A Purim spiel (also spelled Purimshpil, Yiddish: פּורימשפּיל, from Yiddish shpil, meaning 'game, play', see also spiel) or Purim play is an ensemble of festive practices for Purim. It is usually a comic dramatization of the Book of Esther, the central text and narrative that describes what transpired on Purim and why it is celebrated as an important Jewish holiday.
The Purim spiel is considered the "only genuine folk theater that has survived a thousand years in European culture." Integrating texts, theater, music, dance, songs, mimes, and costumes, the Purim spiel is considered to be the origin of Yiddish theatre. The descriptive term "Purim spiel" became widely used among Ashkenazi Jews as early as the mid-1500s.
By the 18th century in eastern Romania and some other parts of Eastern Europe, Purim spiels had evolved into broad-ranging satires with music and dance, for which the story of Esther was little more than a pretext: indeed, by the mid-19th century, some were even based on other stories, such as Joseph sold by his brothers, Daniel, or the Binding of Isaac. Since satire was deemed inappropriate for the synagogue itself, these were usually performed outdoors in its court.
Purim spiels are performed annually in most American synagogues, and are still performed in many European communities. In France, Purim plays continue to be widely performed, particularly in active Ashkenazi communities.
In many modern-day synagogues, a Purim spiel is an informal theatrical production with costumed participants, often including children. Purim spiels often include parodies of popular songs or well-known musicals. Typically, each congregation writes its own new Purim spiel every year, or acquires a new script from elsewhere. Purim spiels may be used to address modern questions through the biblical narrative, pushing congregations "to consider a new frame for the story."
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- Beregovsky, Moisei (2001). Beregovska, E., ed. Purimshpili: Yevreyskiye narodnyye muzykal'no-teatral'nyye predstavleniya Пуримшпили: Еврейские народные музыкально-театральные представления [Purimspiels: Jewish folk music and theatrical performances] (in Ukrainian). Kiev: Duh i Litera. Archived from the original on 2019-01-28.