Jewish elements and began to develop routines that reached out to more mainstream audiences. Also after WWII, new opportunities opened up for Jews as the peacetime economy kicked in. All of a sudden, Jews were running into much less discrimination and began to break into advertising, radio, and early TV.
Television allowed many Jewish comics to become instant celebrities as they were projected into living rooms across the country. This, of course, led to the integration of Jewish humor into mainstream America. As Moshe Waldoks and William Novak explain in The Big Book of Jewish Humor, From a sociological point of view, in many ways this shift represents the beginning of America becoming more Jewish and Jews becoming less Jewish.
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Famous Jewish Comics
Groucho MarxJon StewartAdam SandlerBilly CrystalSarah SilvermanJackie MasonJerry SeinfeldSacha Baron CohenMel BrooksWoody AllenGeorge BurnsGilda RadnerBette MidlerPeter Sellers
Your Show of Shows
One of the most famous television programs was Your Show of Shows. With a talented cast and writing ensemble, Your Show of Shows gave birth to the careers of many talented Jewish comedians including Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Mel Brooks and Larry Gelbart. This program was the beginning of modern sketch comedy and was one of the most successful programs during the early days of broadcasting. Airing once a week on Saturday nights, the show featured comedy sketches that were interlaced with music and dance sequences. The writers often took big chances and pushed the accepted norms as they explored dialect humor, ethnic stereotypes, slapstick, and parody. While Your Show of Shows never directly addressed Jewish topics and issues, the writers and cast were informed by their experience as the children of Jewish immigrants who grew up in New York City during the Great Depression and World War II. Often the shows writers would work in Jewish references, such as the Japanese character named Taka Meshuga (Taka Meshuga means really crazy in Yiddish.) Your Show of Shows legacy was that it was viewed as the pinnacle of American Jewish Comedy and set the stage for the popularity of modern Jewish comedy.
The Borscht Belt
The Jewish comedians from the Golden Age of radio and television seem to have a common origin: the Borscht Belt. The Borscht Belt is an informal term for the mostly now non-operational summer resorts of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York that were a popular vacation spot for New York City Jews from the 1920s through the 1960s. The
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Borscht Belt was nicknamed as such because of its chief visitors liking for borscht, a Russian or Polish soup made with beetroot. These resorts featured live entertainment and provided a great start for the careers of numerous comedians, including Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, George Burns, Red Buttons, Buddy Hackett, Danny Kaye, Jerry Lewis, Jackie Mason and Carl Reiner just to name a few!
Progressively, Jews dominated the comedy business and it is obvious to see the links from Lenny Bruce to Jon Stewart, from Woody Allen to Jerry Seinfeld. Contemporary Jewish humor is complex and may have evolved from the need to cope with the hostility that many Jews faced around them. While Jewish humor has changed form over the years, the fundamental themes have not. Jewish humor touches on the collective Jewish experience as well as the conditions and tensions we all experience in our lives. -Reprinted with permission from Cleveland Playhouse "Lost in Yonkers Study Guide"
THE JEWISH MAFIAEven though popular culture has emphasized the role of Italians in mafi a culture, it was actually the Jewish community who were the architects of the idea of organized crime.
Unlike Italian crime families, the Jewish mafi a was much more dangerous: they were ruthlessly violent and used their criminal power and wealth to become affl uent members of the community. The American-Italian mafi a eventually took over New York as its powerhouse, but up until the 1940s, the Jewish mafi a still held some control.
The National Network
The Jewish Mafi a, also known as the Kosher Mafi a, was a widespread operation that had various centers around the United States. The main sects of the mafi a were in New York, headed by Meyer Lansky; Detroit, with the Purple Gang; and Cleveland, headed by Moe Dalitz. In Cleveland, the Jewish Mafi a made its headquarters in Woodland. The Cleveland sector of the Jewish Mafi a owned and controlled most of the casinos in Ohio and the surrounding states until stricter laws forced them to move west, where they became some of the founders of the Las Vegas casino boom of the 1940s and 1950s.
Even though most of the Jewish gangsters were not practicing Jews, they still adamantly fought for Jewish rights, especially during the persecution of the Jews in Europe during World War II. One story goes that Benjamin Bugsy Siegel, while on a trip to Italy with one of his mistresses, Countess Dorothy diFrasso, met head Nazis Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels. Siegel disliked them immediately and planned to murder them, but only relented because of pleas from his mistress. The intense, pro-Jewish attitudes of the Jewish Mafi a led to what was known as the Mob Fights. These coincided with the end of World War II and eventually led to the dissipation and weakening of the Jewish Mafi a.
