Friday, August 16, 2013

Samuel (Shmuel?) Beckett's Yiddishkeit

Fecilia R. Lee just put up a post on the ArtsBeat blog of The New York Times announcing that a group called the New Yiddish Rep is preparing a production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in a Yiddish translation by Shane Baker. As far as I am concerned, this makes a lot of sense. Readers of this site know that I have long enjoyed Alexander Pushkin's decision to call his play about Boris Godunov a "comedy of distress." Waiting for Godot is far from the only such comedy of distress to be written in the twentieth century (and hardly the only one to be written by Beckett); but it continues to serve as an almost iconic definition of the concept. However, long before Beckett had set pen to paper, Jews understood the concept perfectly; and Yiddish was far more capable of bring the concept to reification than Hebrew was.

The staging will be by David Mandelbaum, founder and Artistic Director of New Yiddish Rep. The translation will be faithful to the text, which means that it should also be faithful to Beckett's intentions. However, to provide a suitable context for their speaking Yiddish, both Vladimir and Estragon will be dressed as Holocaust survivors. Supertitles will be provided in both English and Russian. This project strikes me as fascinating as it is bold, and it will be interesting to see what sort of audience it draws in the New York area.

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