While Yiddish theater is best known as popular entertainment, it has been shaped by its creators’ responses to changing social and political conditions. Inventing the Modern Yiddish Stage: Essays in Drama, Performance, and Show Business showcases the diversity of modern Yiddish theater by focusing on the relentless and far-ranging capacity of its performers, producers, critics, and audiences for self-invention. Editors Joel Berkowitz and Barbara Henry have assembled essays from leading scholars that trace the roots of modern Yiddish drama and performance in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe and span a century and a half and three continents, beyond the heyday of a Yiddish stage that was nearly eradicated by the Holocaust, to its post-war life in Western Europe and Israel.
Each chapter takes its own distinct approach to its subject and is accompanied by an appendix consisting of primary material, much of it available in English translation for the first time, to enrich readers’ appreciation of the issues explored and also to serve as supplementary classroom texts. Chapters explore Yiddish theater across a broad geographical span—from Poland and Russia to France, the United States, Argentina, and Israel and Palestine. Readers will spend time with notable individuals and troupes; meet creators, critics, and audiences; sample different dramatic genres; and learn about issues that preoccupied both artists and audiences. The final section presents an extensive bibliography of book-length works and scholarly articles on Yiddish drama and theater, the most comprehensive resource of its kind.
Collectively these essays illuminate the modern Yiddish stage as a phenomenon that was constantly reinventing itself and simultaneously examining and questioning that very process. Scholars of Jewish performance and those interested in theater history will appreciate this wide-ranging volume.