Lives in the Yiddish Theatre
SHORT BIOGRAPHIES OF THOSE INVOLVED IN THE Yiddish THEATRE
aS DESCRIBED IN zALMEN zYLBERCWEIG'S "lEKSIKON FUN YIDISHN TEATER"

1931-1969
 

Sigmund Feinman
(Zigmund, Asher-Zelig)

 

Born on 28 April 1862 in Inshest, near Kishinev, Bessarabia. Father -- a manufacturer-businessman. Grandfather -- a cantor.

F. was raised in Kishinev. He learned Jewish subjects and completed a four-class gymnasium.

F. had a beautiful, warm voice, was a musician and a choir boy in shul. When Naftali Goldfaden arrived with his troupe in Kishinev, F. left school and joined him as a chorister. It wasn't long before he debuted, that people remarked of F.'s dramatic abilities, and  he came to act in the role of "Aliezer" in Goldfaden's "Bar Kochba", and after continued as an actor in the troupe.

In 1883, when Yiddish theatre was banned in Russia, F. immigrated together with the other prominent Yiddish actors to Romania, where he became, after a short time, the leader of various troupes.

An imposing figure, broad, a lovely impressive face, a solid brust-ton, steady, he began to act in a significant role in the Yiddish theatre family, and when Mogulesko and Finkel put together a large troupe for America, they brought him to them, and in August 1886 for London, where F. acted.

In 1887 F. participated in the role of "Shemash" in "Professor" Horowitz's "Tissa Eslar", and Ab. Cahan printed the following about his acting:

 

 "Feinman was a young man with a heavy-sounding baritone voice. He use to recite his words in a melodramatic manner, which the audience loved -- yednfals more than today".

Soon F. began to stage his plays, which most of the time were not very original, but translations or adaptations.

On 3 June 1889 in New York's "Poole's" Theatre, F. play "Der get, oder, Der nikolayevsky soldat" was staged [according to B. Gorin, he portrayed "the Jewish soldier", and particularly that "Der Get" was staged in 1890]. The play was no longer performed, and also not published.

A manuscript of "Der royte menshele (in one act), staged on 11 December 1891, was found in the New York archive of YIVO.

On 24 October 1890 in the "Thalia" Theatre, there was staged F.'s play "Di froy, oder, tsvey khasunus oyf lhkheis, a lebensbild in five acts, music by Mogulesko" [according to Itskil Goldenberg it was an adaptation of "Der hitn-bazitser" by George Oney]. The play did not remain in the repertoire and was not published.

A handwritten "Di froy, a drama in five acts", was found in the YIVO Archives.

According to B. Gorin, in 1891 there was staged F.'s play "Gelt, oder, der tremp (Gold, or, The Tramp)", which was later no longer performed. In the same year -- according to B. Gorin -- there was also staged F.'s play "Dem foters kale", which F. later performed in Lemberg. The play did not remain in the repertoire. It was not published. A manuscript can be found in the possession of Y. Steinberg in Winnipeg, Canada.

A written version of "Geld, oder, Der tremp", a comedy-drama in four acts, and a written version of "Dem foters kale, a drama in four acts and five scenes, music by S. Mogulesko", can be found in the YIVO Archives.

In 1891 F. acted in the role of "Levin" in the "Union Theatre" in the premiere of Gordin's first play "Siberia".

Although all of the intelligentsia showed for F., B. Gorin recounts about a serious, offensive conflict that occurred between F. and Jacob Gordin:

"In another theatre with another play at times there began a conflict between hi [Jacob Gordin] and Feinman. The latter had categorically rejected with consequences what was requested, and he declared that he say what he wanted. Gordin therefore became so incensed that he slapped him".

In 1892 F. was (together with Adler, Mogulesko and Kessler) director of "Poole's Theatre", but there was no peace heard between them, and F. acted across the province.

According to B. Gorin, in 1896 there was staged in the "Windsor" Theatre F.'s play "Ezrah [Ezri] der gbur hkheyl, oder, Der printsesins ndr [Ezra, the Living Hero, or, The Princess' Promise ??] [according to Itsikl Goldenberg, it was a free adaptation of the French play "Gismonda"]. The play was kept in the repertoire for a long time, and also without the knowledge of the author, published in 1909 in Lemberg in the publishing house of David Roth, under the name "Ezri gbur hkheyl (Der tapfere held), a historic operetta in four acts by S. Feinman".

Two manuscripts "Bgur hkheyl [in four acts], music by Mogulesko", and "Der printsesins ndr", can be found in the YIVO Archives.

