An actor, it seems, is an
experienced theatre person. He knows, after all, all the
"tricks" and is proficient in all the arts of the stage.
And yet, by their auditions for the Hebrew Actors'
Union, one could see that at times they are ordinary
mortal men. He becomes fascinated by a strong scene, he
applauds a good actor and he cries and laughs together
with those who perform for him. He forgets at times that
he is a "judge" here, that soon he will have to vote and
give out verdict. He becomes a regular theatregoer.
The auditions at the Actors' Union
are, as a matter-of-fact, "shows," productions with
actors as "spectators." However, the typical "shows"
come forth on a large stage with light effects and sets
and as such is a production given on a small, naked
platform. The audience does not sit in the dark, the
hall in a .... mood. Even more: on the stage sits aside,
the chairman, who brings forth each candidate.
THE EXAMINATIONS IN THE
YIDDISH ACTORS' UNION
FOR NEW MEMBERS ONCE UPON A TIME AND TODAY
published in the Yiddish Forward newspaper on April 12, 1935
by Chaim Ehrenreich
translated by Steven Lasky
The great changes that
have been made this time--the members express their
interest in the probes, where they are the judges.
It has been three weeks straight since the Yiddish
actors' union held a probe for the performers who want
to be taken in, and still there is the interest in the
ceremony that is called a "probe" and has not become
agpeshvakht. On the contrary, it is many who
disregard the union members today even more absorbed in
the examinations than before.
Those who are familiar with the
history of the union remember how difficult it was then
for an actor to become a member in it. And however
talented the candidate was, it was harder for him to be
a "brother," or a "sister." In most cases, it was
necessary to tackle the.. [oyskemfen dem areyntrit].
Not infrequently the press had to settle for a
candidate, and be coerced that they should include him
into the official actors' family. It was the actor--such
as Maurice Schwartz and Gershon Rubin-- for whom the
"Forward" iberhoypt its editor Ab. Cahan, had to
give his word, before the union actors had agreed to get
Years had passed, and the probes
this season appears as radical, it reflected the mood in
the Actors' Union. It doesn't mean to say that all the
union members stood with open arms to take in every
candidate. There are also now a number of actors from
the old guard who are absolutely against taking in new
members. This is the old, well-known song:
"The field of Yiddish theatre
was a limited one. Actors went around
without working (angazshmas), and no one new was
allowed in the Actors' Union."
However, they are no longer the
majority., that the actors, who were against "open
tiren." In the last number of years there were to
the theatre profession, and in the union, there has come
up a great number of intelligent, hine-ertsoygene
actors. Their perspective on theater is more sober and
practical, although from the point-of-view can expect,
from the point-of-view that you can expect from some
people who do not know their own interest, for they want
to join the union as well. The truth is that they know
that the Yiddish theater must have younger, fresh power,
new faces, as a person must have air. And that the youth
also has a lot of impatience, but a lot of the older
colleagues must be mild to the candidates.
We see, therefore, this kind of
From the seventeenth actors who
have up until today made a probe, there are fourteen who
have been taken into the union. Of them--with one
or two exceptions--nearly all young people need to be on
the stage. The majority of them are talented actors.
Many of them will have a great success in Yiddish
theatre. It affects the heart to see many of them act,
sing, dance. They brought a new vintel to them, a
fresh tone, a lightness and flexibility that you see at
the moment, and rarely with us in the Yiddish theatre.
The old guard was scared. Many of
them were laughed at. They are nevertheless actors. And
as actors they forget after a good probe and prejudiced
gossip, give their "yes" and later, when the blood burns
itself out, chapen zay zikh vos zay hoben obnemen,
and they kochen zikh. They are a pathetic, a
comical, a human rendering.
