Sholem Aleichem In The Theater
|Publisher||Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press|
|Release Date||15 June 1994|
|Rating||4/5 from 21 reviews|
Sholem Aleichem in the Theater concerns itself not only with the genesis of Sholem Aleichem's plays in the writer's workshop, but also with their various productions in the theater. Most people see, not read, plays; a play to them is not only the written text, but the way it is presented on stage. This helps to explain the desperate efforts Sholem Aleichem made to get his plays not just published, but produced on stage. He never directed any of his plays, and was not given the opportunity to perfect them in the theater. This was left to subsequent directors who became paramount figures in the realization of his drama on stage. Sholem Aleichem (born Shalom Rabinovitz in Ukraine in 1859) had established a reputation as a writer of Yiddish stories and novels, and had published the first anthology of Yiddish literature. Despite the fact that the czarist government placed a ban on theater in Yiddish, plays (as well as stories and serialized novels) were given a wide audience in the Yiddish-language press. His first attempt at a full-length play was YOKENHOZ, Or The Big Stock Exchange Game [YOKENHOZ oder Dos Groyse Berzenshpil]. However, the play was banned from publication in 1894 by the Russian authorities, at the request of the Jewish community who thought the comedy portrayed them unfavorably. In 1903 he wrote another drama, Scattered and Dispersed [Tseseyt un tseshpreyt], which was a success (in translation) in Warsaw in 1905, encouraging him to pursue a career in the theater. Frustrated by the Russian ban on theater in Yiddish and shattered by the pogrom in Kiev, he made his way to America in 1907. His efforts at writing and producing Yiddish theater in America, however, met with little success. His first few plays were both artistic and financial failures, and his later works, such as the Tevye monologues, The Treasure [Der Oytser], and The Jackpot [Dos Groyse Gevins], were rejected by the New York Yiddish theater establishment. Although he is now recognized as being one of the founders of Yiddish art theater, at the time of his death in New York in 1916 he was still roundly ignored by the theater world.