Yeshiva University News » YCDS

Yeshiva College Dramatics Society Celebrates 100th Production by Honoring Longtime Member

On December 2, the Yeshiva College Dramatics Society (YCDS) celebrated one of its most beloved members with a reception and special performance of its 100th production, 12 Angry Men.

The play was originally performed by the founding cohort of YCDS in 1965 and is the first to be repeated in the society’s history. Members of that original cast joined other YCDS alumni for the evening honoring Rabbi Dr. John Krug, who first became involved with YCDS 42 years ago as a student actor and has served as lighting director in both a faculty and volunteer capacity ever since.

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December 2 Performance of “12 Angry Men” Honors Longtime Yeshiva College Dramatics Society Member and Mentor Rabbi Dr. John Krug; President Richard Joel to Cameo

The Yeshiva College Dramatics Society will celebrate one of its most beloved members when it hosts a special performance of “12 Angry Men” on December 2 at 3 p.m. on Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus, 185th Street between Audubon Ave. and St. Nicholas Ave. The performance—the 100th production by the school’s dramatics society—will honor Rabbi Dr. John Krug for his 42 years of dedicated service to YCDS.

John Krug will be honored at the Dec. 2 performance.

John Krug will be honored at the Dec. 2 performance.

For first time in its history, YCDS will produce a play that it has performed before, reprising “12 Angry Men,” the play with which it debuted in 1965. Read the rest of this entry…

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Students Commemorate Israel with Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut Programs

Hundreds of students filled the Wilf Campus’ Lamport Auditorium on April 25 for Yeshiva University’s Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day) ceremony honoring the memories of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror.

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The student-organized event featured readings by the Yeshiva College and Stern College Dramatics Societies, an a capella performance by the Y-Studs, a video presentation and a memorial candle lighting service. President Richard M. Joel delivered an emotional El Male Rachamim [memorial prayer] and was followed by keynote speaker Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer ’71YC and Rabbi Meir Goldwicht, Joel and Maria Finkle Visiting Israeli Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS. The ceremony concluded with a Yizkor prayer led by Rabbi Yosef Blau, senior mashgiach ruchani [spiritual advisor], and closing words from Avital Chizhik ’12S, president of the YU Israel Club.

The moving program was followed by song and dance at the annual Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) Chagigah in the Max Stern Athletic Center, celebrating Israel’s 64th birthday. Yom Ha’atzmaut festivities continued on April 26 with more dancing, a barbecue and carnival on the Wilf Campus.

Download YU Torah’s Yom Ha’atzmaut To-Go, featuring articles from Roshei Yeshiva, faculty and prominent Torah personalities.


Yeshiva College Writing Faculty Publish Books, Plays

Several professors who teach writing courses in Yeshiva College’s English department are also award-winning authors, playwrights and poets whose works have been published on a national scale or soon will be.

Hugh Sheehy

Hugh Sheehy, a second-year faculty member at Yeshiva College, recently won the Flannery O’Connor Prize, a prestigious annual competition that grants aspiring writers the opportunity to have their work published. Sheehy’s “The Invisibles” is a collection of short fictional stories that includes “literary mysteries, thrillers, coming-of-age stories, recognition narratives and other kinds of genre stories intended to be page-turners,” according to Sheehy. The book—Sheehy’s first—will be published by the University of Georgia Press and will be coming out in October 2012.

Sheehy’s fiction has already been published in several literary journals, including Crazyhorse, Glimmer Train, The Kenyon Review, The Antioch Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, The New Orleans Review, Southwest Review, Redivider and in the anthology The Best American Mystery Stories 2008. He is now working on a second novel.

Barbara Blatner, who has been teaching at Yeshiva College for close to a decade, is an established poet. At the end of March, a book of her poetry called “Living With You” was published. The book is a collection of lyrical, abstract poems centering on her marriage to her husband of over 20 years. In September 2010, her first book of poetry, “The Still Position,” came out, a memoir written in verse about the last five days of her mother’s life.

