Jew-Face: Non-Jews Playing Jews on the American Stage
Author: Merwin, Ted
Source: Cultural and Social History, 1 June 2007, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 215-233(19)
Abstract:While the phenomenon of whites performing in blackface is well documented, comparatively little critical attention has focused on the spectacle of non-Jewish actors playing Jewish characters on stage. Yet the history of the American stage is replete with examples of non-Jews assaying Jewish roles, from early performances of William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice to contemporary productions of Mel Brooks' The Producers. How non-Jews have impersonated Jews on stage reflects changing attitudes towards Jews in American society, as they have risen from poverty and discrimination to the enjoyment of wealth and status. Nowadays, non-Jewish portrayals of Jewish characters take place in a societal context in which the lines between Jews and non-Jews are becoming increasingly blurred, making Jewish culture accessible to Jews and non-Jews alike.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania
Publication date: June 1, 2007