* * *
The director of the union receive
deserved compliments. They are permanently neutral and
pay attention, that the membership should feel that
justice will be done at the probe on the stage. She is
no longer a youth, and her voice is also not what it
needs to be, although you can see that she has studied
and possesses an understanding of the role. However,
they must admit that the profession can itself can do
without her. There are so many, and only a lot, in the
union such as her. Do not halt a single mother role
player and hoybt an areynshushken epes in oyer fun ir
shchn. Drikt zi im oys ir meynung? Because she
fulfilled her "expectation"?
The manager of the union, R.
Guskin, noted the whispering, and with his main finger
he runs to the actress. He doesn't say any words to her;
he only gives her a look, and she understands this. She
scratches herself and turns her head away.
Everyone knows that the candidates
want to receive two-thirds of the "votes." However one
hears it out of sight; they applaud zagar heflid.
And the guest, who arrived "agitated" for her,
lazen arunter di kep. They feel that she is really
not necessary. Tsu vos? The field is still
limited to such as her. Would she have been young, she
would have a great deal of talent, if the result
was different She is an entirely nish'ksh'dige
actress. And this is not enough in current times.
* * *
For in the American language the
words "sex appeal." It's a kind of advantage that not
all people have. When a man or a woman has a special
attitude for another kind [far'n ander min], they
say that he or she possesses "sex appeal." Not every
woman can do a lot with this passion, as actors say. It
actresses who are special and blessed with this gift.
There are the "gentiles," [among
whom] are many, many actresses who are overloaded
with "sex appeal." As actresses they are perhaps
not so ay-ya-ya. Hence, it is that they only perform out
on the stage, or appear on the "screen." The
men begin with a glance of their eyes, and they begin a
shtiken in the throat. With several actresses who
are "at home" performing special "revues" and pictures.
They are a "luck and blessing [mazl-brokhe]" for
the light operetta, for the musical stage.
On the Yiddish stage there are less
such actresses here. Yiddish actresses, who are playful
and naughty, they should not be on the stage, it seems
they are at the height of the mother's chastity. And if
they at times evoke a few sinful thoughts, they keep
these thoughts shemevdig, behind various excuses
They look forward to meeting [farentferen]
these sinful thoughts, as it relates to the rudeness
that grandfathers and mothers suffered in hardship.
At this year's probes there
appeared on the stage of the Actors' Union actresses who
possess it, this "non-Yiddish sex appeal." However,
together with "sex appeal," they also possessed talent
as a performer. They have taken the "public" by storm.
When they made a probe, there are actors, already older
people, some of them grandfathers with grandchildren,
sat and listened from these places. And when the probe
had ended, the "grandfather" passionately applauded and
were the first to run and vote. Great is the power of
"sex appeal." Who knows? In light of this, the actresses
will be on Second Avenue after "buyers" come from
Seventh Avenue, and fathers of married daughters on
Central Park West.
* * *
From the young actor in the Actors'
Union, there is steel and iron for free tiren,
for "someone who needs to be in the union," comes an
especially complimentary Zvi Scooler and Judah Bleich,
the two talented actors. They anitiren for such
candidates that can apply...[oyben-oyf ken zikh
dachten], that they will concur with Scooler and
Bleich, but the two young men maintain that:
"If they are actors, bring them to us. The Actors'
Union nobody cares with jobs, she protects the
interesting of that which was worked and seek
assistance/look for a vote for that which doesn't work."
At every probe Scooler goes around
throughout the hall and hit di "genger," the actors who
are "open tiren," and tamer chapt he from them during
the vinkt [has a look] to a union actor, he is greyt ihm durs tsu
zayn. It would not be an exaggeration to say
that Scooler and his friend Bleich have contributed a
lot to this, that many of the former "closed tirnikes"
should be liberal, oyfheren shrenken zikh
for new powers.
* * *
Last Tuesday they took movies and
talkies at the probe. The holiday was even happier after
the ceremony; not every actor for the "public" wanted to
be in the picture.
However everyone wanted to be. It was good that they did
not know that they would take pictures. When they show
[them], they will be without doubt not be surprised. 150
came, all three hundred to the probe. They would come
from all corners of America. And all three hundred would
want to sit in the first few rows, immediately in front
of the camera.