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Myer Lansky and Benjamin Bugsy Siegel
Meyer Lansky was the most prominent fi gure in establishing the Jewish mafi a all over the United States. He was known as The Brain, and became famous for creating important ties between the Jewish mafi a and the Italian mafi a. During the 1920s, he helped create Murder, Inc., a group of hirable assassins. Robert Lacey, a famous British historian described Lansky as the biggest gangster in the United States a dangerous lawbreaker of extraordinary power. He was identifi ed as the mafi as banker, the boss of the
National Crime Syndicate, the head of the Combination the Chairman of the Board. Even when he was not known as the offi cial boss of the mafi a, he always held power and is known as the Godfather of the Jewish Mafi a.
Benjamin Bugsy Siegel
Benjamin Bugsy Siegel was another major player in the Jewish mafi a. At just seventeen years old, Siegel began to form his own group with Meyer Lansky, called the Bug and Meyer Mob. Many of the mafi a groups around the New York metropolitan area frequently contracted them to do their dirty work. Siegel was known as a cowboy, or a gangster who didnt just like to set up murders, but actually commit them. Even though Siegel was known for his gruesome crimes, he was also known as a charmer, especially in the Hollywood scene. Using his talents as a people person, Siegel borrowed money from the mafi a to create one of the fi rst mega casino-hotels in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, his hotel, dubbed The Flamingo, was a fi nancial disaster, spurring Myer Lansky and other mafi a heads to order Siegels death sentence. While reading a newspaper in his expensive Hollywood mansion, Siegel was fatally shot in the head on June 20, 1947.
-- reprinted from Cleveland
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MOMENTS IN HISTORYThe World in the early 1940s
194024% of American adults completed high school. William Saroyans prize-winning drama, The Time of Your Life.Big bands dominate popular music. 5.5% of U.S. adult males, 3.8% of females have college diplomas. For phonograph recording, a single-groove stereo system is developed. Hemingways For Whom the Bell Tolls, a novel of the Spanish Civil War.Fantasia introduces a kind of stereo sound to American movie goers. On Broadway, Rodgers and Hart, Pal JoeyRichard Wrights novel, Native Son, touches national nerve about race.U.S. gets fi rst regular TV station, WNBT, New York; estimated 10,000 viewers. Bugs Bunny cartoons. Peter Goldmark at CBS demonstrates electronic color TV.
1941Eugene ONeills play, A Long Days Journey into NightFCC sets U.S. TV standards FDR war declaration has largest audience in radio history: 90 million. Noel Cowards play, Blithe SpiritLillian Hellmans play, Watch on the Rhine.Touch-tone dialing tried in Baltimore. Citizen Kane experiments with fl ashback, camera movement, sound techniques.A Moscow cinema gets stereo speaker system. Bertolt Brechts play, Mother Courage and Her Children.Microwave transmission invented. The push button telephone. Radar placed on U.S. Navy warship. In U.S., 13 million radios manufactured. War will shut down production. Motorola manufactures a two-way AM police radio. In New York, the fi rst television commercial is broadcast. Pocket Books begins fi rst mass distribution system for books. Walter Winchell is the most popular radio newscaster. Oscars: How Green Was My Valley, Gary Cooper, Joan Fontaine.Also at the movies: Sergeant York, The Maltese Falcon, DumboWonder Woman follows Superman and Batman into the comic books. Konrad Zuses Z3 in Germany is the fi rst computer controlled by software. CBS and NBC start commercial TV transmission; WWII intervenes. Comic strip characters Pogo and Sad Sack cheer American readers. Americans hear never-to-be forgotten radio broadcast of Pearl Harbor attack.
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1942Kodacolor fi lm for prints is the fi rst true color negative fi lm. Oscars: Mrs. Miniver, James Cagney, Greer Garson.Also at the movies: Yankee Doodle Dandy, Pride of the Yankees, Prelude to War.Albert Camuss novel, The Stranger, touches on absurdities in mans habits.Chattanooga Choo Choo becomes the fi rst gold record.
