“Eight Nights,” a new play from award-winning playwright Jennifer Maisel, is having a unique introduction to audiences, with a series of staged benefit readings across America, including City Winery NYC on Monday, April 8, at 7 p.m.
Directed by Will Pomerantz, associate artistic director for Bay Street Theater, the play stars Jessica Hecht, Amanda Kristin Nichols, Jeffrey Omura, Ariel Shafir, Shayna Small, Peterson Townsend and Chip Zien, with support from Jewish Plays Project and the Sag Harbor theater.
Each performance — a minimum of eight — will raise funds and awareness for HIAS, a global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, including women, children and ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities, whose lives are in danger for being who they are.
“The ‘8 Nights of “Eight Nights”’ plan came into focus after the horrific shooting in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue,” according to a press release. “Rachel Leventhal, long-time collaborator of Maisel’s, had attended a reading of ‘Eight Nights’ at Antaeus Theatre in Los Angeles, and approached Maisel about producing a series of readings to benefit HIAS. ‘I couldn’t get the play out of my mind,’ explained Leventhal. ‘I was so struck by the story’s relevance to this moment in history.’”
Following its first production in the series in Denver, under the direction of Amy Feinberg, the grassroots production has snowballed, far exceeding the original goal of just eight readings. Outside of New York, other cities that have expressed interested include Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Portland, Dallas, Stowe, Ithaca, Chapel Hill and Ashland.
“‘Eight Nights’ tells the story of a 19-year-old German-Jewish refugee, Rebekah Blum, who tried to escape Nazi Germany on the SS St. Louis, only to be sent back to Europe, where she survived a concentration camp and eventually reunited with her father in America,” according to the synopsis. “Gracefully weaving heart-aching moments with dark yet life-affirming humor, the play takes place over the eight nights of Chanukah, spanning eight decades of her life.
“‘Eight Nights’ explores the refugee experience, not just of Jewish immigrants but also the trauma mirrored in the African-American community, the interned Japanese citizens and the current Syrian crisis.”
For tickets and more information, visit citywinery.com.