The Rise of the Modern Yiddish Theater
Alyssa Quint focuses on the early years of the modern Yiddish theater, from roughly 1876 to 1883, through the works of one of its best-known and most colorful figures, Avrom Goldfaden. Goldfaden (né Goldenfaden, 1840-1908) was one of the first playwrights to stage a commercially viable Yiddish-language theater, first in Romania and then in Russia. Goldfaden's work was rapidly disseminated in print and his plays were performed frequently for Jewish audiences. Sholem Aleichem considered him as a forger of a new language that "breathed the European spirit into our old jargon." Quint uses Goldfaden's theatrical works as a way to understand the social life of Jewish theater in Imperial Russia. Through a study of his libretti, she looks at the experiences of Russian Jewish actors, male and female, to explore connections between culture as artistic production and culture in the sense of broader social structures. Quint explores how Jewish actors who played Goldfaden's work on stage absorbed the theater into their everyday lives. Goldfaden's theater gives a rich view into the conduct, ideology, religion, and politics of Jews during an important moment in the history of late Imperial Russia.
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About the Author
Alyssa Quint is Vilna Collections Scholar-in-Residence at YIVO Institute of Jewish Research. She is editor (with Justin Daniel Cammy, Dara Horn, and Rachel Rubinstein) of Arguing the Modern Jewish Canon. She is also a member of the Digital Yiddish Theatre Project.
Quint arms herself with extensive research, using sources in Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew, to reassess the late nineteenth-century Russian Jewish experience from the vantage point of the Yiddish theater as it evolved into a thriving cultural institution. She surveys the content of their performances; describes the lives of the actors, writers, and directors; and explores critics' and audiences' responses to their productions. The Rise of the Modern Yiddish Theater teems with fascinating information that deepens our understanding of how the professional Yiddish theater coalesced, and the role it played in the social life of the late nineteenth-century Russian Jewish city.--Joel Berkowitz, Professor of Foreign Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee