Sound Salon: Yiddish Empire
Free and Open to the Public
Monday, October 29, 2018
5:30pm – 7:00pm
Memorial Library, Room 126, 728 State St.
The Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture presents Debra Caplan (Assistant Professor of Theatre, Baruch College, City University of New York), who will discuss her new book, Yiddish Empire: The Vilna Troupe, Jewish Theater, and the Art of Itinerancy. Yiddish Empire tells the story of how a group of itinerant Jewish performers became the interwar equivalent of a viral sensation, providing a missing chapter in the history of the modern stage. During World War I, a motley group of teenaged amateurs, impoverished war refugees, and out-of-work Russian actors banded together to revolutionize the Yiddish stage. Achieving a most unlikely success through their productions, the Vilna Troupe (1915– 36) would eventually go on to earn the attention of theatergoers around the world.
The Vilna Troupe is most famous for having produced the world premiere of The Dybbuk in 1920, and for bringing its production to hundreds of thousands of spectators around the world. Caplan describes this initial production as “something of an edgy, experimental musical.” No recordings or film exists of the Vilna Troupe’s production, but we do have a DVD of the 1937 film adaptation.