1943Oklahoma! advances theatrical musicals by dealing with serious subjects.Being and Nothingness expounds Sartres philosophy of existentialism. Repeaters on phone lines quiet long distance call noise. Norman Rockwell draws The Four Freedoms covers of The Saturday Evening Post.French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint Exuperys The Little Prince.Betty Smiths novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.British code breaking machine Colossus cracks Germanys Enigma code. Ayn Rands novel of libertarian thought, The Fountainhead.Comic book publishers are selling 25,000,000 copies a month. The walkie-talkie backpack FM radio. The newest dance craze: the jitterbug. William Saroyans fi lm and novel, The Human Comedy, family in wartime.Broadway musical One Touch of Venus; music: Kurt Weill; book: Ogden Nash.Oscars: Casablanca, Paul Lukas, Jennifer Jones.Also at the movies: For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Ox-Bow Incident, Desert Victory
- Reprinted with permission from Syracuse Stage Lost in Yonkers Study Guide
POST SHOW DISCUSSION QUESTIONS1. The title of Neil Simons play is Lost in Yonkers. Which character(s) is LOST
and why?2. Grandma and Bella have an interesting relationship. In what way does Bella
have power over Grandma?3. Bella had resisted sharing with her family her relationship with Johnnie. Do
you support her decision to hide this relationship? Would you ever hide a relationship from a parent? Do you side with her family that her relationship with Johnnie is a bad idea? Why?
4. Grandma turns down Eddies request to house her grandchildren while he is away traveling for work. What is her argument for turning them down? Do you feel this rejection is justifi ed? Why or why not.
5. What do you think Louie is carrying around in his bag? Why do you think he is so insistent that Arty open the bag?
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6. Eddie and Bella are both very afraid of their mother, even though they are now adults and making their own decisions. Why do you think they dont stand up to her? How would you suggest they remedy this situation with her? Why isnt Uncle Louie afraid of her?
7. Why do you think Grandma makes Arty pay for the stolen pretzels, even though she knows Bella actually ate them?
8. Grandma is often mean and cruel to her children and grandchildren. Why do you think she is so angry and cold all of the time?
9. The play often highlights Grandmas relationship to everyone else. Describe the relationship between Jay and Arty, between Aunt Gert and Aunt Bella, and between Uncle Louie and Eddie.
10. Why do you think it is so important to Bella that everyone is seated in the spots she had pictured for her surprise announcement?
11. Do you think that Johnnie, the movie usher, really dated Bella and wanted to marry her, or do you think Bella created the whole scenario in her head? Explain your answer.
12. In your own opinion, is showing emotions a sign of weakness? Does this hold true for men and women? Does the age of the person effect your decision?
13. Many life lessons are imparted by the adults to Jay and Arty. Of the following, which would you adopt and why? a. Eddie : never take because youll always be obligated;b. Grandma: you dont survive in this world without being like steel;c. Louie: nothing sweeter than danger;d. Bella: big families are important when you have trouble in your life.
14. Louie claims there is a difference between hate and not liking. Do you agree with the logic of this statement? Explain your decision.
15. It appears that Bella wants to get married so she can have lots of children. She declares she needs children so she can love someone who will love her back before she dies. Can you empathize with Bella? Why or why not? If you could reach out to Bella and give her advice about this issue, what would you tell her?
16. Do you think Eddie will keep the promise he makes at the end of the play to visit Grandma more frequently? If so, how would you explain this change in his attitude toward her?
17. Why do Jay and Arty seem so affectionate toward Grandma at the end of the play? What have they learned during their stay in Yonkers?
18. Grandma asks the boys which one of them is the smart one. Defi ne what Grandma means by smart and then defend your choice of Jay or Arty by examples from the play.
19. All of the characters in the play are introduced through dialogue between the two boys in the fi rst scene even though we may not actually see them until much later. This is a common theatrical convention. Why does an author use this convention and how is it helpful to the audience?
20. A voiceover is often used in Lost in Yonkers. What is the purpose of a voiceover? How would the play have been different if Eddie had just appeared in the beginning and end of the play and there had not been any voiceovers for the letters he wrote to the boys?
