Women on the Yiddish Stage: Primary Sources
Alyssa Quint, Amanda (Miryem-Khaye) Seigel
We are pleased to launch Women on the Yiddish Stage: Primary Sources. This new section features translations from primary sources such as memoirs and articles, all of which are about and penned by Yiddish actresses. While women assumed key positions in the Yiddish theatre from its first days, their work and lives are not adequately represented in the treatment of Yiddish theatre history. We intend for this series to amplify women’s voices in order to counter this underrepresentation and to provide even more dimension to our appreciation of the Yiddish stage.
The publication of these firsthand accounts on DYTP marks not only their translation to English but also their unearthing or recovery. Few of them were published in book form. Instead, these works were published in the periodicals of their day or simply never published. Long buried in archives and microfilms, these documents illuminate the lives of Yiddish actresses in moments of inspiration, struggle, and triumph. They often reveal women in ways scholars of the Yiddish theatre have not yet captured: as member of families shouldering most of the family burden, yes, but also as the leaders and creative minds that they were. And almost all of these records are written from their own perspectives, so readers may be privy to their voices, their inner lives. Ranging widely through time and space, these stories provide episode after fascinating episode. Only more compelling than the scandalous affairs or the shocking wartime experiences is the way they convey the texture of daily life in the theatre. These pieces shed light on what it meant to pursue a life on the stage and to do so as women.
This translation series emerges from a conference entitled “Women, the City and the Yiddish Theater” that took place at Columbia University in 2016. From this kernel grew a larger project we have been curating over the past several years that includes the forthcoming monograph, Women on the Yiddish Stage (Legenda, 2022), an edited collection of scholarly articles on Yiddish actresses from around the world, as well as two volumes forthcoming from Bloomsbury Press, one, a collection of Yiddish plays by women, and the second, the English translation of Esther Rokhl Kaminska’s memoirs. We are grateful to the many contributors whose translation work is represented in this section, and we are grateful to our friends and colleagues at the DYTP for their collegiality, insight, and editorial work in bringing Women on the Yiddish Stage: Primary Sources to publication.