On 5 September 1898 there was staged (with David Kessler, Regina Prager and Feinman) F.'s "Der yidisher vitse-kenig (The Jewish White-King), oder, A nakht in gan eden (A Night in the Garden of Eden)". The play also was called "Der shtrasnzinger", and often under the name it was performed on the Yiddish stage in Eastern Europe. F. also had the operetta performed in Lemberg. A manuscript for the play can be found in the Lipovsky archive in YIVO. The play, without the knowledge of the author, was published under the name of "Der vitse-kenig", an operetta in four acts by Sigmund Feinman, published by David Roth, bookstore, Lemberg, 1909".

A handwritten "Vitse kenig" and a handwritten "A Night in the Garden of Eden" [in one act] can be found in the YIVO Archives.

According to B. Gorin, in 1898 there was also staged F.'s play "Di kleynshtetldike aristokratn". The play later was no longer performed and wasn't published.

A handwritten "Der rayker betler oder di kleynshteteldige aristokraten, a lebensbild in five acts", can be found in YIVO's archive.

On 28 October 1898 in the "Thalia" Theatre, there was staged by Kessler F.'s "Di gasn kinder, a lebensbild in four acts, six scenes, music -- Mogulesko". The play later was no longer performed and was never published.

In 1899 -- according to B. Gorin -- there was staged F.'s play "Di yidn in maroko (The Jew in Morocco)" and "Der shtumer, oder, Lebedik bagrobn". Both plays were not performed again and were never published.

A handwritten "Di yuden in maroko, oder, Der Talmid fon r'itzhak abarbanel, a historical-romantic opera in four acts and eight scenes", which can be found in the YIVO Archives.

Also found in the YIVO Archives is a handwritten "Der shtumer, oder, Lebendik begroben, a tragedy in four acts".

According to Sholem Perlmutter, there was also staged a play "Dos lebn in nyu york" as F.'s composition.

A handwritten "Dos leben in nyu york, a folksbild in four acts, music by Z. Mogulesko", was found in the YIVO Archives.

Around 1899 in the "Roumanian Opera House" (with Berta Kalich, David Kessler, Sigmund Mogulesko and Feinman), there was staged F.'s play "Chanele di finisherin (Chanele the Finisher)". [According to Sholem Perlmutter the last two plays were really written by a certain [actor] Shenkman, who they compared to the former prompter and playwright Nachum Rakow, and for F. Rakow had the two plays a little improved and put their name on it and sold it to be performed across the province. F. had the play improved and they staged it in New York in his name.]

The play later was performed for a long time in America, and it was one of the popular plays in Yiddish repertoire in Europe. It is known that F. published it under the name "Ḥaneh’le di neherin, a lebensbild in four acts by S. Feinman", published by Amḳroyṭ eṭ Fraynd, Przemyśl, 1909".

A handwritten "Chanele di neherin, oder, Chanele di finisherin, a lebensbild in four acts and six scenes, translated by Sigmund Feinman", can be found in the YIVO Archives.

About the play and the acting, Celia Adler in her memoirs relates:

"The success of 'Chanele di finisherin', both as the play written by Feinman, as well as the acting of Sigmund and Dina Feinman, they began to complete an important position in the growing Yiddish theatre in New York, so that a season or two later they joined as partners with Kessler and Berta Kalich in the "Thalia" Theatre.

An entirely other opinion had the novelist, playwright and one of the first writers of Yiddish theatre history, Moshe Zeifert:

"Sigmund Feinman is a good actor in dramatic and father roles, when he should not only eynbildn, that he also is a dramatist. When they also put his own name on a strange play, certainly not after being urged, that one is a dramatist and a literat".

Berta Kalich in her memoirs, wrote:
"That season of "Chana di finisherin", Feinman also staged "Natan der vayze", and here he knew that it did not lack intelligence and any considerable force. He used to by himself write plays, and they were more or less successful.

Around 1902 in the "Germania" Theatre, there was staged F.'s play "Numer 587, oder, Di mame sarah". The theatre soon closed. The play was not performed again, and it also was never published.

A handwritten "Shfrhle oder num. 587, a lebensbild in four acts", can be found in the YIVO Archives.

On 15 October 1902, F. performed in the "Thalia" Theatre, staging "Di nakhtigal fun yerushalayim (The Nightingale of Jerusalem)", a historic opera in four acts and twelve scenes. The play was not performed long, and it also was never published.

On 10 April 1903, F. performed in the "Thalia" Theatre as "Zemach" in N. Rakow's "Der betlen", which was later popular under the name "Der talmid khokhem".

In the same year there also arrived in the "Grand" Theatre an exceptional Goldfaden production in honor of the author, who then for the second time had come to America, and F. performed as "Eliezer Hmudey" in an act from G.'s "Bar Kochba".

In 1904 F.'s "Dos tsebrokhene lebn" was staged, which was not performed again, and also it was never published.

