Alexander Deytch

Masks of Jewish Theater

Nowadays only a few people, primarily historians of theater, are familiar with the name of Alexander Deytch. Yet, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was a very famous and authoritative Jewish theater critic.

His Russian book “Маски еврейского театра” (“Masks of Jewish Theater), available here to download, is written not in a scientific, but rather in a fictional way. It describes the beginnings of the Jewish professional theatrical performances — virtually all in Yiddish — from their inception till their first great successes and establishment as a worldwide cultural phenomenon of the early 20th century.

Like a talented painter, the writer portrays such important Yiddish figures as “the grandfather of the Jewish theater” Avrom Goldfaden, the classic writer and playwright Yitskhok-Leybush Peretz, the Moscow GOSET’s founder Alexis Granowsky (also one of the founders of the Russian Jewish theater in general), the composer Alexander Krein and even the painter Robert Falk, who would only become famous as a great artist decades after Deytch’s book was published.