STATE JEWISH THEATER
State Jewish Theatre in Romania has a tradition dating back 140 years, inaugurated at 19th August 1876, at Yassy, in the famous summer garden ,,The Green Tree” , when the artist and the writer Avram Goldfaden (1840 -1908) had established the first professional Jewish theatre in the world, presenting a performance with his own troupe. The first review of the Jewish Theatre’s performances was written by the most important Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu, who appreciated the actor’s performance as “very good”. After a series of performances, Goldfaden moved with his theatre company to Bucharest, performing in cities as: Botoșani, Galați, Brăila. Their success encouraged Goldfaden to write new plays (among other, historic plays like: ”Sulamit”, ”Joseph in Egipt”, ”Judith and Holofern”, related with the most profound Jewish cultural traditions, which inspired all the plays with their theatrical contents.
Since then, the Jewish Theater has been proving itself in the landscape of Romanian culture and held a particular place in Romanian theater. In 1917, the great director and teacher Jacob Sternberg had begun his artistic activity He practiced the revue style. A decisive impulse for the creativity of Jewish artists in Romania, was the meeting with the famous troupe of Vilna, that had in 1923 an important tour in Bucharest, their ensemble performance and the homogeneity of the actors’ creations being qualities enthusiastically assumed.
The fascist dictatorship years of World War II brought hard times, Jewish artists weren’t allowed to perform in their own language, nor to appear on Romanian theater stages. Back then was created in Bucharest Barașeum Theater, whose performances (in majority, revue performances, extremely appreciated by audience, including Romanian audience) were presented in Romanian language.
Its programming followed a mix of traditional and modern theater. The repertoire included Jewish, Romanian and international works.Over 200 new works, offering its audience numerous Yiddish classics including Shalom Aleichem, I.L. Peretz, Mendele Mocher Sforim, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Ephraim Kishon, plays from classical Jewish playwriters (S.Ansky, Iacob Gordin, H. Leivik), famous Jewish play-writers from Romania (Mihail Sebastian, Aurel Baraga, Alexandru Sever, Dumitru Solomon) and from all over the world (Arthur Miller, Israel Horowitz, Mario Diament) and also famous playwriters from the universal theatre (Molière, Lessing, Ibsen, Bertold Brecht, Leon Feuchtwanger, Max Frisch, Friedrich Dürrenmat, Arnold Wesker). State Jewish Theater offered wide possibilities of affirmation for famous actors such as: Sevilla Pastor, Beniamin Sadigursky, Dina Konig, Lia Konig, Mauriciu Sekler, Isac Havis, Samuel Fischler, Mano Rippel, Beno Popliker, Seidz Gluck, Sonia Gurman, Eugenia Balaure, Leonie Waldman Eliad, Thedor Danetti were important names of State Jewish Theater, who illustrated its plentiful acting resorts. This power of expression and permanent communication with the audience constitutes the main concern of “total” theater. The actors’ versatility and the use of various means of expression are characteristic features of the work. According to the tradition, the Jewish actor acts, dances and sings.
In 1948, State Jewish Theatre in Bucharest became a state institution. Since then and until now, the stage from Dr. Iuliu Barasch street presented over 200 premieres. A rich repertory, that contains scenical adaptations after the plays of great masters of Yiddish literature. (Shalom Alehem, I.L.Peretz, Mendele Mocher Sforim, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Ephraim Kishon), play classical Jewish playwrights (S. Ansky, Iacob Gordin, H. Leivik), of Jewish playwrights from România (Mihail Sebastian, Aurel Baranga, Alexandru Sever, Dumitru Solomon) and from all over the world (Arthur Miller, Israel Horovitz, Mario Diament), and also famous authors for universal theatre (Moliere, Lessing, Ibsen, Bertolt Brecht, Lion Feuchtwanger, Max Frisch, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Arnold Wesker), offered extensive possibilities of affirmation for famous actors Sevilla Pastor, Beniamin Sadigursky, Dina König, Lia König, Mauriciu Sekler, Isac Havis, Samuel Fischler, Mano Rippel, Benno Popliker, Seidy Glück, Sonia Gurman were important names of State Jewish Theater, who showed their reach interpretative resources not only in drama and comedy, but also in musicals performances gifts, because, by tradition, the Jewish actor, plays, dances and sings. This tradition is continued today by Rudi Rosenfeld, Maia Morgenstern, Roxana Guttman, Nicolae Călugăriţa, Andrei Finţi, Cornel Ciupercescu, Natalie Ester, Geni Brenda, Mihai Ciucă, Luana Stoica, Mircea Drîmbăreanu, Marius Călugăriţa.
Many interesting information regarding State Jewish Theater and not only can be found in the reference book „One hundred years of Jewish theater in Romania” by Israel Bercovici, regretted scholar, who worked for over 30 years as a literary secretary of State Jewish Theater.
