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Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16Focusing on Jewish Popular Culture and Its Afterlife$
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Michael C. Steinlauf and Antony Polonsky

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774730

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774730.001.0001

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Jewish Theatre in Poland

Jewish Theatre in Poland

Chapter:
(p.71) Jewish Theatre in Poland
Source:
Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16
Author(s):

Michael C. Steinlauf

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781874774730.003.0005

This chapter investigates how theatre found a place in pre-modern Jewish societies. This was nearly exclusively a result of its association with the Jewish holiday of Purim. Closely linked to the celebration of Purim in Ashkenazi communities at least as early as the mid-sixteenth century was the performance of a Purim play, or purim-shpil. The actors were yeshiva students or artisans; dressed as non-Jews and where necessary as women, the purim-shpilers marched through town, performing their play in the wealthier Jewish homes, occasionally on an improvised stage. In eastern Europe, by the nineteenth century, the purim-shpil had become the property of the lower classes; it was often staged annually by the same group of players, with parts and even costumes passed down from father to son. Some of these groups travelled and performed in neighbouring towns. The earlier purim-shpils were apparently skits parodying local events; from the mid-seventeenth century, they began to be based on biblical stories.

Keywords:   Jewish theatre, Jewish societies, Jewish holidays, Purim, Ashkenazi communities, Purim play, purim-shpil, purim-shpilers, biblical stories

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