Awake and Sing!
The play, set in The Bronx during the depression, centers on the conflicts of an impoverished Jewish family. The parents manipulate the children to their own ends while the children fight to gain control of their dreams. The play’s message still comes across loud and clear during the current economic upheaval whose ramifications have been called hauntingly similar to those of the Great Depression.
First premiering on Broadway in 1935 and produced by the legendary Group Theatre, the original production sported such names in the cast as Stella Adler, John Garfield, Luther Adler, and Sanford Meisner; directed by Harold Clurman. Ms. James’ production features its own distinguished names: J.B. Alexander, Athena Colon, Ashton Crosby, Rick Grossman, Morgan Hooper, Irene Hourigan, William B. McAndrews, Andrew Rothkin, and Alan Smith.
The Actors Temple was founded in 1917 as the West Side Hebrew Relief Association. Its leaders were Orthodox Jews who owned shops in then rough district called Hell's Kitchen. Over time a bond formed between the temple and the Jewish performers of the area. Talent from vaudeville, musical theater, nightclubs, live television and the dramatic stage made the synagogue a true “actor’s temple.” Shelley Winters kept the holy days there; several of the Three Stooges attended services; and Sophie Tucker used to headline an annual benefit for the Temple.