SMArt Talks

No Place Like Home: Avant-Garde Yiddish Theatre between the National and the Transnational

Alexandra Chiriac

The lecture took place on 15 March 2023 in the Hans Belting Library.

Watch the lecture recording

Alexandra Chiriac researches twentieth-century performance and design and is the author of Performing Modernism: A Jewish Avant-garde in Bucharest (2022). She holds a PhD from the University of St Andrews and during 2020-22 was a Leonard A. Lauder Research Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Chiriac is also part of a collaborative research project initiated by the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw that aims to create a lexicon of theatrical avant-gardes in East-Central Europe. She has lectured on Yiddish theatre at Columbia University, the Romanian National Art Museum, and the Yiddishland Pavilion in conjunction with the 2022 Venice Biennale.


No Place Like Home: Avant-Garde Yiddish Theatre between the National and the Transnational

During the 1920s and early 1930s, Bucharest was a thriving space of experimentation for itinerant Yiddish performers, who garnered both commercial and critical success. Seeking stability, the internationally renowned Vilna Troupe made Romania its permanent home and the avant-garde theatre director Iacob Sternberg strove to create a permanent organisation for Jewish theatre in the country. This talk examines how Yiddish performance flourished in Romania despite an increasingly hostile political climate and how its traces were later obscured due to peripatetic trajectories either chosen or enforced. It also discusses the challenges of researching and writing about transnational performance in an East European context shaped by national archives and narratives.

A Night in the Old Marketplace, Bucharest Yiddish Theatre Studio, 1930. Photograph by Iosif Berman. Courtesy of the Centre for the Study of Jewish History in Romania.

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