Page 137 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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BURKC / GOLDFADEN AND THE YIDDISH THEATER
131
York already belonged to the avant-garde movement. But it all
began with Goldfaden’s bouffonades full of music and dance.
CONTINUING FAM E
In the period between the wars, “the father of the Yiddish
theater” became the subject of numerous books and articles. In
1926, the fiftieth anniversary of his theater was lavishly celebrated
by the Jewish cultural world. For this occasion, two of the most
outstanding Yiddish art theaters — Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish
Art Theater in New York and Alexei Granovsky’s GOSET in
Moscow — produced exciting modernistic productions based on
Goldfaden’s
Tenth Commandment.
The amusing adventures of two
Jewish merchants who had disobeyed the commandment “thou
shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” and who pursued their luck
through Europe, Palestine and even Heaven entertained both
Soviet and American audiences.
Goldfaden has never ceased to fascinate directors and actors.
He who complained so bitterly about the neglect of his works by
Yiddish troupes during the last years of his life, probably could
not have imagined the artistic success of his plays on the modern
Yiddish stage.
The Witch, Two Kuni-Lemls
and
The Capricious Bride,
as well as the patriotic
Shulamis
and
Bar Kokhba
have offered actors
fertile ground for growth and experimentation and have enter­
tained generation after generation of the Jewish public. While
performing Goldfaden’s repertoire, directors and actors have
turned to Jewish folklore sources: ritual, music, song, and dance.
Work on those old-fashioned comedies has helped many ensem­
bles to revitalize their creative energy and to reaffirm their na­
tional style. On those occasions when Goldfaden’s sense of imagi­
nation has been complemented by innovative staging and ex­
pressive, professional acting, the result has been a triumph of
spontaneous theatricality. In Granovsky’s inventive production
of
The Witch
in the Moscow GOSET, the Jewish crowd danced on
the ladders and platforms of the constructivist stage setting, in­
spiring the public with its unrestrained joy. In Schwartz’s in­
terpretation
o f Two Kuni-Lemls,
the folk celebration of Sukkot and
the wedding ceremony evoked wistful nostalgia for the distant
past. The staging of
Shulamis
by Zygmund Turkow in Warsaw in
1939 attained artistic heights with its delicate treatment of an
ancient love story set in Judea. And these are but a few of the
artistic triumphs achieved by Goldfaden’s plays.