World premieres, Mamma Mia on tap on NJ stages - The Immigrant

Mark Harelik's "The Immigrant" "is the story of a 19-year-old Jewish guy who after a really terrible pogrom in Russia, emigrates to a small town in Texas in 1909. The story follows from his landing in America until he plants roots and establishes a life here. It’s a really beautiful story," says lead actor Benjamin Pelteson, who plays Haskell Harelik (the play was inspired by the life of Mark Harelik's grandfather) in George Street Playhouse's production.

In addition to studying with a coach to get his Yiddish and accent correct, Pelteson also spent time studying pogroms and the first-hand accounts of those who arrived in America at the turn of the century.

"People usually, when they think of a pogrom, a lot of us picture ‘Fiddler On The Roof,’ so a couple of chickens running around, tables being flipped over, people kind of screaming," he said. "But actually these things were terrifically violent. A lot of these pogroms involved really terrible acts of violence against women particularly: gang rapes, massive amounts of theft. I read one account of a baby being stabbed in the eye with a pitchfork. That’s the background of the play.

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