“Wooden Wars”

A Play by Jana Mazurkiewicz

About the Play

“Wooden Wars” is a bilingual play that focuses on the lives of four young Catholics from modern Poland, each of whom changes forever when they discover that they might have Jewish roots. As the play shifts from an even blend of Yiddish and English to almost entirely Yiddish, it invites us to question: is Yiddish the key to understanding Jewish-Polish history? 

A picture of a small wooden Jew in between two wooden Shabbat candlesticks. Behind them, there is a stack of books.

Story

After discovering their Jewish roots, sisters Zosia and Ania separate as one travels to America, converts to reform Judaism, and embraces her lesbian sexuality, while the other stays behind in Poland and marries a Chabadnik. Both come to speak Yiddish at home. Their stories are intertwined with those of their friends Jakub and Tadek, two young men whose own relationships with Jewish identity and Yiddish language are troubled. Neither as children nor as adults do the characters have control of their fates. Various paranormal forces are involved in the action, and Jesus appears to sing in Yiddish.

The name refers to a cultural battle in contemporary Poland that’s highlighted in the play by two symbolic wooden artifacts: wooden crosses, and wooden figurines of Jews. These figurines, made of wood or clay, are a part of contemporary Polish culture. People buy them as amulets believing that they will bring happiness to their households. 

Image of Jana Mazurkiewicz Meisarosh, talking into a microphone

About the Author

Jana Mazurkiewicz is a PhD student at the Slavic Department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. As a Yiddishist, she is devoted to rescuing the dying Yiddish language and culture. She would like to demonstrate that Yiddish can be revived not only in academia but also in the arts, and strives to encourage a discussion about a revival of Yiddish as a stage language and as a means of exploring the current state of Polish-Jewish relations.

On Sale Now  Wooden Wars DVD!

We are happy to announce that, after being screened in Ann Arbor, MI, New York City, Boston, and San Diego, “Wooden Wars” is finally available for purchase as a DVD. The cost is $20 plus shipping and handling. Order your copy!

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Your Actors

Image of an actor in Yiddish theater, in a white dress shirt

Ania: (Later known as Frime) – very shy and serious, silent, pretty.Ania doesn’t like interacting with the other kids and prays when no one is watching her. She constantly fiddles with her hands and is paranoid of being watched. Ania is intimidated by her sister, Zosia. Frime speaks the Polish dialect of Yiddish. She can be distinguished by her red skirt, white blouse, and rosary in Act I, and by a white blouse, grey skirt, and sheytl (head scarf) in Act II.

Image of an actor in Yiddish theater, in a sun hat and vest

Jakub: A nerdy, brainy, courageous outsider. He stares at maps all the time and travels in his dreams. Jakub is lumbered with a chronic cold. He speaks broken Yiddish and uses Hebrew words here and there. He wears a big black hat, white shirt, black vest, and red pants.

Image of an actor in Yiddish theater, in a black shirt

Zosia: (Later called Rus) – funny, brave, silly, talkative, homely. Zosia enjoys making fun of her sister Ania and challenging people. Zosia gets bored very easily. Zosia/Rus speaks YIVO Yiddish with a very strong American accent. She can be identified by her red harem pants, white and red shirt, and red hat in Act I, and all black outfit in Act II.

Image of an actor in Yiddish theater, in standard "modern" attire

Tadek: Energetic, self-confident, vulgar, stubborn, and a bully. He is arrogant and a “my way or the highway” kind of person; you’d better watch out for him. . He dons brown hat, brown pants, and a red, plaid sweatshirt, and often, a bottle of vodka.

Image of an actor in Yiddish theater, in a green dress shirt

Jake: Rus’ partner. Jake is very kind, tries to be on good terms with everybody, and a tango expert. Jake is a weed smoker and speaks bine Yiddish (stage Yiddish) with a very strong American accent. Her Yiddish is brilliant. She wears a black dress and boots.

Image of an actor in Yiddish theater

Yitskhok: Frime’s husband, a Chabadnik. He is religious, smart and practical, not very devoted to his wife. Yitskhok has a very strong Hassidic American accent when he speaks Yiddish.Yitskhok fashions a black head covering, a black suit, and a prayer shawl.

Image of a man in a white mask with a long gray beard.

Wooden Jew: The wooden Jew is enthusiastic and loves to dance. It does not want to be found and captured by the Salesman. The Wooden Jew’s appearance is companied by a Hassidic tune. The Wooden Jew can be recognized by its long beard, black hat, large coat, and ginormous boots.

Image of an actor in Yiddish theater in business attire

Salesman: He has a Santa Claus-like figure– energetic and a little pushy… He loves his job. The Salesman is the guy with the burlap sack marketing Wooden Jews.

We Hope to See you There!