1: Play excerpt, S. Ansky’s The Dybbuk, 1916, translation from Yiddish.
It has been arranged that Leah, a young woman of a wealthy family, marry Menashe, though she was destined to marry Khonen, a poor Yeshiva student who died in pursuit of her. In this excerpt from the close of Act II, Leah is led to her badekn, the ceremony at which a bride is veiled by her bridegroom. At that moment, it is revealed that she has become possessed by a dybbuk, the spirit of her beloved, thwarted Khonen. The grave to which she runs belongs to a bride and groom who were martyred centuries earlier in a pogrom.
Suggested activity: Have students read the play in its entirety, or, if pressed for time, selections from the play or simply this excerpt.
In small groups, have students work to stage this scene. Then, discuss: how does staging a scene change your perception of the characters and the story? What are the challenges of staging a play based on folkloric material? How can the actress playing Leah portray spiritual possession on stage? How might different performance styles alter the meaning? If there is time, encourage students to try acting their scene in more than one performance style (e.g. horror film, soap opera, thriller, etc.).
Sh. Ansky, The Dybbuk, trans. Golda Werman, in The Dybbuk and Other Writings, ed. David G. Roskies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 29.