Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


William Rolland
(Velvel Khaskin)


R. was born on 24 July 1885 in Vitebsk, White Russia. His parents were clothing merchants. He learned in cheders and later privately. At the age of fourteen he became employed in a manufacturing business, where he worked for about five years. Being an active member of the "Bund," R., during an initial melee was arrested and put under police supervision. Because of this he fled to America, where he occupied himself by getting newspapers to subscribers, and then he became a life-insurance agent.

Out of love for the stage he joined Joel Entin's "Progressive Dramatic Club," where he would perform as a declaimer (reciter).

In 1906 he returned to Russia and was very active there, such that Dr. Zhitlovsky should choose him as a Duma deputy. In order to have the means to make money for the local elections, he arranged several productions, and R. performed then as "Moshe Magid" in Pinski's "Family Zvi," under Sholem Anski's direction.

Soon thereafter he returned to America where he married the actress Pauline Hoffman (see "Lexicon," pp. 584-85). And through this he became excited about Yiddish theatre, although his first association with professional Yiddish theatre began initially in 1916, when he became cashier for Max Gabel in the Lipzin Theatre, where he worked until 1920. In 1921 he took the lease for the Liberty Theatre (Brooklyn -- ed.), where he arranged for Clara Young to perform there. In 1922 he became manager of Gabel's [Mount] Morris Theatre. In 1923 he again traveled back to Russia and brought to America, in partnership with Boris Thomashefsky, the Vilna Troupe.

About that, a member of the Vilna Troupe, Alexander Azro, writes: 

"Not in a barrel hat, nor with a great artistic volume as his partner, he met the Vilna Troupe, meeting the ship, there stood before us a young man with a very intelligent appearance, in nete, non-screaming clothing, with a charming, wide laugh, a loving smile, and still, with a tender voice, saying "Welcome, friends, Vilner. I am also happy to see you."
more to translate.....








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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 7, page 6195.

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