Hester Street, a new play with music by Shayn Rothstein will have its World Premiere at Theater J in Washington DC. The play is based on the classic film by Joan Micklin Silver and the novella Yekyl by Abraham Cahan, will be directed by Oliver Butler and features music by Joel Waggoner.

Previews start March 27, 2024
Limited Engagement – April 1-21, 2024

The world premiere of Hester Street – the theatrical adaptation of the beloved 1975 film by Joan Micklin Silver – marks the largest production Theater J’s stage has seen in years. Hester Street depicts the uplifting journey of Gitl, a young Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, who arrives with her son to meet her husband Jake in the tumult of the late-19th century Lower East Side.

Separated from his wife and the provincial limitations of his upbringing, Jake has fully embraced his new American life—one that has little in common with Gitl’s old-time ways. Faced with the disintegration of her marriage in a world she can barely comprehend, Gitl must find her voice, protect her son, and redefine her identity.

A deeply moving new stage adaptation by Sharyn Rothstein (Arena Stage’s Right to Be Forgotten), directed by Oliver Butler (What the Constitution Means to Me), featuring original music by Broadway’s Joel Waggoner, and assembling a nationally-renowned team of artists and produced in association with New York-based producers Michael Rabinowitz and Ira Deutchman.

Hester Street is an unforgettable show, awash in the humor, heartbreak and hope essential to the Jewish immigrant experience.




Hester Street is based on the classic independent film by Joan Micklin Silver and Abraham Cahan’s novella Yekyl.

Made on a shoestring budget of $400,000 in 1975, completely outside of the traditional studio system, the film Hester Street turned into an unexpected phenomenon.

Bolstered by rave reviews, it opened at New York’s Plaza Theater to lines around the block and went on to over $6 million dollars in ticket sales, the equivalent of over $33 million in today’s dollars.  Carol Kane was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Gitl.

In 2011, the film was selected by Library of Congress to be part of the National Film Registry for its “cultural, historical and aesthetic significance.”

In making its selection, the Registry said that Hester Street was “a portrait of Eastern European Jewish life in America that historians have praised for its accuracy of detail and sensitivity to the challenges immigrants faced during their acculturation process”

Joan Micklin Silver’s screenplay was based on a novella by Abraham Cahan. Cahan was a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania who came with the more than two million Jews that emigrated to the U.S. between 1887 and WWI. He became a member of and advocate for the Socialist Labor Party of America. In 1897 he founded the Yiddish newspaper The Forward, which he used as a platform for the Socialist and Labor movements. In The Forward he referred to Jews who cast off the yoke of their religion and adopted socialist philosophy as “Free Thinkers”.

His original novella, Yekl; A Tale of the New York Ghetto focused the story on Jake, whereas Joan Micklin Silver’s screenplay for Hester Street shifted the narrative to Gitl. The play draws on both sources.



Sharyn Rothstein (Playwright, Adapter)

Sharyn Rothstein is an award-winning playwright and television writer. Her plays and musicals have been produced around the country, as well as internationally. Her play By the Water was first produced by Manhattan Theater Club and Ars Nova and was the recipient of the American Theater Critics Association Francesca Primus Prize. Other plays include Tell Me I’m Not Crazy (Williamstown Theater Festival), All the Days (McCarter Theater Center) and Right to Be Forgotten (D.C.’s Arena Stage and Chicago’s Raven Theater). Her audio drama Deep Fake was recently released on Audible, and several of her plays have been published by Dramatists Play Service. Sharyn is currently a writer and Co-Executive Producer on Orphan Black: Echoes, the spin-off of the sci-fi hit Orphan Black, soon to be on AMC. She was a writer/producer for the USA legal drama Suits for many years, and has developed shows for Apple, AMC and Bravo. Sharyn holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and a Masters in Public Health from Hunter College. She teaches television writing at NYU, and lives in Brooklyn.

Oliver Butler (Director)

