Queen's University

Cabaret, Satire and Theater [DRAM 219]

DRAM 219 (winter) Cabaret, Satire and Theater: Jewish Theatre in Europe (1938-1949), Diego Rotman. Open to all students 2nd yr or higher.

In this course we'll deal with the phenomena of Jewish theatrical performance in its various forms between 1938 and 1949. The course deals with the theatrical and cultural activity in the lead-up to the Holocaust in Eastern Europe and Germany, in the ghettos and concentration camps, and in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Theatrical performance was one of the central cultural and social activities developed by Jews in the ghettos and concentration camps. In private houses in the Warsaw Ghetto different types of performative activities took place: monologues, singing, sketches, and segments from plays. In May 1940 many cafes and night clubs opened in the ghettos, becoming a stage for performances by well-known Jewish and Polish actors of the time. The main style was the kleynkunst (cabaret). In the Warsaw Ghetto, five theater halls opened. In the Vilna Ghetto there was a weekly cultural series, with literary events, exhibitions, a symphony orchestra, and theater performances visited by thousands of people. Important artistic and cultural activities also took place in the other ghettos and in the concentration camps.

We will try to understand and deal with the different ways in which Jews in this period dealt with their circumstances through performative practices. We will also explore questions raised related to the fact that these cultural activities were taking place parallel to the transports to Auschwitz, the extreme contrast between this world of creative activity and omnipresent death, and the role of art as a coping mechanism with a circumscribing reality.

The aim of the course are:

-To examine the phenomenon of the performance during the pre- Holocaust, Holocaust and post-Holocaust years through performance-studies and cinema studies approaches and in dialogue with psychoanalytical and anthropological research.

-To deal with the relation between history, art and theatre. We'll deal with the social and cultural role of the arts in those years

-To examine in depth the development of the Jewish and Yiddish Theater.

-We'll work with archival materials (posters, invitations) and memoirs