7 February 2024

Zachary Baker: ‘A Piquant Curiosity’

A Yiddish Actor and the Gender-Bending Play Yes a Man, and Not a Man 


Wed 7 Feb 2024 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM GMT

Online event

Chair: Sonia Gollance

UCL Institute for Jewish Studies, Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies


Samuel Goldenberg (1886-1945) was one of the leading dramatic stars of the international Yiddish theatre scene during the 1920s and 1930s. Now largely forgotten, his repertory included classic literary dramas by Yiddish and non-Jewish European authors, operettas by some of the leading composers for the Yiddish stage, and melodramas that were churned out on an industrial scale by popular playwrights whose names (like his) have faded into obscurity. The Polish-born Goldenberg traveled widely over the course of his career, performing his signature roles across North and South America, in England and Europe, and in South Africa. One such role was Morris Green, a character of uncertain gender identity and sexual orientation, in an unusual play, Yo a Man, Nit a Man (Yes a Man, and Not a Man), which he premiered in New York City in 1927 and staged in such cities as Buenos Aires (1930), London (1931), and Warsaw (1934). In this presentation the speaker Zachary Baker, Reinhard Family Curator Emeritus of Judaica and Hebraica Collections in the Stanford University Libraries (California, USA),  seeks to situate this play within the contexts of the New York English- and Yiddish-language theatre scene of the mid-1920s, the trajectory of Goldenberg’s career, and present-day discussions concerning the sexual politics of the Yiddish theatre in its heyday.

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