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Good for the Jews?:
A Symposium of Scholars and Artists on Jewish Identity in American Theatre and Performance

Event Information

Saturday, December 11, 2010
9:00 AM - 5:30 PM

Free and open to the public,
but tickets are required for admission. 

James M. Stewart ’32 Theater
Lewis Center for the Arts
185 Nassau Street
Princeton, New Jersey

Conference Organizers

Jill Dolan and Stacy Wolf
For additional information please email

This day-long symposium will showcase current scholarship on U.S. Jewish theatre and performance, as well as raise provocative questions about the meaning of Jewish identity in American cultural production at large.  Scholars, playwrights, critics, directors, and performers will discuss their work, share ideas, and issue challenges to those involved in thinking about performance through the lens of Jewish identity.  Each speaker will deliver a short talk or performance, then students will moderate a Q & A and discussion among the panel speakers and the symposium audience.  Interviews with McCarter Theatre Artistic Director and multi-award-winning director and playwright Emily Mann and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies will frame the day.

This event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for admission.

Please call University Ticketing at 609.258.9220 to reserve a space.

Questions that we hope to address include:
  • How has 20th-century theatre offered a forum—in different ways than literature, non-fiction writing, or other media—for political discussions of Jewish assimilation and difference from the American middle-class “norm”?  How has theatre offered a site of contestation for competing narratives of “sameness” or “difference” vis-à-vis the project of American nationalism for Jews?
  • How is “Jewishness” as an identity position inherently performance-based (or “performative”), from gesture to inflection, posture to gait?  How has such performativity been exploited in stage productions to produce or resist or revise a cultural stereotype of “the Jew”?
  • In which genres of performance have artists fruitfully explored the thematics of Jewish identity and how?  Musical theatre?  Performance art?  Melodrama?  Tragedy?  Comedy?  How does genre inflect content?
  • How is Jewishness productively and necessarily crossed with other identity categories in performance—race, class, gender, sexuality, among others—to produce a Jewish subject who is multiple and diverse?
  • How does Jewish identity inform the history and present practices of all theatrical production in the United States?
  • How have Jewish playwrights negotiated their own identities, histories, and culture as they create work for U.S. commercial theatre?


Henry Bial (University of Kansas)
Harley Erdman (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Sara Felder (Philadelphia- and San Francisco-based artist)
Barbara Grossman (Tufts University)
Andrea Levine (George Washington University)
Joseph Litvak (Tufts University)
Deb Margolin (Yale University)
Alisa Solomon (Columbia University)

Sponsored by

with additional support from

A note from the organizers regarding the symposium's Saturday schedule

We regret the necessity that we schedule “Good for the Jews?” on a Saturday, knowing that the Sabbath will mean that our observant friends will be unable to attend.  We wrestled for some time with this decision.

But because the symposium is in part generated from a Princeton student seminar, and because our students will be helping to run the event, we decided to give preference to the pedagogical, as our students would not have been able to attend on a weekday.

The symposium, however, will be taped and archived on our web site for future viewing.  We hope anyone who’s interested and unable to join us on December 11th be able to enjoy it there.

For an article about The National Museum of American Jewish History's thoughtful debate on this issue, click here.

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