Plays Monday, November 12 at 7:00 PM. Presented in partnership with the JCC of Ann Arbor. Sponsored by the Copernicus Program in Polish Studies and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies. Seats are reserved; please purchase early.

Klezmer fiddler Alicia Svigals (founder of the Klezmatic) and pianist Marilyn Lerner perform live-on-stage Svigals’ award-winning score to the acclaimed 1918 Pola Negri silent-era film The Yellow Ticket. Set in in Tsarist era, when sex work (prostitution) was legal and regulated. For Eastern European Jewish women of the era, a “Yellow ticket” allowed young women to move out of rural shtetls and thousands of young Jewish women took on the stigma of prostitution and the burden of degrading biweekly medical check-ups, for the purpose of escaping and seeking higher education in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. This is a NOT TO BE MISSED special Sound of Silents presentation.

Tickets are $50, $25, and $15 based on proximity to the stage.

Silent Film with Live Musical Accompaniment | 1918 | Drama | 50 min | NR

About the film

Directed by Victor Janson and Eugen Illès, The Yellow Ticket is set prior to the October Revolution when sex work was legal in Tsarist Russia. In this film, Pola Negri plays Lea, a bright adolescent girl who lives in the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw with her ill father. She loves to read, and intends to study medicine at a university in St. Petersburg to help her father’s health.  She goes to Russia, where she learns that Jewish women must be sex workers to live in the city.  She applies for the required “yellow ticket” and takes up residency at a brothel. Lea applies to the University and is accepted. So begins an unhappy life of studying by day and receiving scholastic honors, while reluctantly working as a party girl at night. Her fellow students, including a boy named Dimitri who is in love with her, then find her out. Dimitri in particular is crushed to learn of Lea’s double life. Lea realizes that this will be the end of her scholastic career. Plot complications start to build, but in this wonderful film with a stunning performance by Pola Negri, a HUGE silent-era star, love and happy circumstance conquers all.

More about the event

Alicia Svigals is the world’s foremost klezmer fiddler, a founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics and a 2014 NEA MacDowell Fellow in composition.  “The Yellow Ticket,” a very early production of the German film company UFA-Pagu, was made at the end of World War I and on the eve of the Russian revolution. The film includes precious footage of the former Jewish quarter of Warsaw and the people who once lived there.

Pre-eminent film scholar Tom Gunning said about the score:  “I believe this accompaniment to The Yellow Ticket is one of the most powerful I have heard. It evokes not only a sense of the contemporary context of the culture in which the film took place, but our awareness of what was done to it afterwards. The sound of piano, violin and the human voice evoke passion, energy and a profound sense of mourning, bridging the historical distance between us and this film as eloquently as does Pola Negri’s extraordinary face.”

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