|Alma mater||Brooklyn College|
|Occupation||Actress, director, playwright|
Eleanor Reissa is an American actress, singer, theatre director, playwright, librettist, choreographer, translator, and author based in New York City. She works and performs in English and Yiddish speaking stages, and also interprets and performs Yiddish theatre and songs.
Background and Education
Eleanor Reissa was born in Brooklyn, New York. However, her parents were born in Poland. During WW2, they were both placed in German ghettos established in occupied Poland, and fought and lived through the Holocaust. In America, they were both considered sweatshop workers. Hence, Reissa studied in the New York City public school system and received her Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Theatre at Brooklyn College, graduating cum laude.
Directing and acting
Reissa's directing debut in Broadway garnered her a Tony Award nomination for Those Were the Days, which she also choreographed and starred in. Other New York directing credits include: Cowgirls (1995 Outer Critics Circle Award nomination), Echoes of the War (2005 Drama Desk Award nomination), and The Soldier's Wife (two 2006 Drama Desk Award nominations). In Yiddish, her New York directing credits include: Got Fun Nekome (God of Vengeance), Hershele Ostropolyer (adapted by Reissa), Zise Khaloymes (based on her English language play, Sweet Dreams), and Yoshke Muzikant: The Klezmer’s Tale. Furthermore, she was artistic director of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene for five years.
Music and recordings
Reissa's singing in Yiddish has earned her the title of the "Reigning Queen of Yiddish Cabaret". Additionally, she has been featured in Pearls of Yiddish Song, Remember the Children, Going Home: Gems of Yiddish Song, Songs in the Key of Yiddish, and in 2015, Just Add Water (Eleanor Reissa and Di Boyess).
She has collaborated with Frank London of the Klezmatics and the Klezmer Brass Allstars, to perform together internationally. Along with the Klezmatics, she recorded Vilde Mekhaye (Wild Ecstasy) in 2016. They have also performed in festivals and venues including Berlin, Toronto, Paris, Vienna, and in New York City at Joe's Pub and Feinstein's/54 Below.
For her playwriting, Reissa received the Dorothy Silver Playwriting Award for Wishful Thinking, and then was shortlisted as a finalist for her play, Thicker Than Water a few years later. Reissa's plays have been published in an anthology called The Last Survivor and other Modern Yiddish Plays. Her play, The Last Dinosaur, was listed as finalist for the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Heideman Award.
Adaptations and Translations
Reissa was commissioned to adapt the story The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer (also known as Hershel of Ostropol) as a musical for the National Yiddish Theatre, Folksbiene, where it was played for two consecutive seasons, starring Mike Burstyn. It was then performed in Israel at Yiddishpiel, the same location where it was nominated for the Israel Prize as well. After this, Reissa was also commissioned by Yiddishpiel to adapt the 1937 film, Yidl Mitn Fidl to a stage musical in 2014, where it has a successful run.
In 2019, Reissa also received a commission by the National Yiddish Theatre, Folksbiene to translate Paddy Chayevsky’s The Tenth Man, into Yiddish (with Harvey Varga), which was slated for the 2020 season with her as director.
The Letters Project: A Daughter’s Journey
After the death of her mother, Reissa found letters sent by her father, a survivor of Auschwitz, in the late 1940s to her mother, a survivor of a slave labor camp in Uzbekistan. She eventually had them translated and traveled to Germany, later writing The Letters Project: A Daughter’s Journey, which was published by Post Hill Press in 2022.
