A Tale of Two Museums
Ester Rachel Kaminska Theater Museum Collection

Three acts or four: the publication of The Dybbuk in Yiddish

1920 - Der Dibuk -- The Dybbuk -- by S. Anky -- Manuscript.jpg


Three acts or four: the publication of The Dybbuk in Yiddish


The Dybbuk was published for the first time in 1920 after the playwright's death. Edited by the photographer Alter Kacyzne, himself a writer and playwright, it was included in a multi-volume edition, The Collected Works of S. Y. An-ski. An-ski entrusted Kacyzne to publish his work as well as to complete his mentor's play Day and Night. Before his death, An-ski had completed the composition of The Dybbuk in manuscript as a four-act play.

Curiously, the Vilna Troupe, the first to perform the play, performed it in three acts instead of four. Kacyzne showed the manuscript to Vilna Troupe actor Avrom Morevski and complained to him that the Troupe's director David Herman had urged him to publish the play according to his three-act interpretation. Morevski writes in his memoirs about this episode: At that moment I lay my right hand on the table and said to Alter: "Let my right hand lose its cunning should I step onto the stage of a three-act Dybbuk." 

Theater programs from this period demonstrate that the play was often played "according to David Herman's direction" which meant, in part, that it would play as a three-act play, as other programs reflect Morevski's 4-act interpretation.

This is the only known surviving fragment of an original Yiddish manuscript of The Dybbuk.


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“Three acts or four: the publication of The Dybbuk in Yiddish ,” YIVO Online Exhibitions, accessed March 1, 2024, https://ataleoftwomuseums.yivo.org/items/show/2945.
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