University of Vermont

UVM Course Directory

THE 196 – Yiddish Theatre

Credits: 3.00

Course Description: See Schedule of Courses for specific titles. Spring. Prerequisite: Instructor permission.

Section Description: Course Description Yiddish Theater and its influence on contemporary stage, screen, and comedy The Yiddish Theater in New York was more than a cultural phenomenon limited to its specific time and place. Flourishing on Manhattan’s Lower East Side from the late 19th Century to the mid-20th Century, the Yiddish Theater was an artistic and economic juggernaut which gave birth to actors, directors, writers, comedians, film makers, and composers who made their mark on the mainstream theatrical scene on Broadway and beyond. This course will examine the history of this theatrical movement, read several seminal plays of the genre, and study linkages between Yiddish Theater and more contemporary stage work. Beginning with the roots of Yiddish Theater in Eastern Europe, we will examine the work of the Father of Yiddish Theater Avram Goldfaden, and read his comedy The Two Kuni Lemls. We will also learn about the seminal Yiddish Theater company the Vilna Troupe, and read aloud one of the most interesting (and terrifying) plays in the Yiddish cannon, the Dybbuk. Moving to America, We will learn about the key figures in the New York Yiddish Theater such as Jacob Adler, Boris Thomashevsky, and Molly Picon, and explore the legacy of their performances. Sources and materials will include film archives, scripts, and stories that material was based on (i.e. Sholom Aleichems’s Tevye’s Daughters, the source material for Fiddler on the Roof; and the recent Broadway production Indecent). Film sources will include documentaries such as The World of Sholom Aleichem, and Indecent, When Jews were Funny, with others tba. In the final section of the class, we will look at the direct influence Yiddish Theater has had on the worlds of film and comedy. We will learn about the legendary entertainers of the Catskills (the Borscht Belt) and writers/comedians/film makers like Larry David and Woody Allen and how they were influenced by Yiddish Theater. We will work with translated texts, but also learn a little bit of the language which is celebrated for its color, texture, humor, and pathos. If possible, we will also make a class visit to the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theater in Montreal to see a production (in Yiddish with supertitles in English and French). This class requires active participation: we will read scripts aloud, have active discussion, and students will prepare a final project presentation for the class. This class is for students interested in Yiddish/Jewish cultural history as well as theater performance and language.

CRN: 15015

Section: A

Enrolled/Seats: 0/0

Days Time Location


Meeting Dates: 16 Jan 2018 - 04 May 2018