Her Little Shirtwaist Freilach 

Garment workers' strike — the musical!

Judith Offer's self-produced musical satire Casino!, with the dubious (some might say whimsical) premise of Jerry Brown installing an Indian casino in Oakland, popped up in various makeshift Oakland theatrical spaces in 2004 and '05. For some, that might have been enough (as it was for this critic), but now she's back with another original musical, A Shirtwaist Tale, this one about a 1909 garment workers' strike in New York City, with klezmer music by Russian composer Arkadi Serper. Based on the stirring true story of 20,000 sweatshop workers, mostly young immigrant girls, who struggled through a two-month strike for better working conditions with the support of the International Garment Workers' Union, despite frequent violence from strike-breaking goons, Offer's lighthearted version focuses on two young Jewish girls on strike. One has to work to support her Talmudic scholar father, and another tries to break into Yiddish theater with her pals "the Nachas Machers." You get your fiery union rhetoric, you get your Judaic kitsch, and you get the punny finale "Sew What!," and quasi-rhymes like "I wouldn't kvetch" with "how could I fetch work" — what's that, chopped liver? Why don't you check out the song samples helpfully posted at AShirtwaistTale.com and find out for yourself, Mr. Smarty Pants? It's not quite a new musical — Offer's put it on before in 1999 — but it comes lightly used, having just finished a three-weekend run at Oakland's Humanist Hall. A Shirtwaist Tale moves to the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay this Saturday night, November 3, where it runs Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. through November 11. JCC East Bay is at 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley. Tickets are $20, $15 for JCC members. Info at 510-444-8521 or AShirtwaistTale.com


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