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Reviews251 theoretical frames for understanding how theater worked, but McMillan and MacLean, in this book, reveal the considerable strengths ofanalyzing what the extant data says. Sara Eaton North Central College Edna Nahshon. Yiddish Proletarian Theatre: The Art and Politics of the Artef, 1925-1940. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998. Pp. xv + 260. +12 photographs. $59.95. The proliferating ofYiddish theatrical activity from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1940s has been almost neglected in scholarship. Books on the history of the Jewish theater are usually confined to memoirs and yearbooks ofthe theater companies, while others generally quote bits ofold recollections and hardly engage in commentary at all. There are two studies worthy of mention: Nahama Sandrow's comprehensive book Vagabond Stars (1977) embraces the entire history of the Jewish theater; and Marvin L. Seiger's well informed dissertation"Yiddish Theatre in NewYork Cityto 1892" (1960),which deals extensively with its American chapter up to 1892. Against this gloomy background, Edna Nahshon's book Yiddish Proletarian Theatre: The Art and Politics ofthe Artef, 1925-1940 has been long awaited. The publication of this excellently researched and well-written book on Artef by Edna Nahshon, a prominent scholar ofJewish theater, should be celebrated. Artef (1925-1940)—an acronym for Arbeter Teater Farband (= Workers' Theatrical Alliance)—played an extraordinary and interesting role in the annals of Jewish theater. Between 1881 and 1925, nearly three and a half million Jews, mostly of East-European descent, immigrated to the United States. The majority of these Yiddish-speaking emigrants settled in eastern cities, notably NewYork, which by the beginning ofthe First World War was the single largest urban Jewish center in the world. With nearly one and a halfmillion Jews, who constituted almost thirty percent ofits population, NewYork became a leading force in Jewish political, intellectual, and artistic life. The Yiddish theater, a late arrival in Jewish life, came to NewYork in 1882, and quicklybecame immensely popular with the city's immigrant community, offering a rich spectrum ofproductions ranging from simplistic musical melodramas to sophisticated artistic experiments. It is therefore surprising that the lively and much-beloved American-Yiddish theater has not received the scholarlyattention it so clearlydeserves. Nahshon, in her inclusive monograph, shows that the Artef transformed not merely the 252Comparative Drama Yiddish theatrical landscape. In the mid-1930s it transcended the ethnic barrier. It was widely praised for its artistic achievements and was regarded as one ofthe most important companies oftheAmerican theater ofsocial consciousness. Quite a few critics of the period considered it the premier company of the American extreme left. The actors and directors and stage designers associated with these left-wing companies ofthe 1930s were the ones who would shape the face ofthe American stage for decades to come. Voluntary and forced assimilation and the cataclysmic results ofthe Holocaust led to the rapid decline ofYiddish and to the near disappearance of its theater in the post World War II era. This vivid style, which included a generous use ofmusic and dance, was especially well suited to plays with a "folksy" character. Accordingly, the Artef, born and bred within the folds ofAmerican Jewish communism, totally rejected the star-system that typified the commercial Yiddish American stage. The company's radical etiios was reflected in its organization as an acting collective and in its ideological and artistic commitment to ensemble acting. The "star" of die Artef was not the individual actor. Rather it was Benno Schneider, the company's talented and imaginative artistic director who was responsible for the development and definition of the company's unique style. Schneider, one of the original members of the Habimah Theatre, brought to the Artefhis own version ofVakhtangov's "fantastic realism" and method, which combined a quest for emotional realism with vibranttheatricality. Artefs greatest triumphswereRecruits (1934),200,000 (1936) and The Outlaw (1937), all plays depicting die comedy and tragedy oftraditional Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Though dealing chronologically with the development of die company in a linear narrative, Nahshon discusses effectively the sociopolitical and cultural context based on a sound research ofprimaryarchival sources and she provides a thorough , up-to-date bibliography. Her central argument is tiiat die company's history cannot be understood...


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