In following the ups and downs of Green Fields' production—including a desperate search for new investors and attempts to fill an empty house despite a rave review in The New York Times—Katzir presents an intimate, inspiring portrait of Spaisman, an artist literally acting to stay alive.
"[To] retire is a death sentence. People have to live," Spaisman says in the documentary. After more than 40 years at the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre—where she performed, swept floors, sold tickets, and served as artistic director—she retired. But rather than fade, she started her own company, the Yiddish Public Theater, with fellow vets Shifra Lerer and Felix Fibich. Unfortunately, Fields was its first and last production, and Spaisman died in 2002.
Neuman was a 22-year-old recent graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York when she saw the casting notice for Fields in Back Stage. She said acting opposite the vibrant actors in their 80s changed the way she approached her craft, personally and professionally. "In a professional aspect, I got to meet and know some old-school actors," she said. "It was very interesting to see how they act and how acting keeps them young."
Neuman, who now performs with an improv troupe in Tel Aviv and tours Israel with her solo show, said the documentary is not only about Spaisman's lifelong love of theatre but also the importance of pursuing one's art at any age. "I think it's about the battles of old age and youth. My own grandmother decided not to do anything after my grandfather died...and she became old. And these 80-year-old girls, they're dedicated and they go out," she said. "I know a few 30-year-olds who don't do anything. I think they're older than Zypora."
Yiddish Theater: A Love Story is currently playing at select Los Angeles–area theatres, including Laemmle's Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, and will soon open in Queens, N.Y.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and in other theatres throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.yiddishtheater.net.