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Yentl is a play by Leah Napolin and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Based on Singer's short story "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy," it centers on a young girl who defies tradition by discussing and debating Jewish law and theology with her rabbi father. When he dies, she cuts her hair, dresses as a man, and sets out to find a yeshiva where she can continue to study Talmud and live secretly as a male named Anshel. When her study partner Avigdor discovers the truth, Yentl's assertions that she is "neither one sex nor the other" and has "the soul of a man in the body of a woman" suggest the character is undergoing a gender identity crisis, especially when she opts to remain living as Anshel for the rest of her life.

After eleven previews, the Broadwaymarker production, directed by Robert Kalfin, opened on October 23, 1975 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatremarker, where it ran for 223 performances. The cast included Tovah Feldshuh, John Shea, and Lynn Ann Leveridge.

Screen adaptation

As early as 1968, Barbra Streisand had expressed interest in a film adaption of Singer's short story. Using the Napolin/Singer play as her source material, she wrote a detailed forty-two page treatment, the first to conceive of the movie version as a musical. The resulting 1983 production veered dramatically from the original short story and play by allowing Yentl to reveal her true feelings for Avigdor and having her return to her female self and sail for the United Statesmarker at the end. The film received a scathing review from Singer but was well received by others, including reviewers at Time, Variety and Newsweek. Box office receipts were also healthy, both domestically and internationally, and the film was ranked 19th in the year's moneymakers. At awards time, Streisand was famously snubbed at the Oscars, but the film itself received 5 nods, winning for Best Original Music Score. Yentl won two Golden Globe Awards for Best Director and Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy).

See also


  • Napoleon, Davi. Chelsea on the Edge: The Adventures of an American Theater. Includes a chapter on Yentl, the story, the play, and the movie. The dramatic chapter goes into detail about several controversies between strong individuals--Isaac B Singer and Kalfin, Singer and Streisand, and Kalfin and Streisand. It also includes descriptions of the play and movie. Iowa State University Press. ISBN-0-8138-1713-7, 1991.

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