Monday, August 1, 2011


                          Behind the scenes
     RUSSIAN TRANSPORT with Erika Sheffer

 Dear Friends,

My parents and brother emigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union in 1975. I was born five years later and shortly after that, we settled in Sheepshead Bay , Brooklyn , which is where I spent most of my life. In the mid-eighties, the neighborhood was mostly Irish and Italian catholic. It wasn’t until the fall of communism in 1990, that that we were suddenly joined by thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet republics, including much of my father’s family.

Though my parents weren't theatre goers, I was lucky enough to grow up in Brooklyn (even if it was in the remote wilds), so I began going to shows as early as junior high school . Eventually, I earned my degree in acting from Syracuse University , and worked professionally for a several years, mostly doing classical theatre. I started writing plays four years ago and Russian Transport marks my debut. While I began working on it as a way to explore the struggles my family faced in coming to a new country, I was also fascinated by what living in under a brutal dictatorship does to one’s
sense of morality. I think that compassion binds us, and that we have a responsibility to be kind to one another and particularly to those of us in great need. I’ve met many people, am related to many people, who don’t feel that way at all. Now let me clarify, I’m related to concentration camp survivors, people who lived through Stalin, spent time in Siberian prisons. These are people who were in most in need of compassion in their lives and still refuse to recognize that need in others. This mystery is how the play began.

About two years ago a friend and former intern at The New Group, asked if she could give my play to Associate Artistic Director, Ian Morgan . We set up a reading and began to work with one another on the rewrites. Shortly thereafter, I met Artistic Director Scott Elliott and it became clear that The New Group was just as invested in telling this story and figuring out the mystery, as I was. My collaboration with them has been the most challenging and fulfilling of my career. Scott’s insight, his care with my work, and his expectation that we plumb its depth, leave me in a constant state of terror and elation, which is perfect because, that’s the only way I'm ever able to write anything worthwhile. Together, I think we've discovered a lot of truth about the flawed and funny people of who make up this world, and I'm incredibly excited to share them with you all.

Winter 2012
World Premiere

By Erika ShefferDirected by Scott Elliott

Set in the Russian-Jewish enclave of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, Russian Transport is a deeply personal, emotionally charged tale of an immigrant couple, their two assimilated teenagers and the fierce and fiery upheaval they experience when sexy, mysterious Uncle Boris from the old country comes to stay with them for his shot at the American dream. Part family drama, part heart-pounding thriller, this stunning debut from Erika Sheffer beautifully captures the complex and conflicting layers of striving, joy, pain and terror of one very particular immigrant experience.

Fall 2011
World Premiere

By Thomas BradshawDirected by Scott Elliott
Spring 2012
World Premiere
By David Rabe

Directed by Jo Bonney

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