JoelSchechter contributes to our knowledge and understanding of American Yiddish Theatre of the 30’s in linking highly popular entertainers of the commercial stage such as Leo Fuchs, Menasha Skulnik, and Yetta Zwerling with social activist dramatists of the Artef Theatre Collective and the Yiddish Unit of the Federal Theatre like Yosl Cutler, Moishe Nadir, David Pinski, and the Modicut Puppeteers.What unites these seemingly disparate theater artists, Schechter demonstrates, is how uniquely and effectively they employ satire — especially of the “failed messiahs” of the time — to expose and condemn the economic and social ills of the Great Depression and make them bearable through laughter. The author provides us with extensive analyses of prominent Yiddish productions of the period — such as Moishe Nadir’s Messiah in America, Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, and Sholem Aleichem’s 200,000 — as well as of the performance skills of Fuchs, Skulnik, and Zwerling. Included are photographs, posters, and comic strips (with words by Schechter and illustrations by Spain Rodriguez) of the featured material.
Messiahs of 1933: How American Yiddish Theatre Survived Adversity Through Satire
Norman J. Fedder, Ph.D., is distinguished professor emeritus of theatre at Kansas State University. He is currently on the faculty of the Interdisciplinary Arts Program at Nova Southeastern University.
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