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Plays

Hebrew Theater: Yishuv to the Present

From its beginnings early in the twentieth century, Hebrew theater was the province of men. With the exception of a few trailblazers such as Miriam Bernstein-Cohen, who translated and produced plays, it was not until the 1980s that women writers and directors began to work in the Israeli theater. Of all the theatrical professions, only actresses had truly been partners in the enterprise of reviving Hebrew culture. It is therefore appropriate to begin with several of the most important of these and to go on from there to playwrights and directors.

Hebrew Drama: Representation of Women

Since its beginnings in the 1920s, Hebrew theater has been perceived by its audiences as a “high” cultural activity, and the topics it chooses to present have often prompted public controversy and debate. However, what has generally been ignored is the fact that prior to the 1980s there was an almost total absence of women-related topics and women’s voices in Hebrew theater.

Sophie Von Grotthuss

In her extensive unpublished correspondence with Wolfgang von Goethe, Sophie von Grotthuss (born Sara Meyer in Berlin) describes her difficult farewell to Judaism. Her mother, a woman possessed by an unnatural hatred of religion, “married [her] off at the age of fifteen to a wretched creature who for ten years made [her] life a hell.” As she frequently wrote, the marriage in 1778 to the merchant Lippman Wulf completely destroyed her. After Wulf’s death in 1788, she revived, traveled a great deal, particularly to the spas of Bohemia, where in 1795 she became acquainted with Goethe, with whom she corresponded until 1824. In 1799 she married the Livonian Baron Ferdinand Dietrich von Grotthuss, who was soon impoverished and became postmaster in Oranienburg. In her later years she was a prolific author. In an unpublished letter to Goethe, dated August 14, 1824, she refers to a novel, a play and several stories, which she was sending him for approval. Apart from the story, “Sophie ou la difference de l’Education,” two unpublished manuscripts, “Opinions of a German Woman, written in Dresden in the summer of 1814,” and a play, The German Governess, her works appear to have been lost.

Luba Robin Goldsmith

In 1902, Luba Robin was the first woman to graduate from the school of medicine at the Western University of Pittsburgh (later the University of Pittsburgh). Luba Robin’s career combined private medical practice, teaching, writing, lecturing, and active participation in educational, social, and public health work.

Lea Goldberg

Not only did Goldberg work in a vast range of creative areas—as a poet, author of prose for adults and children, playwright, gifted translator, scholar and critic of literature and theater—but in every one of these fields, and certainly in her poetic output, one can discern many and varied “channels”—from diverse poetic genres to surprising and innovative uses of language and form.

Nora Glickman

Widely recognized as a literary critic, Glickman has published the fruit of her research in over a hundred articles and reviews in major journals and anthologies. A considerable amount of this is devoted to the image of the Jew in Latin American and Brazilian literature.

Natalia Ginzburg

Arguably the most important woman writer of post-World War II Italy, Natalia Ginzburg was born on July 14, 1916 in Palermo (Sicily), where her Jewish Trieste-born father, Giuseppe Levi, who later achieved fame as a biologist and histologist, was at the time a lecturer in comparative anatomy. Modest and intensely reserved, Ginzburg never shied away from the traumas of history, whether writing about the Turin of her childhood, the Abruzzi countryside or contemporary Rome—all the while approaching those traumas only indirectly, through the mundane details and catastrophes of personal life.

Rose Franken

Rose Dorothy Lewin Franken was a celebrated Broadway playwright and director, a Hollywood screenwriter and a popular novelist whose fiction touched a sympathetic chord in American women.

Edna Ferber

A dedicated writer for more than fifty years, Edna Ferber was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on August 15, 1885. She celebrated America even as she exposed its shortcomings. Her published work includes twelve novels, twelve collections of short stories, two autobiographies, and nine plays—most in collaboration with other playwrights.

Ruth Fainlight

Ruth Fainlight was born in New York on May 2, 1931, the daughter of a British father and an American mother with Russian-Jewish ancestry. In 1946 she settled in England, where she studied at colleges of art in Birmingham and Brighton. She married the writer Alan Sillitoe in 1959. The couple have one son and one daughter. Although a successful writer of short stories, a dramatist/librettist and translator, she is best known for her poetry, whose modern style blends subtle image-making with toughness of expression.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Plays." (Viewed on February 1, 2015) <http://jwa.org/topics/plays>.

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