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Theatrical LiberalismJews and Popular Entertainment in America$
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Andrea Most

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814708194

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814708194.001.0001

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Theatricality and Idolatry

Theatricality and Idolatry

(p.164) 5 Theatricality and Idolatry
Theatrical Liberalism

Andrea Most

NYU Press

In the voracious quest for authenticity that characterized both the ethnic revival and the radical politics of the later 1960s, many Jewish and American culture makers became increasingly interested in breaking down the boundaries that they believed impeded communication among individuals and propped up corrupt systems of power. Experimental theater, political protests, and popular commercial incarnations of these kinds of performances tested the borders between secular theater and religious ritual, and between performers and spectators, reimagining the theater in its “original” or “authentic” purpose as a site for mystical communion and societal rebirth. The largely anti-theatrical experimental theater practices and radical politics that characterized this move in the popular culture were rooted in the specific rejection or reinterpretation of the Judaic principles of theatrical liberalism. This chapter explores how Judaic ideas about idolatry and self-fashioning informed countercultural debates about art, entertainment, and identity by examining representations of the 1967 march on the Pentagon, the performance theory of Richard Schechner, the film parody Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks, and the essays of Lionel Trilling and Cynthia Ozick.

Keywords:   Judaism, idolatry, self-fashioning, Richard Schechner, Young Frankenstein, Lionel Trilling, Cynthia Ozick, theatrical liberalism

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