Barbara Blatner

Blatner is also an accomplished playwright. Her short play, “Guernica 2003,” will be performed at the American Globe Theater in Manhattan on April 25. She described it as “a surreal play about Colin Powell making his speech at the United Nations about going to war in Iraq, and Picasso painting Guernica and undermining Powell’s confidence because Guernica is an anti-war masterpiece.”

Next winter, another one of Blatner’s plays, “Years of Sky,” is slated to be produced by the Scripts Up company and performed off Broadway at the 59E59 Theater. Blatner wrote a version of the play in the 1990s, when it was performed in Boston, and later did a reading of it several years ago for YU students and faculty. “It’s about a bi-racial couple who witnessed John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 and then they meet again in 1968 after Robert Kennedy’s assassination and once again in Dallas in 1992 to try to figure out what happened in their relationship,” said Blatner.

Several of her other works were aired on National Public Radio, performed in workshops and theaters in Boston and New York and published in various acclaimed literary journals and anthologies.

Blatner’s talents extend beyond the literary realm. In addition to teaching English composition, poetry and script-writing courses, she is a musician, having worked as a cocktail pianist, performing in lounges and bands early in her career. At YU, she has been involved in several productions of the Yeshiva College Dramatics Society (YCDS)—writing songs, playing piano and acting as the musical director for “1776,” which was performed this past fall and for the 2007 production of “Newsies,” among others YCDS plays.

Johanna Lane, who’s been teaching full-time at Yeshiva College for the past five years, was recently awarded a contract with Little Brown for international rights to her novel. Though she and her editors have not yet settled on a title for the book, it is a work of literary fiction set in the late 1990s in Ireland—Lane’s native country.

“The novel is about a family who has had an ancestral home for hundreds and hundreds of years and can’t afford to take care of it anymore, and so it gets turned into a tourist attraction and the family has to cope with all these tourists coming through their space,” said Lane.

The novel—Lane’s first—is based on her thesis project from Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in fiction writing. “I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I never actually thought it would happen, so this is a dream,” she said.

After the final rounds of editing are complete, her book will be published in fall 2013, in English-speaking countries around the world. She hopes to continue writing, in addition to teaching at Yeshiva College, where she enjoys the “nice, very supportive English department that lets me pursue interesting courses in creative writing,” said Lane.


Casts of 1776 and Bye Bye Birdie Offer Backstage Preview of Upcoming Student Musicals

This winter, the Yeshiva College and Stern College Dramatic Societies will be performing two uniquely American musicals. 1776, opening on the Wilf Campus December 3, offers a hilarious yet insightful take on the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Bye Bye Birdie, opening December 11 on the Beren Campus, tells a heartfelt story about small-town America at the peak of Elvis fever—and the Korean War.

The cast of 1776 rehearses a musical number.

The cast of 1776 rehearses a musical number.

YUNews spoke to actors and members of both casts about key moments to look out for in their productions, as well as their favorite, funniest and most surprising experiences so far.

What moment should we keep our eyes peeled for?

Rafi Skier, actor, “Charles Thomson” (1776): I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the fun for the audience, but my suggestion is to keep your eye on Ben Franklin. He bounces off every other character in a hilarious way, but he’s also got a serious opinion about everything deep down that will come out later in the play.

Tani Isaac, dramaturge and actor, “Benjamin Franklin” (1776): I would say the end of the song “He Plays the Violin.” I don’t want to say anything more than that.

Hannah Rozenblat, actress, “Edna” (Bye Bye Birdie): I recommend always watching the characters because you never know what they’ll do next. But you might want to particularly watch out for the moment when Conrad Birdie’s charm becomes a bit too much for my character, Edna, who is the mayor’s wife.

What has been the biggest surprise so far in this semester’s production?

Hannah Dreyfus and Hannah Rozenblat

Hannah Dreyfus and Leah Gottfried prepare for the Stern College Dramatic Societies production of Bye Bye Birdie.