|1989||Cat on a Hot Tin Roof||Assistant Director||Broadway|
|1991||Those Were the Days||Director and Choreographer||Broadway|
|1992||A Stranger Among Us||Choreographer||Sidney Lumet feature film|
|1994||All That Glitters||Director||Women's Project NYC|
|1995||Cowgirls||Director and Choreographer||Minetta Lane Theatre|
|1995||My Fair Lady||Assistant Director||Broadway|
|1996||The Last Supper||Director||Florida|
|1997||Nothing like a Dame||Director||Broadway|
|1998||Songs of Paradise||Choreographer||The Public Theater|
|1999||Avenue X||Director and Choreographer||Marin Theatre Company|
|2000||Over the Rainbow: Yip Harburg's America||Director and Choreographer||Prince Music Theater|
|2001||Diana of Dobson's||Director||Mint Theater|
|2001||Screams of Kitty Genovese||Director||O'Neill Festival|
|2001||Song of the Turtle Dove||Director||O'Neill Festival|
|2002||Out of Sterno||Director||Cherry Lane Theatre|
|2003||Syncopation||Director and Choreographer||Marin Theatre Company|
|2004||Echoes of the War||Director||Mint Theater|
|2005||The Skin Game (play)||Director||Mint Theater|
|2006||Blood Drive||Director||O'Neill Festival|
|2006||Desperate Measures (musical)||Director||New York Musical Theatre Festival|
|2006||Soldier's Wife||Director||Mint Theater|
|2009||How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (musical)||Director||White Plains Performing Arts Center|
|2010||Hershele Ostropolyer||Director||National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene|
|2013||The Threepenny Opera||Director and Choreographer||Colgate University|
|2014||The Scutley papers||Director||Workshop with Sally Field|
|2015||Yidl Mitn Fidl||Director||Yiddishpiel|
|2016||From Moses to Mostel||Director||The Town Hall|
|2016||God of Vengeance||Director||La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club|
|2019||Carnegie Hall's From Shtetl to Stage||Director and co-creator||Stern Auditorium|
Theater acting (partial list)
|1978||One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (play)||Lee Sankowich|
|1983||Songs of Paradise||Avi Hoffman|
|1984||Isn't it Romantic||Susan Rosenstock|
|1985||Bar Mitzvah Boy||Robert Kalfin|
|1987||The Rise of David Levinsky||Sue Lawless|
|1990||Those Were the Days||Self|
|1998||Lost in Yonkers||Peter Lawrence|
|2010||Soul Doctor||Holly-Anne Ruggiero|
|2012||The Material World||Stephan Brackett|
|2013||East Toward Home||David Schecter|
|2016||God of Vengeance||Eleanor Reissa|
|2018||The Sisters Rosensweig||Casey Stangel|
|2020||We All Fall Down||Melia Bensussen|
Film and television acting (partial list)
|1992||A Stranger Among Us||Sidney Lumet||Feature|
|1994||Limboland||Lol Creme||Comedy Central|
|2010||Calling it Quits||Anthony Tarsitano||Indie Feature|
|2011||Trophy Kids||Josh Sugarman||Indie Feature|
|2013||Unforgettable||Jean de Segonzac||CBS|
|2019||Minyan||Eric Steel||Indie Feature|
|2019||The Plot Against America||Minkie Spiro||HBO Miniseries|
- Pearls of Yiddish Song (1990)
- Remember the Children (1991)
- Going Home: Gems of Yiddish Song (1992)
- Songs in the Key of Yiddish (2002)
- Just Add Water with Di Boyess (2015)
- Wild Ecstasy (Vilde Mekhaye)' with Frank London (2017)
- "Reissa, Eleanor". Jewish Music WebCenter. Jewish Music WebCenter. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- Murray, Matthew. "2005 Drama Desk Award Nominations Announced". Theatermania. Theatermania. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- Portantiere, Michael. "2006 Drama Desk Award Nominees Announced at Friars Club". Theatermania. Theatermania. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- "L'Chaim! Patinkin and Feldshuh Perform at Sold-Out June 11 Folksbiene Benefit". Playbill. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- "Those Were the Days – Broadway Music – Original". IBDB. The Broadway League. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- "Carnegie Hall Presents From Shtetl to Stage: A Celebration of Yiddish Music and Culture". Carnegie Hall. The Carnegie Hall Corporation. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- Rogovoy, Seth. "Queen of Yiddish Cabaret Eleanor Reissa to Unveil New Trio at YIDSTOCK Festival". The Rogovoy Report. Seth Rogovoy. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- "Eleanor Reissa Recordings". Eleanor Reissa. Eleanor Reissa. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- "INDECENT's Eleanor Reissa to Join Klezmatics' Frank London in Concert at Feinstein's/54 Below". Broadway World. Wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities: Frank London and Friends". The New York Public Library. Retrieved June 29, 2022.
- Reporter, MARGI HERWALD Staff. "Remembering her mother with 'Wishful Thinking'". Cleveland Jewish News. Retrieved June 29, 2022.
- "National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene's THE TENTH MAN in Yiddish Sells Out". Broadway World. Wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- "Eleanor Reissa Biography". Broadway News. Wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- Dresner, Stacey (June 28, 2022). "LETTERS FROM A 'HOLOCAUST FIGHTER'". Jewish Ledger. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
- Kupchinetsky, Victoria (January 31, 2022). "Holocaust-Era Letters Prompt Writer to Dive Into Family's History". VOA. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
- Rampell, Catherine (July 12, 2005). "Theater". The Village Voice. Retrieved August 6, 2022.