This book examines how notions of Jewishness have been conveyed in a range of television, stage, and film productions, since the end of World War II. The history of the American entertainment industry and the history of the Jewish people in the United States are inextricably intertwined. Jews have provided Broadway and Hollywood with some of their most enduring talent, from writers like Arthur Miller, Wendy Wasserstein, and Tony Kushner to directors like Jerome Robbins and Woody Allen, to performers like Gertrude Berg, John Garfield, Lenny Bruce, and Barbra Streisand. Conversely, show business provided Jews with a means of upward mobility, a model for how to "become American," and a source of cultural pride. Acting Jewish documents this history, looking at the work of Jewish writers, directors and actors in the American entertainment industry with particular attention to the ways in which these artists offer behavioral models for Jewish-American audiences.
Beginning in 1947, the book covers some of America's favorite plays ("Death of a Salesman", "Fiddler on the Roof", "Angels in America"), films ("Gentleman's Agreement", "Annie Hall") and television shows ("The Goldbergs", "Seinfeld"), identifying a double-coding by which performers enact, and spectators read, Jewishness in contemporary performance - and, by extension, enact and read other minority identities. Henry Bial draws on the lively discipline of performance studies to explore the ever-changing relationship between Jews and mainstream American culture.