Nevertheless the actor receives a
compliment, they haven't been disturbed, faced the
director and found out when they told them.
The "world cinema," which has taken
pictures, will now show the world that the Yiddish
actors' union will take in new actors.
* * *
THE YOUNG ACTORS WHO
WERE TAKEN INTO THE UNION
published in the Yiddish Forward newspaper on April 19, 1935
by Ch. E. [Chaim Ehrenreich]
translated by Steven Lasky
Who are they? --American girls and
students who speak a good Yiddish, --A win for the Yiddish theatre
After one probe and this year's
examinations in the Actors' Union having been completed,
all-in-all the Yiddish actors' union has become larger with
some ten new members, and the theatre world will be
enriched with a number of talented, young actors.
It is a shame
that the greater public cannot witness the probes. When
they see locally born young girls and students speak a
good, pleasant-sounding Yiddish as they say a Yiddish
role, they must start to think that the future for
actors in the Yiddish theatre is not yet at its end. It still has from where to draw acting material.
About this one
wants to say a few words. One wants to hope that among
them will be found several who will move forward onto
the Yiddish stage.
There came out
onto the stage a slender beauty, with a figure, who was
strongly reminiscent of Berta Kalich in her younger
years. No more, Mrs. Kalich's beautiful face is
definitely Jewish, and opposite of that, the blonde girl's is entirely non-Jewish, German.
Her name is
Mirele Gruber, and in the whole she is entirely eighteen
years old. Thus everyone who knows her, with whom she
has played in children's roles, is assured.
was actually born a Christian with the "Pennsylvania
Dutch." When she got married to Mr. Gruber (the manager
of the Arch Street Theatre), she was pregnant, and until
her death eight years back was a pious Jewish woman.
After her death, the little Mirele had for a long, long
time prayed over the candles every Friday night and
was "a little mother," and with this kept the Yiddish in
Gruber had his
little Mirele sent to a Yiddish school, where she
studied reading and writing. When, by him, they needed a
child on the stage, Mirele played the role and played
it with great temperament.
Her mother had
wanted to play Yiddish theatre. However she had her
dream, it never worked out. From time to time she sung
at concerts, on the radio. For her Mirele, however, her
mother's dreams are to be fulfilled. And if there is
another world, Mrs. Gruber there will have shed enough
tears of joy when her Mirele made her probe last Tuesday.
On the stage Miss Gruber
showed how musical Yiddish can sound. She spoke simply,
not needing the small-town dramatics, as in a finch's
[?] inflated tones, which they often heard from provincial actors.
Her voice was natural by itself, but somewhat soft and
modulated, even when she began dramatically. It was a pleasure to hear her
About her entire
figure, her chastity and young girlishness was somewhat evident. The blonde hair, which was scrambled around
her head, as a rife, the white collar around her black
clothing, which had more greatly supported her correct
blondness, the reticent hand movements that brought out
the freshness and youthfulness that she brought out onto
She had not
sung, she had not danced. She made her probe as a
dramatic actress, and as such the young girl was taken
into the union with only two negative votes, and all of
them were caught up with the new actress, all of us.
Her own father, who was in the hall, had posed:
"She is still
young; after a few seasons she should work with a good
stage director. It's not easy to end up with roles that
are not for her, and with praise that she first should
Wise words for a
father. But Mr. Gruber has already been involved with
the stage for a long time, and he knows the hazards that
stand in the way of a young artist on her way.
* * *
On the stage the actress emerges.
She also is young and beautiful and a sight for the eye.
She is an operetta actress; she sings and dances. She
is, however, not blonde, but has a head of black hair.
When she speaks, there does not
hover over the stage a mood of pure piety. She turns on
her rage and rubs in the knife. When she sings a love
song and begins to stiffen the dress on the way to a
dance, it is easy on the eyes for the actors and for
the actresses whose ambiguous smile glides on their
The young actress is called Esta
Salzman. She is born for the operetta stage.
not accept one man from a legitimate wife--in a play.... in a
theatre due to her youth and grace and wifely ways [?].
