The Melting Pot (play)
The Melting Pot is a play by Israel Zangwill, first staged in 1908. It depicts the life of a Russian-Jewish immigrant family, the Quixanos. David Quixano has survived a pogrom, which killed his mother and sister, and he wishes to forget this horrible event. He composes an "American Symphony" and wants to look forward to a society free of ethnic divisions and hatred, rather than backward at his traumatic past.
The hero of the play proclaims : "America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming... Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians - into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American."'
Some critics[who?] of the play have taken issue with David's apparent willingness to give up his ties to Judaism in order to become "American." Although the idea of "melting" as a metaphor for ethnic assimilation had been used before, Zangwill's play popularized the term "melting pot" as a symbol for this occurrence in American society.
The Melting Pot opened at the Comedy Theatre in New York on September 6, 1909, and ran for 136 performances. It was produced by Liebler & Co. and staged (directed) by Hugh Ford. Walker Whiteside played David and Chrystal Herne (daughter of James A. Herne) played Vera. When the play opened in Washington D.C. on October 5, 1909, former President Theodore Roosevelt leaned over the edge of his box and shouted, "That's a great play, Mr. Zangwill, that's a great play."
The hero of the play, David, emigrates to America in the wake of the 1903 Kishinev pogrom in which his entire family is killed. He writes a great symphony called "The Crucible" expressing his hope for a world in which all ethnicity has melted away, and falls in love with a beautiful Russian Christian immigrant named Vera. The dramatic peak of the play is the moment when David meets Vera's father, who turns out to be the Russian officer responsible for the annihilation of David's family. Vera's father admits his guilt, the symphony is performed to accolades, David and Vera live happily ever after, or, at least, agree to wed and kiss as the curtain falls.
The play received a production at New York's Metropolitan Playhouse in March 2006.
- As quoted in Gary Gerstle American Crucible; Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century, Princeton University Press, 2001, p. 51
- Sollors, Werner. Beyond Ethnicity; Consent and Descent in American Culture. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. 1986. p.66.
- Burns Mantle and Garrison P. Sherwood, eds., The Best Plays of 1909-1919, (New York: Dodd, Mead, & Company), 1933, p. 399.
- The Melting Pot, IBDB:Internet Broadway Database, http://www.ibdb.com/production.php?id=6834.
- Guy Szuberla, "Zangwill's The Melting Pot Plays Chicago," MELUS, Vol. 20, No. 3, History and Memory. (Autumn, 1995), pp. 3-20.
- Leftwich, Joseph (1957). Israel Zangwill. T. Yoseloff. p. 252.
- Edna Nahshon, From the Ghetto to the Melting Pot: Israel Zangwill’s Jewish Plays, (Wayne State University Press), 2006. ISBN 978-0-8143-2955-9