It is known that a play is the soul of
a theatre; a play is the first thing that a theatre needs to have.
But in the Yiddish theatre a play is the last. One worries about the
actors. There are provided actors, musicians, dancers,
advertisements, ticket-sellers; but
what may be advertised and what may be sold -- this
is allowed -- that is -- "the play."
One often reads that
this or that Broadway manager has bought a "play,"
and he negotiates with actors, who could act in the
"play," also with a theatre where they can
perform the "play." But at the Yiddish theatre the
main thing -- the play -- the very last.
However, one puts
forth the question: Where are our literati,
dramaturges, who can so nicely describe life,
especially the Jewish life? And it is a rule that
the greatest ambition of a writer is that one
may perform his play in a theatre.
It is true that to
write a good play, the writer should also need to
have stage technique. The dramaturge needs to be
close to the theatre, have love for the theatre,
even the theatre life. Jacob Gordin in his first
years was very less familiar with stage technique
and the theatre life. However, he learned by being
close to the actors and often visited the theatre,
where our literati and dramaturges (especially in
the later years), when they were far from the
theatre, and when they already had written a play. It was without theatre
blood, mainly without stage technique.
It also is a rule that
a play will not only be written, but "rewritten,"
or a scene will be rewritten. But now, when one decides
that a play will be performed, one first rewrites
it, simply rewriting it to the taste of the
advice-giver, so that almost nothing good remains
from the original.
As was already said,
this has a lot to do with what our Yiddish
dramaturges have been doing for the Yiddish theatre.
They simply do not want to interject with the
advice-givers and opinion makers over their plays.
From the very least
surviving dramaturges who have been subject to
advice-givers and opinion makers, there are instead
dramaturges who become playwright or playmakers.
They write virtually to order, after the taste and
understanding of their opinion-makers. The
playwright has developed a great stage technique,
that this and that fix has already become a usual
thing for them. They made peace with their fate and
did not develop into good playwrights, but they
became good fixers. A star knows that
this and that playwright is a good fixer, and he
will give him a good role -- he could not have gone
Very few writers,
great writers possess theatrical language and
theatrical blood. There are a very small number of
writers who possess this.
There are writers, however,
whose most everything they write can
be performed on the stage -- even a sketch, a
humoresque, because it has theatre language, and
every person who the writer portrays pleads: "Get me
on the stage."
The Russian composer
Bortniansky wrote music three times over Psalms. He
used to say that he was still able to write a fourth
time, because each chapter of Psalms sings for him
alone, and in that chapter he heard music. This is
the same with the writer, who possesses theatre
language, and its heroes are theatre heroes. For
example: Osip Dymow or the humorist Chone Gottesfeld
have theatre language and theatre blood. Even their
sketches are allowed to be dramatized. From
Gottesfeld's humorous things, it can easily
become a successful comedy, not for nothing has his
healthy comedy "Parnose (Livelihood)" made an
incredible success in Israel. From his comedy,
"American Chasidim," let's make an authentic,
Yiddish musical comedy.
There are writers who
have shown that they can write for the stage, and
they are passed over, like Sackler and Leivick.
The great writer
Bashevis Singer writes romances, which can be
transformed into a good stage work, like what has
happened with his brother, the genial I.J. Singer.
But there is no one who can approach the writers.