This book is a potpourri of information about the renowned multi-media Moscow Yiddish Theater, from its creation in 1918 through its demise in 1949.
Part I, written by Benjamin Harshav, is an overview of the Theater’s history and aesthetics, featuring the central roles in its development of director Granovsky, actor Solomon Mikhoels, and painter Marc Chagall. Part II consists of memoirs and essays about the theater by contemporary observers and participants, as well as two brief scripts by Sholom Aleichem from the first Moscow production.
Hostile to religion, Granovsky was equally contemptuous of the Goldfaden school of Yiddish melodrama and the realistic, text-based theater of Stanislavsky. Through his work with legendary German director Max Reinhardt and influenced by European avant-garde movements, Granovsky developed his commitment to staging mass scenes in a production where text, actors, scenery, lighting, costumes, music, and acrobatic movement are interwoven to create “one total effect,” painstakingly prepared and extensively rehearsed by the omnipotent director.
He achieved great success with his interpretations of the work of classic Yiddish authors Mendele, Peretz, and Aleichem, especially in the stunning performances of Mikhoels — productions which, perhaps, can best be described as theatrical renderings of the paintings of Chagall.