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RELATED POST-SHOW ASSIGNMENTS (BASED ON LANGUAGE ARTS STATE STANDARDS)
1. The stage directions for Bellas entrance read Jay opens the door. BELLA KURNITZ, in her mid-thirties, stands there. Although shes a mess at dressing, nothing matches at all, She is neat and sweet and pretty, although looking a little older than her age. Shes as warm and congenial as she is emotionally arrested. In a fi ve-paragraph essay, explain how these seemingly contradictory statements describing Bella, actually fi t that character tremendously well. Use specifi c examples from the play to discuss how Bella is both warm and emotionally arrested, a complete mess and also very neat, etc.
2. Write research paper on the author, Neil Simon, that develops a logical argument or thesis about this persons infl uence on American theatre and contains comprehensive, supporting information from a variety of credible and cited sources and conforms to the MLA style manual.
3. Write an expository paper to compare and contrast two characters from the play. Choose from Eddie, Louie, Bella, Gert, Jay or Artie. Discuss the similarities and difference between the characters, how they deal with issues, or respond to Grandma and her demands.
4. Write a persuasive paper that takes a position on Grandmas demeanor with her children. Was she too harsh on them, or did she teach them valuable lessons?
5. At the end of the play Grandma says, Its my punishment for being alivefor surviving my own childrenNot dying before them is my sinand I stopped feeling because I couldnt stand losing anymore. Write a short essay explaining how the revelation of this insight into Grandmas character changes how the audience views her. Does she become more sympathetic at this point? Why or why not?
6. Write an expository paper to compare and contrast the relationship that exists between a mother and son to a mother and daughter. In your opinion, present an argument for which is stronger?
7. Jay and Artys mom had stated that there was something wrong with everyone on their dads side of the family. Write a persuasive paper explaining what is wrong with each member of the family. Defend whether you believe they were born this way (nature) or they were raised this way (nurture)?
8. Although not an actual character in the script, the war does infl uence the action presented on stage. Write a paper describing how the war effects the story told on stage. Use specifi c examples to illustrate your points.
9. Eddie declares that if he was living in Germany he might have been a soldier but is not certain that Jews would be given guns. Write a research paper to explain when and how the world came to know about German concentration camps and eventually the atrocities of the Holocaust.
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10. Grandma confesses that she has chosen to suffer for she believes it was a sin to outlive her two children that died young. Elisabeth Kbler-Ross states there are 5 stages to grieving. Research what these 5 stages are and write a paper outlining each stage. Then explain what step you believe Grandma is on and how she can complete her grieving process.
RELATED POST-SHOW ASSIGNMENTS (BASED ON THEATRE ARTS STATE STANDARDS)
The following activities are designed to help students explore the text of Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon in order to gain a better understanding of the story and characters, and to relate the story to their own lives. Students will read and analyze specifi c scenes from the play as they gain an understanding of different perspectives in a given situation. They will also explore cultural references about American families during World War II and learn to apply different perspectives to historical events and their own lives. This process will continue as the students see the play, and the residency will culminate with each student analyzing the plays characters through their unique perspectives. All of the activities can be modifi ed depending upon curricular needs.
Materials you will need
Copies of Lost in Yonkers script or scene
Paper and pens
Space to move/ a small performance space
Poster board with pre-written instructions for writing a scene
Day One Activity1) The fi rst instructor introduces himself/herself to the class, introduces the play and
begins a discussion on the author, Neil Simon. The second instructor runs into the classroom, disrupting the discussion. The second instructor apologizes to the class and whispers to the fi rst instructor how sorry they are about being late again. This begins an argument between the two instructors. It starts off with heated whispers and accelerates into a full-blown argument, about the second instructor always being late and leaving the fi rst instructor hanging. It ends with the fi rst instructor storming out of the room, leaving the second instructor alone in front of the classroom. The students, most likely will be very quiet and still, unsure of what just happened. Embarrassed, the second instructor can apologize to the class, and then explain that the entire fi ght was just staged for them. The fi rst instructor returns, and corroborates the staging.
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2) Students are asked, without discussing it with anyone else in the room yet, to write down 5 things they noticed about the fi ght. How would they describe it to a friend that wasnt in the room. They are given two minutes to write down their thoughts.
3) Instructor asks students to share their individual perspectives. Instructors may also contribute to discussion by explaining to students their own individual perspective during the fi ght.
