In 1975 the indie film “Hester Street,” by writer-director Joan Micklin Silver, hit the big screen and became a total box office hit. Now, producers Michael Rabinowitz and Ira Deutchman have optioned the stage rights to the feature with hopes to produce a New York theatrical adaptation, with Micklin Silver as a consultant.
The film was based on Abraham Cahan’s 1896 novella “Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto” and starred Doris Roberts and Steven Keats. “Hester Street” follows a Jewish immigrant Yankel Bogovnik as he and his family settle into their new life on the Lower East Side. Having emigrated three years before his wife Gitl (Carol Kane) and son arrived, he assimilated to life in America rather quickly and has fallen in love with another woman. When his wife arrives he see that she is not “American” looking and has trouble assimilating as quickly as he would want her to.
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The stage version will be a play with music, incorporating live musical performances throughout the storyline. Deutchman and Rabinowitz have begun searching for playwrights to write the adaptation. They hope to develop the production in partnership with a New York nonprofit so that it would eventually shepherd the project to Broadway.
“Hester Street” was a success when it was released, earning more than $6 million on an estimated $350,000 budget, great for an independent film at the time and also a victory for female directors. Actress Carol Kane also received an Oscar nomination as for her role as Gitl.