The Dybbuk at The Public Theater, New York Shakespeare Festival Production (1977)

Submitted by dek2140 on November 10, 2014 - 11:33pm

In 1977, Joseph Chaikin directed a production of The Dybbuk at The Joseph Papp Public Theater in New York, located at 425 Lafayette Street. Chaikin, an actor and director, founded one of the most influential experiemntal theater groups in 1963. [1] His 1977 production was based on a new translation of The Dybbuk by Mira Rafalowicz. [2] The production was a part of the New York Shakespeare Festival, though very few records of this production exist, if any. The festival was founded by Joseph Papp, American producer and director, in 1954. [3] His aim was to make Shakespeare’s work accessible to the public, and this desire was eventually translated into developing theater that is accessible and relevant to all people. The legacy of this festival lives on, as it still exists today in a variety of venues, including the now-popular Free Shakespeare in the Park. [4]

Joseph Papp Public Theater

Chaikin’s production of The Dybbuk premiered on December 6, 1977 and ran for 62 performances, closing on January 29, 1978. Chaikin won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director (Play) in 1978 for his direction of The Dybbuk. [5] Two of the actors, Richard Bauer and Bruce Myers, also received an Obie Award for their performances in the play. [6] Several videocassette recordings of this performance exist and are archived at various libraries. [7] This particular production was adapted and translated by Mira Rafalowicz. It starred Richard Bauer, Robert Blumenfeld, Shami Chaikin (the director’s sister), Alice Eve Cohen, Joseph Davidson, Bernard Duffy, Corey Fischer, Jenn Hamburg, Ellen Maddow, Bruce Myers, Mark Nelson, Marcell Rosenblatt, Mark Samuels, Margo Lee Sherman, Arthur Strimling, Jamil Zakkai, Paul Zimet, Sonia Zomina, Marcia Jean Kurtz, and Hal Lehrman Jr., as well as a few other minor, uncredited actors. [8]Dybbuk Cast 1977Dybbuk Production 1977

During the last few days of cast rehearsal, Chaikin was hospitalized due to a heart condition. He continued to send stage notes to the cast from the hospital, and one of the actors, Corey Fischer, saved a few of the letters after the show ended. Fischer remembers his time spent during this production as a “life-changing, career-changing experience.”[9] In reading Chaikin’s notes, it is clear that he found the connection between audience and actor to be very important. This becomes clear in one of the stage notes, where Chaikin advises, “Know that rather than asking the audience to come to meet you on the stage, go outward to meet the audience in the whole space so that the action happens in the space and not only on the stage.” He also advises the actors to sit in various seats in the theater and to imagine the experience from those different perspectives, thus getting into the mindset of the audience members.

Chaikin’s insights into the play itself are fascinating and elaborate. He discusses the metaphysical dimensions of The Dybbuk and he highlights how human is “extended to include the dead, which is shared.” [10] Thus, he again ties in the importance of connecting the actors to the audience by comparing them to the themes of The Dybbuk. Chaikin also spends a good deal of time writing about the origin of the Jews and he pontificates that Jewish existence cannot be tied toone single place in history, but that it does extend vastly over time.

Although the 1977 performance of The Dybbuk is not well documented, Chaikin himself points out in one of his notes that “the most wonderful thing about theatre is that essentially it is undocumentable and unreproducible… Like the mortality that we share, the main thing is to be there while it’s happening.” [11] Chaikin passed away on June 22, 2003, age 67, of heart failure.[12] He is remembered for his many accomplishments, his founding of two theaters and the Winter Project, his many directoral and performance credits and his countless awards. [13]

Beggars in The Dybbuk

 

Notes:

1, 12, 13 "All About Jewish Theatre - Joseph Chaikin, Actor and Director." Site.

2, 7, 8 "The Dybbuk : Between Two Worlds." (Film, 1978)

9, 12 Fischer, Corey. "From Joseph Chaikin: Notes to the Cast of The Dybbuk, 1977-78." Story Passage

3, 4 "About Free Shakespeare in the Park." Site.

10, 11 "Chaikin Stage Notes." From Corey, 4, 5.

5,6 "Lortel Archives-Database." Site.

Selected bibliography:

"The Dybbuk : Between Two Worlds." (Film, 1978) [WorldCat.org]. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.worldcat.org/title/dybbuk-between-two-worlds/oclc/50266952>.

"The Dybbuk Production Information." The Dybbuk. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <http://www.broadwayworld.com/shows/backstage.php?showid=327241%23content>.

"About Free Shakespeare in the Park." About. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.publictheater.org/en/programs--events/shakespeare-in-the-park/about/?SiteTheme=Shakespeare>.

"Museum of the City of New York - Search Result." Museum of the City of New York - Search Result. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <http://collections.mcny.org/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult_VPage&VBID=24UAYW76P....

"Lortel Archives--The Internet Off-Broadway Database." Lortel Archives--The Internet Off-Broadway Database. N.p., 2002. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <http://www.lortel.org/lla_archive/index.cfm?search_by=show&id=2826>.

Blumenthal, Eileen. Joseph Chaikin: exploring at the boundaries of theater. CUP Archive, 1984.

Fischer, Corey. "From Joseph Chaikin: Notes to the Cast of The Dybbuk, 1977-78." Story Passage. N.p., 01 June 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://storypassage.com/2013/06/01/from-joseph-chaikin-notes-to-the-cast....

Fischer, Corey, comp. "Chaikin Stage Notes." (n.d.): n. pag. From Corey. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://fromcorey.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/dybbuk-notes-1977-78-02.pdf>.

Fischer, Corey, comp. "Chaikin Stage Notes." (n.d.): n. pag. From Corey. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://fromcorey.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/dybbuk-notes-1977-78-03.pdf>.

Fischer, Corey, comp. "Chaikin Stage Notes." (n.d.): n. pag. From Corey. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.<http://fromcorey.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/dybbuk-notes-1977-78-04.pdf>

Fischer, Corey, comp. "Chaikin Stage Notes." (n.d.): n. pag. From Corey. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.<http://fromcorey.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/dybbuk-notes-1977-78-05.pdf>

"All About Jewish Theatre - Joseph Chaikin, Actor and Director (1935 -2003)." All About Jewish Theatre - Joseph Chaikin, Actor and Director (1935 -2003). N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <http://www.jewish-theatre.com/visitor/article_display.aspx?articleID=511>.