Aliza Slepian, director (Bye Bye Birdie): The biggest surprise for me was watching the auditions. Here were people I’d seen around school for years who came to auditions completely transformed. It was extremely entertaining—we laughed so hard we often ended up crying.

Isaac: The talent of the new actors. We have a lot of new blood this semester and they are extremely talented.

Ariel Meiri, actor, “John Adams” (1776): The amount of excitement this play has generated both on and off campus. While Yeshiva College Dramatic Society (YCDS) productions are always very popular, it is rare that tickets sell at such a fast rate.

Lin Snider, director (1776): The members of the cast bring their own interpretations of the characters from their perspectives and imaginations, which together make this production unique. As young actors, they often actually take more risks than more seasoned actors and so we get a fresh view from their eyes of the risks our founding fathers took to create our country.

What is your favorite moment?

Meiri: My favorite moment of every YCDS production usually occurs during the two or three weeks prior to opening night. By that time, the cast members are already very familiar with the play and can focus on developing their characters. It’s also the time when we integrate all of the other aspects of production—props, costumes, music, lights, set, etc.—into our rehearsals. I look forward to the moment when all of the finishing touches have been made and I know that after all of our hard work, we are finally ready to perform in front of a live audience.

Tova Lahasky and Ilana Himber

Bye Bye Birdie cast members, Tova Lahasky and Ilana Himber, rehearse.

Ayala (Yali) Raichlin, choreographer, actress, “Margie” and “Gloria Rasputin” (Bye Bye Birdie): I love the character of Mrs. Peterson, played by Tova Lahasky. Although a smaller role, she is absolutely hysterical and the ultimate Jewish mother.

What have you learned from being involved with drama?

Slepian: Self-expression, communal accomplishment, and most of all, leadership. I’m still trying to find the right balance between being aware of individuals’ needs and simultaneously making the difficult decisions necessary for the show as a whole.

Meiri: Including this semester, I have been involved in YCDS for the last seven semesters (six as an actor and one as a stage manager) and I can honestly say that I have treasured every moment of it. YCDS has given me a level of self-confidence and shown me just how much can be accomplished by a group of people collaborating towards a mutual goal. There is one person in particular who has been the impetus for most of the success I have enjoyed in YCDS, my wonderful director, Lin Snider. Lin has always encouraged me to be the best I can and has never failed to believe in my capabilities.

Rozenblat: Being involved in drama is such a life-changing, eye-opening experience. It’s something I wouldn’t trade for the world. I have learned how important it is to sometimes just let go of your inhibitions and ignore your feelings of self-consciousness and just have fun. You feel like you’re on top of the world.

What is the funniest thing that has happened during rehearsals?

Skier: One time I called up the representative from Rhode Island (Stephen Hopkins) to sign the Declaration of Independence as Mr. Stephen Hawking. Another time, the courier brought me the wrong letter, and instead of reading it I had to run offstage and chase after him to get the right letter. The scene kept moving and the actors on stage laughed and improvised around it. These things occasionally happen during live performances and it’s good to see we’re up to the challenges this play may yet have in store for us!

Slepian: There’s a scene where one character leaps into the arms of another, and one night, the second actress wasn’t paying much attention and kept dropping her. It may not have been that funny to her but we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

Isaac: One of the funniest things that happens pretty much nightly is Lin, our director, writes short-hand notes on our performances as she watches us. No one can read her handwriting and sometimes even she forgets. One night, all we had to work with was, “Hopkins, go away.”

Rozenblat: Laughter is said to be healthy for both the body and the mind. So rehearsals for Bye Bye Birdie are wonderful for us. I can recall a few instances where people couldn’t even stand straight because they were laughing too hard.

Tickets for 1776, running December 3-8, are available for purchase in the Rubin Hall lounge and Stanton Hall from 12 p.m.-10 p.m. Tickets for Bye Bye Birdie, running December 11-13, will go on sale next week and can be reserved online by emailing All tickets are $7 and 14% of proceeds will benefit Students Helping Students. To learn more about the productions, visit the Yeshiva College Dramatic Society and Stern College Dramatics Society on Facebook.