The Moscow Yiddish Theater
Art on Stage in the Time of Revolution
248 Pages, 7.00 x 9.25 x 0.68 in, 43 b-w + 39 color illus.
- Published: Wednesday, 9 Jan 2008
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A vivid portrait of the Moscow Yiddish Theater and its innovations and contributions to the art of the theater in the modern age
The Moscow Yiddish Theater (later called GOSET) was born in 1919 and almost immediately became one of the most remarkable avant-garde theaters in Europe. It flourished in the 1920s but under Bolshevik pressure soon lost much of the originality that had distinguished it. In 1948 Stalin’s henchmen slaughtered GOSET’s legendary actor and director Solomon Mikhoels, and the theater was liquidated. This book focuses not on how the theater was persecuted but on its ambitious beginnings as a revolutionary organization of passionate artistic exploration. The book brings to English readers for the first time selected writings that reflect the aesthetics and politics of the Yiddish revolutionary theater. The book also incorporates miraculously salvaged images of Marc Chagall’s famous theater murals, as well as paintings of costumes and stage sets created by the best artists of the day. These illustrations, discovered only after the fall of the Soviet Union, have never been published before. With emphasis on the theater’s early achievements and its centrality in Moscow’s burgeoning theater world, the book makes a major contribution to the understanding of modern Jewish culture and the art of theater.
~Dov-Ber Kerler“Professor Benjamin Harshav’s exemplary book is a major contribution to learning and indeed teaching modern East European Yiddish culture through the rich prism of the Moscow Yiddish State Theater, one of its short-lived but immensely influential and lasting highlights.”—Dov-Ber Kerler, Indiana University
~Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett"Carefully curated and beautifully translated, this collection of manifestos, essays, plays, memoirs, programs, and criticism brings to life—with an immediacy that only primary sources can provide—the otherwise ephemeral performances of the brilliant Moscow Yiddish Art Theater and the contentious world in which they were created, experienced, debated, and remembered."—Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, University Professor and Professor of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University
~Jonathan Wilson"Benjamin Harshav has produced an indispensable work for scholars and general readers. The Moscow Yiddish Theater, his restoration through essays and documents of a vital, energetic and haunted lost world, is a compelling tribute to the culture it describes."—Jonathan Wilson, author of Marc Chagall
~Edward Asner"Benjamin and Barbara Harshav have assembled a remarkable treasure-trove about a unique Yiddish, cultural institution—a revolutionary, unorthodox theater—a compendium of historic photographs, rare brochures and program notes, two short pieced by Sholem Aleichem, distinguished, archival documents, prominent eyewitness diaries and short essays in Yiddish, Russian, Hebrew, French, German, English, Spanish, and Catalan by such luminaries as Stanislavky, Vakhtangov, Gorky, Chagall, Chaliapin, Toller, Mikhoels, Ben Gurion, Granovsky, and Yehoash. They include an extensive bibliography, a glossary of names, notes and commentaries. Written for the mayvinem and the serious scholar, it captures this innovative unorthodox stage art, and is a delightful read for everyone."—Edward Asner
~Barbara Mann"At last, in their own words! The colorful voices and vibrant players of the Moscow Yiddish Theater come to life in this invaluable contribution to the study of modern Jewish culture. Combining rare first-hand accounts with original source material and meticulous scholarship, Harshav's work lays the foundation for a new appreciation of the Yiddish theater—born of the modernist moment in its Jewish incarnation, home to Marc Chagall and Sholem Aleichem, and the lesser-known figures of Sh. Mikhoels and Abram Efros. This is a welcome and engrossing collection, much of which appears here for the first time in English translation."—Barbara Mann, author of A Place in History: Modernism, Tel Aviv and the Creation of Jewish Urban Space
~Curt Leviant, Jewish Standard"A valuable and imaginatively presented work, with a plethora of fascinating first-hand source documents."—Curt Leviant, Jewish Standard