Ten years ago, Asheville puppeteer Lisa Sturz, founder of Red Herring Puppets, received a package in the mail: Her uncle had digitized old recordings of Sturz’s grandfather Cantor Izso Glickstein. In the Jewish faith, cantors lead fellow worshippers in the singing of liturgical music. Before these discs, Sturz had never heard her grandfather’s voice. “I was stunned by how good he was,” she says.
The recordings inspired Sturz to research Glickstein’s story. Her discoveries have resulted in the theatrical production My Grandfather’s Prayers. The hourlong show, directed by Rebecca Williams, stars Sturz and fellow puppeteer Emily Bader. The production — featuring a combination of shadow puppetry, marionettes, scrolling backgrounds, animation, poetry and the music of Glickstein — will debut on Sunday, June 18, at the Asheville Jewish Community Center auditorium.
Sturz considers the work “one of the hardest things I’ve done.” Part of the feat involved the research itself. Her grandfather, a fourth-generation cantor, was born in Kishinev, Ukraine (now part of Moldova), in 1889. Six years later, a Russian pogrom (a violent attack on Jews) ravaged the village. The Glickstein family fled to Rakoscsaba, just outside Budapest, Hungary. From that point on, Glickstein would be on the move constantly because of school, musical performances and a brief kidnapping carried out by a competing synagogue who wanted the young Izso to sing for its house of worship. By 1923, he emigrated to Boston, where he would hold the position of chief cantor at the Mishkin Tefilah for 24 years.
As part of her research,…
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