Ö1 Morgenjournal - March 19, 2007

Festival of Jewish Theater in Vienna


The Hebrew expression “Tikun Olam” refers to the calling to put the broken back together. In this case, the name is also the program, whereby most of the performances emphasize new understanding between cultures and reveal social grievances. The South African Steven Cohen literally throws light on the discrimination he has encountered as a Jew and homosexual in Johannesburg, wearing an illuminated crystal lamp on his body in performance. A Russian theater company, in turn, takes the ancient Jewish “Golem” story as its subject matter.

If until 1938, there were more than twenty Jewish theaters in the Praterstrasse alone, today, there is only one Jewish theater company in all of Vienna – the Jewish Theater of Austria, the presenter of the festival, founded in 1999. Here, too, there is the aim to make new connections to a broken tradition and to stage a contemporary interpretation of the life and work of Theodor Herzl. The play is called “The Judenstadt” (The City of the Jews) and was written by the director of the Austrian-Jewish company, Warren Rosenzweig.

The festival is accompanied by the World Congress of Jewish Theater, with one of the most dazzling figures of the Jewish theater scene, Theodor Bikel, delivering the opening address. Born in Vienna in 1924, Bikel was to become an Oscar-nominated film actor in Hollywood and would present more than 2000 performances on Broadway in the role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. As a careful observer of Jewish theater, he recently experienced a welcome swap of identities. More and more, Jewish dramatists and directors have been rejecting the clichée-ridden role of victim.

- Wolfgang Popp

Copyright © 2007 ORF