She was born in New York [Boston-ed]. Almost
her entire family are contributors to the Yiddish
theatre. Her brother and her father were "stagehands."
By herself she was a chorister until this day. From time to
time ,however, when an actress becomes ill, Esta Salzman
plays her role. So the actors found out that Esta
demonstrated talent and also that she was born with
ambition to act in the theatre. When she did not have
the opportunity to be a substitute for the other
actresses, Esta Salzman would probably have remained a
chorister her entire life, venigstens so long as
her figure would allow.
* * *
The Josephson brothers, Sam and
Sol, look like twins although one is a year older than
the other. Young teenagers as quicksilver. The stage
burns under their feet. With his quick , sharp
movements, Sol is reminiscent of an Eddie Cantor. And he
also has the same bistren look.
They were from childhood on the
stage. And all the years they led the tramp life of the
true actor, some as they made a living in operettas.
* * *
When you look at the probes of those
listed and other young actors, you must admit that
Guskin was justified when every year he held with the
union that they had to have young, new blood in the
union. The young hbrh (friends?), who entered the
stage, their strength, their newness evoked interest.
And the critics who were next to
have an opportunity to see the young people on the stage
and plays, who can also judge their talent as actors, as
champions of roles.
* * *
Last week in our article we had
mentioned that the probes, "the old guard," the actors
who were going to take in new actors, the manager of the
union, R. Guskin, posted a comment:
"It is a surprise to know that no
old guard is with us at all. Best of all are the probes.
Each one of them who attended, will add that it was
However, he mentioned "the old
guard." Once there was an old guard, actors who were
against taking in new members. It is true that many of
them were already dead, others over time had changed
their minds. There is no offense, however, with the
title, "old guard," and it has not been interpreted that
Also Jacob Wexler and Irving
Honigman agreed with Guskin's remarks. In their view,
they took up the honor of their organization, turned to
these yearly probes. for which the union and every
member received many compliments.
ONE PROBE TO WHICH
WILL BE ABLE TO COME, MAY 21
published in the Yiddish Forward newspaper on April 26, 1935
translated by Steven Lasky
Throughout the year in the Yiddish
actors' union, probes have been made for actor who want
to be members. The probes are interesting, as a
production is in the theatre. They are a "show" in a
"show." You see people on the stage who play theatre,
and you see actors in a hall who play the role of judge
of a jury, that must judge--let them in, or don't let
This year there are already
eighteen new performers who have been taken into the
union. These were of the most interesting, and in many
respects the most unacceptable probes that the union has
had. It is only a pity that the great crowd of people
did not know about it. But the theatre public will now
get a one-time opportunity to attend. However there will
always be a probe! Everyone who did make a probe and
were taken in, who again "took the exam" will return to
play the scenes that they had played in the Actors'
Union. No more, what's going to happen in this large
Public Theatre, wherein there may enter several hundred
people. The ceremony, however, will actually be staged
through the probes in the union. Guskin will say several
words to the performers; Jean Greenfield who is
president of the union, will "opine"; "watchers" and
"tellers"; Max Friedlander will prompt the performer
when he does it for the union. shortly the probe in the
Public Theatre will be performed with every fixture.
And these will make probes again,
according to the regulations that the union had created:
At the probe Jacob Ben-Ami, Aaron
Lebedeff, Jennie Goldstein, Samuel Goldinburg, Menasha
Skulnik, Itzik Feld, Julius Nathanson, Joseph Buloff,
Nathan Goldberg, Sam Kasten, Bina Abramowitz, Anna
Appel, Helen Zelinskaya will be the judges.
The performers will sing their
songs accompanied on the piano by the same accompanists.
Rumshinsky will accompany his songs; Secunda--his;
And it will be on Tuesday, May 21,
in the Public Theatre. Understand that the open probe
will not be staged for "anything." It was arranged in
honor of the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," and its
editor Zalmen Zylbercweig.