Oliver Butler (he/him) is a theatre director who grew up in New England and is now based in Queens, NY. He directed the critically-acclaimed Broadway premiere of Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me (Best Play Tony Award Nomination, Obie Award Winner, Lucille Lortel Award Nomination, Drama League Award Nomination, Outer Critics Circle Award Nomination; and Drama Desk Award Nomination; Finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama), a film version of which is now streaming on Amazon Prime. He directed the off-Broadway premiere of A Bright New Boise by Sam Hunter at Signature Theatre Company. Other recent credits include: the NYC premiere of Will Eno’s GNIT at Theatre for a New Audience, the world premiere of Will Eno’s The Plot at Yale Repertory Theatre; the world premiere of Jordan Harrison’s The Amateurs at The Vineyard; the West Coast Premiere of Will Eno’s Thom Pain (based on nothing) starring Rainn Wilson at The Geffen Playhouse; and the triumphant return of Thom Pain (based on nothing) to New York starring Michael C. Hall at the Signature Theatre Company. Additional career highlights include: Itamar Moses’s The Whistleblower at Denver Center, Christopher Shinn’s An Opening in Time at Hartford Stage, Daniel Goldfarb’s Legacy at Williamstown Theatre Festival, the world premiere of Timeshare by Lally Katz at The Malthouse in Melbourne, and the world premiere of Will Eno’s The Open House (OBIE Award for Direction; Lortel Award, Best Play) at the Signature Theatre Company. He is a co-founder and co-artistic director of The Debate Society with whom he has directed 10 premieres in 15 years including The Light Years (Playwrights Horizons), Jacuzzi (Ars Nova), and Blood Play (Bushwick Starr). He is a Sundance Institute Fellow and a Bill Foeller Fellow (Williamstown). He’s a long-distance hiker who recently covered 500 miles on the Appalachian Trail and adventured near the Arctic circle in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve known as “The Iceland of Iceland.”

Joan Micklin Silver (Writer/Director of Original Film)

A trailblazing and fiercely independent filmmaker, Joan Micklin Silver created a body of work that was unprecedented for a female writer/director. Her debut feature, Hester Street, was an award-winning hit and was followed by such other classics as Between the Lines, Chilly Scenes of Winter and Crossing Delancy. That film, along with Hester Street and A Fish in the Bathtub constitute an informal trilogy about the Jewish experience in the United States.  Micklin Silver passed away in 2020 at the age of 85.

Joel Waggoner (Original Music)

Joel Waggoner is a singer/songwriter, composer, performer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, teacher, and comedian. He performed on Broadway: Be More Chill, School of Rock. Off-Bway: A Man of No Importance (CSC), Southern Comfort (Public Theater), The Joel Waggoner Experience (Joe’s Pub). TV: Only Murders in the Building S3, Original series: Wig Mediums on Broadstream. Joel & Julia’s Advent Carolndar featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and NPR. Vocal Arranger: Randy Rainbow, Joe Iconis “Album”, Broadway Bounty Hunter (Off-Bway Cast Recording.) MFA from NYU Tisch in Musical Theater Writing. “Unlikely Warrior”, “Gorgine” and “Stable Girl” all avail on music platforms. www.joelwaggoner.com @joelwaggoner @adventcarolndar

Michael Rabinowitz (Producer)

Michael Rabinowitz managed Broadway, Touring and International investments for the theater conglomerate, The John Gore Organization (otherwise known as Broadway Across America). The company is the leading developer, producer, distributor and marketer of Broadway theatre worldwide. Prior to Broadway Across America, Michael served as the Controller of The Public Theater during the development of notable Broadway transfers such as Fun Home and Hamilton. Michael was an artistic fellow with the McCarter Theater Center in Princeton, New Jersey, during their 2007/2008 season. Michael has produced independently including the theatrical title, Catch Me if You Can – The Musical on Broadway and The Mad 7 (as part of the JCC in Manhattan’s Art and Culture Center season). He is presently the Lead Producer and developing a stage adaptation of the 1975 film Hester Street and also serves as Treasurer and founding member of JQYouth, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that serving the mental health needs of LGBTQ youth

Ira Deutchman (Co-Producer)

Ira Deutchman has been making, marketing and distributing films since 1975, having worked on over 150 films including some of the most successful independent films of all time. He was one of the founders of Cinecom and later created Fine Line Features—two companies that were created from scratch and, in their respective times, helped define the independent film business. He was also a co-founder of Emerging Pictures, the first digital projection network in the United States and a pioneer in delivering live cultural events into movie theaters. Currently Deutchman is an independent producer, and a consultant in marketing and distribution of independent films. He is also Professor Emeritus in the School of the Arts at Columbia University, where he has taught since 1987 and was the Chair of the Film Program from 2011-2015. In 2017, Deutchman was awarded the Spotlight Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sundance Art House Convergence for his service to independent film marketing and distribution.


Get Involved

Get Involved!

There are several ways in which you can be involved with Hester Street

The world premiere production of Hester Street is at Theater J in Washington DC, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit theater company. You can make a tax-deductible contribution that would help to fund the production.

Donate to Theater J Hester Street (edcjcc.org)

If you are interested in an investment in the commercial production or for further information about the play, fill in the form below and we will get back in touch.