The Museum of Family History
 
Education and Research Center
 
Thinking Exercise

Creating a Scene
  At Second Avenue's Yiddish Art Theatre


 
"The Big Winner (Der Grosse Gevintze)"
1922
Great Artists Series, Maurice Schwartz and the Yiddish Art Theatre, Second Floor
 
A play is generally composed of many scenes, and each scene is composed of one or more actors playing the roles for which they had been chosen. Each actor must say their lines with conviction; every line they speak and every movement they make are what makes their character believable to the audience.

Let's pretend that you are the director of the Yiddish play shown above. A director is the person responsible for overseeing and putting together a theatre production. Those who will be performing the roles in the play are under your direction, so you yourself as the director must have a good idea of what the play is about, and how you would like the actors to fulfill their roles.

Ask yourself the following questions. Of course you must use your imagination to answer these questions, but this is the objective of this exercise. There is no right or wrong answer, so have at it! Here we go:

In this scene, what kind of work is each person doing, and how do you know this?

Is this a business, and if it is, what kind of business might it be?

Who seems to be the main character in this scene and why? What might his occupation be?

Look at the facial expressions of each character. What do you think each of them is thinking?

Do you think each of them is happy or sad? Do you they are rich or poor?

Do you think this theatre production is a comedy or a drama and why?

How many items or props can you identify in this scene? What are they?

What or who do you think the play title "The Big Winner" refers to?

What do you think is the plot of the play?

Write a few paragraphs or so about what you think the play is about. Assign names to the five characters shown above.
Describe who they are and how they are related to each other. Do you think one of these people won something? If so, what?
If so, how did this winning affect each of the characters of the play? What do you think the outcome was?
What do you think the moral of the story is?

 

"The Big Winner" ("Der groyse gevintze" in Yiddish)
by Sholem Aleichem
Premiered at the Yiddish Art Theatre in New York in 1922.
Courtesy of the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts/Billy Rose Theatre Division.

 



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