Scene from 'The Dybbuk,' 1937
Scene from The Dybbuk, 1937.

Scene from 'Betrothed,' 2007
Alok Tewari (as the Rabbi) and Paula McGonagle (as Leah) in Betrothed, 2007.

In the early 1900’s, Russian ethnographer S. Ansky ventured into shtetl territory, armed with a wax cylinder recording device and camera, to document a fading, if still vibrant, world. There he discovered the tale of the dybbuk, a wandering soul who can possess the body of a living being.

Ansky went on to write a play about the dybbuk, and that play has since undergone numerous reinterpretations, becoming a legend in its own right.

Arts reporter Eric Molinsky speaks to playwrights Tony Kushner and Rachel Dickstein, as well as historians Gabriella Safran and Joel Berkowitz, about why this play continues to captivate directors, playwrights, and audiences.

Photo from Betrothed: Rachel Dickstein.