Sholem Asch

Sholem Asch: Underworld Trilogy, translated by Caraid O'Brien (White Goat Press, 2023)

In these lithe, exceptionally actable translations by O’Brien, Asch treats even his most reactive characters with a sense of reason and empathy.
In geveb

Sholem Asch: Underworld Trilogy includes three of Asch’s Yiddish dramas which take place in the world of the criminals and the literal underworld. Translated by Caraid O'Brien, the “Underworld Trilogy” is comprised of: God of Vengeance (1907), Motke Thief (1917), and The Dead Man (1922). All three works were successfully produced on the Yiddish stages of America and Europe, and their influence continues to be felt throughout the world’s theater today. Sholem Asch remains one of the most translated and performed Yiddish playwrights in history. Caraid O'Brien also taught a class in spring 2023 at Theater J—titled "Prostitutes, Criminals, and the Walking Dead:  Sholem Asch’s Underworld Trilogy in Translation"—in which she leads the class through a deep-dive of these three seminal works of Sholem Asch.

About the Author

A yeshiva student who became a provocative dramatist, bestselling novelist, and embattled prophet, Sholem Asch (1880–1957) was Yiddish literature’s first modern celebrity. One of the best-known Jewish public figures for over half a century, Asch’s writings included bestsellers in English translation, and smash hits on the Yiddish stages of Warsaw and New York. His 1907 play God of Vengeance resulted in a famed obscenity trial in New York and has inspired many adaptations and reworkings, including Paula Vogel’s recent hit Indecent

About the Translator

Galway-born writer and performer Caraid O’Brien first began learning Yiddish at the Yiddish Book Center in 1994. She graduated from Boston University, phi beta kappa, summa cum laude with a degree in Yiddish literature. She is a three-time recipient of a new play commission from the Foundation for Jewish Culture for her translations of Yiddish plays. She has translated seven plays by Sholem Asch into English, including God of Vengeance, Motke Thief, The Dead Man, On the Road to Zion, Our Faith, and A String of Pearls and is working on her seventh Sholem Asch play, commissioned by Theater J in DC. A 2019 translation fellow at the Yiddish Book Center, Caraid studied Yiddish theater for ten years with Luba Kadison and for six years with Seymour Rexite while performing in the storefront theaters of the Lower East Side, in particular Todo con Nada.

About the Dramaturg

New York native Aaron Beall is the Obie Award–winning co-founder of the New York International Fringe Festival. He ran a series of storefront theaters on the Lower East Side for over a decade, including, most famously, Todo con Nada, which presented 2,500 different productions throughout its history. Additionally, he transformed the infamous Show World strip club into a series of a legit theatrical spaces, beginning with a production of Caraid O’Brien’s translation of God of Vengeance. As an actor he has worked with Julie Taymor, Jim Simpson, and Larry Fessenden.