4) This leads to a transition discussion of how there are two sides to every story. Every person, although experiencing the same event, will have a unique perspective of that event.
a) Instructors then use a historical example: The bombing of Pearl Harborb) Lead discussion, asking students to explore this event from the specifi c
perspectives of:A sailor on the USS Arizona An American child, hearing the news on the radio at home with their parents. A Japanese bomber pilot The Japanese bomber pilots mother waiting at home for his return An American sailors mother waiting at home for his return A news reporter An American soldier, not stationed in Hawaii
5) Discussion now moves to different perspectives of a simple familial event, such
as moving to a new town. Students are put into groups of 5-6. Each group can decide whose perspective they will represent: Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Grandparent, next-door neighbor, best friend, etc. Students discuss their specifi c perspective within their group with instructor facilitation. Students have about 5-7 mins to discuss their scenario. At the end of the discussion, the instructor asks one person from each group to explain the different perspectives that they heard. This will be their interpretation of everyones perspective. Instructor will ask other students in the group if this is a true interpretation. Most likely, things will be missed or changed, and that should be pointed out to the class, because often we get information through a persons interpretation of another persons perspective.
6) Discuss the difference between sympathy and empathy. Discuss how, by examining situations from the perspective of everyone involved in the situation, we are able to empathize with others. Even if we dont agree with someone, if we learn how to empathize their situation, we can actually resolve any issues and improve the situation for everyone concerned.
7) Instructors discuss how an actor studies their character and the other characters in a play and one of the things they examine closely is the characters perspective of the situation and events of each scene and the play overall. This produces a well-rounded scene with individuals acting and re-acting to each other. Even if a character does not say a single word in a scene, they will have their own perspective about what is happening, and that will be going through their head at the time of the scene, naturally causing reactions to what is happening.
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8) Discuss Lost in Yonkers, describe the characters and the situation as a whole. Ask student to look at each scene from a different characters perspective as they are watching it.
Day Two Activity1) Briefl y discuss the performance.2) Teachers list on the board these fi ve characters: Jay, Artie, Bella, Louie, Grandma3) Ask the students to reveal their thoughts about the different perspective each of
those characters may have had for the overall story and/or in a specifi c scene.4) Teachers explain briefl y how each scene has its own beginning, middle and end.
Use a pre-made poster board that illustrates the beginning, middle and end of a specifi c scene in Lost in Yonkers. For example, the opening scene: a. Beginning presents the confl ict: Eddie wants to ask his mother to care
for his children while he travels for work.b. Middle is the height of the confl ict: Grandmother says no, they cannot
stay with herc. End is the resolution of the confl ict: Bella insists that the boys stay or she
threatens to leave5) Break the students into groups of fi ve. Each student must represent the perspective
of one of those characters from Lost in Yonkers, listed on the board. Each group is given a scenario that did not happen in the play, but might actually happen in the world of the play. Possible scenarios could be:a. The candy store is robbed in the middle of the nightb. Artie breaks one of Grandmas pieces of furniture while she is out of the roomc. Bella is cooking dinner for a romantic evening with Johnnie, the movie house
usher, but he never shows up.d. Louie decides to turn his life around. He has been inspired by Jay and Artie
and takes a job as a basketball coach at the local YMCA.e. Jay decides to quit school and join his Dad on the road so his debts will be paid
off faster.f. Grandma gets sick and everyone else has to take care of her.
6) Each group writes an original scene, using the scenario they have been given. With each student representing one of the fi ve characters listed on the board. Every character must be included in the scene (but they do not have to be in the scene the entire time, can enter or exit)
7) Each scene must have its own beginning, middle, and end, independent from the rest of the play.
8) Teachers monitor groups to facilitate scene writing. Students will be given a time limit to write and prepare the scene.
9) At the end of the time limit, each group will perform their scene for class (so each student needs to have a copy of the group script, meaning they each need to write their own script as they put it together).
10) The group performance will focus on a presentation of the characters perspectives,
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not fully developed characters acted out.
Follow-up1) Discuss with students how analyzing different perspectives may have given them
some new insights about the play, the characters, or outside of the play altogether2) Ask the students about their perspective of the pre-show and post-show activities.
Was it fun? What did you learn, if anything?3) Ask the students if the play gave them any new perspectives about the time period,
familial relationships, historical or current events.4) Ask the students if the lesson in perspectives gave them any new empathy for
Grandma, Bella or Louie?5) Ask the students how this lesson might help them be more empathetic towards
others in their every day lives.