Topic: The Dybbuk
Poster advertising the performance of The Dybbuk, (Warsaw, 1920).
The Dybbuk, written by S. An-sky nearly a century ago, is the most renowned work of the Jewish dramatic canon. The play portrays a phantasmagorical old world steeped in religious piety and occultism, where the normative boundaries that separate the living and the dead, male and female, are dissolved, and the frenzied desires of flesh and spirit fuse. Its tragic love story arises from the everlasting potency of an unfulfilled oath, and culminates in the transmigration of the pained soul of its protagonist, Khonon, a young religious scholar immersed in Kabbalah, into the body of Leah, his beloved. [Please note that throughout this unit, the male lead is referred to as both Khanan (Hebrew) and Khonon (Yiddish). Even though the name is spelled identically in Hebrew and Yiddish there is a difference in pronunciation between the two languages that is reflected in the English transliteration.]
Hanna Rovina as "Leah" in the Habima Theater production of The Dybbuk in Moscow, 1922.
This section of Modiya explores historical and contemporary approaches to the staging of this classic work. The play's two foundational productions were presented in Yiddish by the Vilna Troupe (Warsaw, 1920) and in Hebrew by the Habima players (Moscow, 1922). The play was subsequently produced in English and other languages in many parts of the world, and has inspired important musical and dance pieces, as well as feature films.
1. How can we explain the immense popularity of The Dybbuk across cultures and languages?
An-sky, S., Roskies, D., Werman, G. (1992) The Dybbuk and Other Writings by S. Ansky. New York: Schocken Books.
Werses, S. (1986) S. An-ski's "Between Two Worlds' (The Dybbuk): A Textual History." in Studies in Yiddish Literature and Folklore. Jerusalem: Hebrew University of Jerusalem.