During the last 25 years, the Jewish Theater of Bucharest has been having successful tours in USA, Canada, Israel, Germany, Austria, Russia, Switzerland, France, Greece, as well as participating in a series of international events. For example, in 2000, the theater created in international coproduction, the performance ,,An die Musik” by Pip Simmons, after an original idea of Rudy Engeglander, on the music of Chris Jordan, performing in Nancy, Avignon, Salzburg, Zürich, London, Berlin, Copenhaga, Rotterdam.
Between 1991 and 1996, State Jewish Theater organized and also hosted the International Festival of Yiddish Language. In 2002, State Jewish Theater was co-organizer of the National Festival of Minority Theaters from Romania and in 2003, it was co-organizer and host of the first Festival of Yiddish Culture in Europe.
In over 140 years of history, and almost seven decades as a state institution, as the only ensemble with uninterrupted activity, The State Jewish Theater in Bucharest has a a distinct profile, representative for the theatrical movement from Romania, but also for the contemporary landscape of Yiddish theater in Yiddish language.
STATE JEWISH THEATER BUILDING
State Jewish Theater’s building dates from the last decade of the XIX century. Doctor Iuliu Barasch, who had bought the land, initially wanted to build here a clinic. The land was situated in the center of a Jewish district from Bucharest, where, at the end of the XIX century and at the beginning of the XX century used to live about 300.000 Jews. After few years, here was built not a clinic, but a cultural center.
The years of fascist dictatorship during World War II meant a difficult time for Jewish artists, who were forbidden to perform in their maternal language and were pushed away from all the Romanian stages. At the beginning of 1940, few artists, writers and musicians built Jewish Theater Barașeum, where performed, in Romanian language, famous Jewish actors such as Alexandru Finţi, Beate Fredanov, Willy Ronea, N. Stroe, Mircea Crişan and others. At that time, the buildings had two halls: one groundfloor, where theater shows were presented and one at the first floor, for entertainment, cabaret, musicals.
State Jewish Theater was created in 1948, and between 1954-1955 the building was renovated in its contemporary aspect. The hall of performances has 200 places, sound and acclimatization installations, simultaneous translation at transnational panel, being also used as conference hall and symposiums. In the theater foyer, often take places art exhibitions and book launchings.
State Jewish Theater’s building, the only theater of a national minority in Bucharest, represents a cultural attraction, visited by numerous foreign tourists, politicians, members of diplomacy and delegations abroad.
For almost two hundred years now, the Yiddish language is said to be doomed, dead, or on the verge of extinction. Humiliated and cast away in the hidden-most corner of the Jewish conscience, this language was and still is a place of refuge for Jews all over the world. Born in the Middle Age ghettos, the Yiddish language managed to capture in its melodic tone all the joys of belonging to one people and all the sorrows of the exile; it survived the heat of the Inquisition fires and it survived the pogroms, to stand tall today when faced with the perils of globalization and assimilation.
What does Yiddish language stand for, beyond definitions one finds in any dictionary? It is a way of thinking, it is a way of perceiving life, it is the way of the Jewish people. It is neither torrid nor harsh as Hebrew is, with its tempestuous indicative mode. It is mellow, sweet, cheerful, and yet with a tear hovering in the corner of the eye. From its curses, renowned to be the juiciest in the world, to the gentle diminutive baby-talk, the Yiddish language is a melting pot of feelings. An old Jewish saying says that Yiddish is not for talking, but for singing. Those that do not talk this language are enchanted with its melodic tone, while those that do talk the language fondly refer to it as mame-lushn – mother tongue.
The Nobel Prize Winner for Literature Isaac Bashevis Singer said: “some would find in Yiddish language the best form to express joy and piousness, the love for life, the waiting for the Messiah, the patience and the understanding for the human failings. The humor, innate to the Yiddish language, is grounded in the blessings given for any passing day, in the gratitude for any speck of success, and in the love for people. It was the tongue of martyrs, of the Cabala men, of the shoe-makers and of the rabbis – rich in memories humanity would never forget. The humble and dreamy Yiddish language is the idiom of optimists.”
The State Jewish Theater of Bucharest, (TES), as the rightful descendant from the first professional Jewish theater in the world, founded by Avram Goldfaden in 1876 at Iaşi, Romania, is concerned with preserving and bringing to the fore the rich cultural heritage passed on to generations by way of the Yiddish language.
SJT seeks with its shows to identify new forms of expression for the spirit embedded in the Yiddish language, to develop and promote the unique and unmatched print the Jewish culture put to the world.
The Yiddish language is a tool that the actors and directors at SJT use fondly, while trying to both learn and pass on the everlasting admiration they all have for it!
(Andrei Munteanu, Director)