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White Theatre: Current Season - The Big Bupkis

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Artist accommodations provided by Aloft Hotel, Leawood



Shane Bertram Baker, unquestionably the biggest star in Yiddish vaudeville today, treads the boards at the White Theatre in his mega-hit sensation, “The Big Bupkis! A Complete Gentile's Guide to Yiddish Vaudeville,” the most talked-about, highly praised, successful and critically acclaimed Yiddish show in recent memory.


Co-conceived and directed by Allen Lewis Rickman, a battle-hardened veteran of Yiddish theater (but nowhere near as adored as Baker), "The Big Bupkis!" "The Big Bupkis!" mixes English and Yiddish, with English supertitles projected over the stage.  It’s an evening of cheap jokes, magic tricks, ukulele music, hypnotism, unpleasant stories about Sophie Tucker, transvestitism, and a Yiddish bullfight poem, among other theatrical indignities. Giving nothing away, the show ends with Mr. Baker attempting to behead a volunteer from the audience.


Kansas City native Shane Bertram Baker, widely recognized as the leading matinée idol in the Yiddish vaudeville today, is acknowledged to be the first non-Jew (or Gentile) to ever get this far in that particular arena. How he became fluent in Yiddish; how he became a fixture in New York's booming Yiddish vaudeville community; how he became the executive director of the Congress for Jewish Culture (an esteemed Yiddish literary organization); and how he amassed credits as an actor, director, magician, and puppeteer of such accomplishment are all richly described and illustrated in this fascinating show.


Among his many credits: He assisted Tony-winning director Doug Hughes (currently "The Royal Family" and "Oleanna") on "The Grey Zone;" worked on Peter Sellars' Los Angeles Festival; has performed at P.S. 122, ShowWorld, and with Great Small Works (an anarchist puppet troupe), and played Carla the Gypsy Wildcat in The Ridiculous Theatrical Company's "Turds In Hell." As a child he was mentored in magic by vaudeville veteran H. Claude Enslow. He is also an authority on the plays of Henry Fielding and an early contributor to the current burlesque revival.


Mr. Baker will be accompanied by the legendary Steve Sterner. A veteran Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Yiddish theater performer, Mr. Sterner is best-known for accompanying and composing music for over 300 silent films, at MoMA, BAM, the Museum of the Moving Image, and Film Forum, where he is house pianist. As an accompanist, he has played with Robert Merrill, Jerry Vale, Joan Collins, and JoAnne Woodward, among many others.


Co-conceiver and director Allen Lewis Rickman's Yiddish credits include adapting and directing "The Lady Next Door" and "A Novel Romance," and co-adapting, directing, and acting in the Drama Desk-nominated Yiddish version of "Pirates of Penzance," as well as performing with Lillian Lux, the late Bruce Adler and the Joseph Papp Yiddish Theater. He can be seen acting in Yiddish onscreen in the Coen Brothers' "A Serious Man" (currently in release) and onstage in his play "The Essence: A Yiddish Theater Dim Sum" (in produced by New Yiddish Rep and due next year in an anthology edited by Harvey Pekar).


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