In 1904 there was also staged F.'s "Der yid in sobieski's tsaytn, oder, Shabbat Kodesh". The play was maintained for a little longer time in the Yiddish theatre repertoire in America, and was a hit in Eastern European theatres, where it often was performed under he name "Chai shmeyh". The play, without the knowledge of the author, was published in 1908 in Warsaw in the publishing house "Yudishe theater-bibliotek", under the name "Shabbat Kodesh, oder, Chai Shmeyh, a historic operetta in four acts by S. Feinman".

A handwritten "Shabbat Kodesh, a historical operetta in four acts", can be found in the YIVO Archives.

About F. as an actor in those years, Sholem Perlmutter writes:

"Feinman soon .... (bottom, p. 2547)....
 

Sigmund Feinman as "Abraham" and Celia Feinman as "Itzhak" in  Goldfaden's "The Sacrifice of Isaac".

 

 

 

Title page of Sigmund Feinman's plays.

 

Feinman in "Vitse-kenig"

 

Feinman in "Di heymat"

 


Deine, Celia (Adler), Lili Feinman and director Yitzhak Zandberg at the
gravesite of Sigmund Feinman at the Jewish cemetery in Lodz, Poland.

 

F.'s published plays:

[1]  Shabbat kodesh, oder, Hi shmeyh, a historic operetta in four acts by S. Feinman. Yiddish theatre library, no. 14, Wrsaw trs"kh [1908, 54 pp., 16°]. Price 30 kopecs.

[2]  Chane'le di geherin, a lebensbild in four acts by S. Feinman, published by Amkroym and Fraynd, bookstore. Przemsyl, 1909 [67 pp., 16°].

[3]  Ezrih gbor khil (Der tapfere held), a historic operetta in four acts by S. Feinman, published by David Roth, bookstore in Lemberg, Trs"t, 1909 [52 pp., 16°].

[4] Der vitse-kenig, an operetta in four acts by Sigmund Feinman, published by David Roth, bookstore, Lemberg, [1909, 60 pp., 16°].
 

M. E. from Dina Feinman.

  • Z. Reyzen -- "History of Yiddish Literature", Vol. III, pp. 61-63.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre", Vol. I, p. 237; Vol. II, pp. 35, 69, 89, 119, 199, 272.

  • -- Theater berikhte, "Fraye arbayter shtime", N. Y., 14 November 1890.

  • [B. Gorin] -- Drey piesen, "Der theater zhurnal", N. Y., 19 October 1902.

  • "Herr zigmund feiman's erklerung iber dos groyse literarishe meisterverk menasha", London, 1907.

  • M. Hirshzohn -- Dos idishe theater in london amol un yetst, "Di vrhayt", N. Y., 16 September 1907.

  • Y. Ferkof -- Zigmund feinman (in "di idishe folks-literatur"), London, 1909.

  • A. Frumkin -- a "devolutsye" in londoner idishn theatr, "Forward", N. Y., 14 June 1909.

  • A. Frumkin -- Der troyer gokh'n aktor feinman in london, dort, 10 July 1909.

  • Bessie Thomashefsky -- "Mayn lebens geshikhter", N. Y., 1916, p. 236.

  • David Kessler -- A klap dem idishen theater, "Der tog", N. Y., 4 February 1917.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Bihne-siluetn, "Der zhurnalist", Lodz, 1919.

  • Berta Kalish -- (Memoirs) -- "Der tog", N. Y., 14 October 1925.

  • Ab. Cahan -- "Bleter fun mayn leben", N. Y., Vol. II, p. 383.

  • Morris Meyer -- London's baytrag tsum idishen theater, "Di tsayt", London, 30 May 1928.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Idishe dramaturgen, "Di idishe velt", Cleveland, 26 December 1928 [reprinted in his book "Yidishe dramatirgn un teater", comosed, N. Y., 1957, pp. 114-119].

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Zayn gantsen leben geven a yud un geshtorbn als krist mit di verter "yo, rabbi, ikh bin a yud", "nayer folksblat", Lodz, 28 December 1928 [repreinted in his book "Teater figurn", Buenos Aires, 1936, pp. 37-42].

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- "Albom fun yidishn teater", New York, 1937, pp. 4, 41.

  • Morris Meyer -- "Idish teater in london", London, [1942], pp. 243-52, 259-63.

  • Bentsion Palepede -- "Zikhrunus", Buenos Aires, 1946, pp. 208-10, 251-54.

  • Jacob Mestel -- "70 yor teater-repertuar", N. Y., 1954, pp. 28, 90.

  • Celia Adler -- "Tsili adler dertseylt", N. Y., 1959, pp. 7, 16, 45-54, 73-78, 92, 98-125, 136-7, 144-5, 153, 178, 193-203, 210-16, 225, 240-1, 270, 274, 282-3, 397, 400, 624, 645.


 

 

 

 


 

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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 2544.
 

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