Yiddish drama


Yiddish drama
Productions of the professional Yiddish theatre.

European Jewish drama originated in the Middle Ages, when dancers and jesters entertained at Purim celebrations. By the 16th century, these entertainments had become elaborate plays performed in Yiddish, the language of the majority of central and eastern European Jews. The professional Yiddish theatre dates from 1876, when Abraham Goldfaden (1840–1908) wrote a well-received musical sketch in Romania and organized a troupe to perform his songs and plays. In 1883 anti-Semitic laws in Russia that forbade Yiddish plays compelled many actors and playwrights to immigrate to England and the U.S. The playwright Jacob Gordin (1853–1909) brought new material and adaptations to the U.S. Yiddish theatre, including The Jewish King Lear (1892), starring Jacob P. Adler, founder of a family of Yiddish-and English-speaking actors. In 1918 Maurice Schwartz founded and directed the Yiddish Art Theatre, which trained actors such as Jacob Ben-Ami and Muni Weisenfreund (later known as Paul Muni). World War II destroyed most Yiddish culture in eastern Europe, and by the late 20th century only a few Yiddish theatres survived in New York City, London, Bucharest, and Warsaw.

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Universalium. 2010.

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