Page 49 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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LANDIS/ YIDDISH THEATRE
39
among others. And in America there arose
Dos Naye Yidishe
Tea ter
under Ben Ami,
Dos Naye Yidishe Kunst Teater,
The
Rudolph Schildkret Theater, The New York Dramatic Troupe
under Joseph Buloff,
Undser Teater
under Mendl Elkin, The
Artef under Benno Schneider, and the Folksbiene.
The economics of the Yiddish theater, however, especially
during the depression years, made writing for the theater a pre­
carious and unpromising career. Although there was now an
audience for drama of quality, it could not economically sustain
careers in dramatic writing. Given the unlikelihood of long runs
for serious plays, commercial producers were forced into
makh-
eraykes,
hodgepodges thrown together around a star or a col­
lection of typecast character actors, the legacy of the early years.
Maurice Schwartz tried more persistently and more stubbornly—
often with disastrous financial results—to maintain the quality
of his Yiddish Art Theater. In the end he had to resort to the
kind of compromise that was implicit with failure despite the
initial successes—the grand spectacular, using every device of
stagecraft in the service, not of a play but of the dramatization of
a successful novel: I. J. Singer’s
Yoshe Kalb,
his greatest hit,
Sholem Asch’s
Three Cities
and
Salvation,
I. J. Singer’s
The
Brothers Ashkenazi.
In the end, the paucity of plays12 dealt a
severe blow to the Yiddish stage, not the least of the results
being that the sophisticated audience was drained off to the
Broadway theater.
THE YIDDISH THEATER IS ST ILL ALIVE
In spite of all the adversities, including the elimination of an
East European audience and the diminution of the American
Yiddish-speaking audience, the Yiddish theater is still very much
12 Two works contain as inclusive a list of the plays in the Yiddish dramatic
repertoire as it is possible to compile. B. Gorin appends, to his
Geshikhte
(op. cit.), a list which includes date of first publication where there is
no record of performance. His list also includes translations into Yiddish
that were performed on the Yiddish stage. Ezra Lahad, in
Yidisher Tea ter
in Eyrope
(op. cit.), lists 403 items as the literary repertoire of printed
plays that were actually performed on the Yiddish stage as well as 113
Yiddish plays performed on the HebreAV stage. The list is selective,
omitting the inferior "shund” plays. He also lists 104 plays performed
but never printed, mainly dramatizations of prose fiction. The list is not
without errors.