Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



Document Type



On May 3, 1932, Minnie Zenkel’s Original Yiddish Puppet Theater, located in the heart of the Lower East Side’s “Yiddish Rialto,” burns down under mysterious circumstances. The police suspect arson but there are no persons of interest, and the theater’s namesake, a twenty-year old female puppeteer, disappears just after the fire; some believe she has stolen the theater’s original scripts in an act of revenge. Eighty years later the successor puppet theater once again finds itself without a home, when it receives word that developers want to raze the theater, now in Tribeca, and construct a forty-foot hotel. In the context of this backdrop we meet Jorie Goldman, who has been laid off from her long-time associate position at a prestigious law firm and finds temporary employment with a land-use lawyer hired to stop the developers. Like the neighborhood she is fighting to save, Jorie struggles with her own questions of identity. Bisexual and single, Jorie hasn’t yet fully “come of age,” in part because of her tumultuous childhood; at age thirteen, Jorie’s younger sister died of leukemia, prompting her parents’ divorce. In attempting to save the puppet theater from destruction, Jorie will be forced to confront her past and the related fears that prevent her from finding success in her career and a lasting love. Centered on the changing physical landscape of New York City and incorporating elements of puppetry, Broadway, Yiddish, and law, this is ultimately a journey of self-discovery. On this journey, Jorie will meet a cast of characters related to the future of 31 Desbrosses Street who also wrestle with self-identity. Susan Fiske, a Korean adoptee raised by white Connecticuters, is the chairwoman of the zoning board that has the ultimate say over the fate of the building, yet she also has an undisclosed personal interest in the outcome of the case. Biz Colton, the current owner of the building and a famous Broadway actor, bumps up against ghosts from his own past when he decides whether to sell his interest in the property. Finally, Jorie finds a love interest in Ella Leider, an academic and member of the puppet theater, who is searching for Minnie Zenkel’s lost scripts.



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Committee Chair

Wilcox, James