Born on 15 May 1892 in
Chmielnik, Kielce Gubernia, Poland. Father -- a
Always seriously [in need] because of a lack of income
for seven children, he moved in 1900 to Warsaw, where
his mother actually was the provider by opening a food
store. She had a huge sense of humor and used to sing
In his memoirs S. recalls:
"I've never not had any
great ambition, and I've never not had any complaints to
the world... more "
S. notes that after
learning in a cheder at the age of seven years:
"I began to read
Yiddish newspapers, which I had previously never
seen in our house. I began to read story books
by Shomer, Tanenbaum, Hermolin. At our house
there was never any reading at all. My father
was poor and never was able to spend the few
kopeks to buy a newspaper. But when I found out
that I wanted to read about the world...."
S.'s older brother
arrived home from the military and told [us]
about "theatre", singing over to us the songs
from "Shulamis" and "Bar Kochba" and, in an
ibergezaltsener form went over the content
of the theatre pieces. He also took S. to a
Yiddish theatre, where he heard music for the
first time. Then he took him to a Polish
theatre, to "Malka Schwartzenkop". S. began to
tsinizelis go back to visit, where it
pleased him to best the clowns, become their
errand boy, and he left with them to
Brest-Litovsk. His father arrived home and
quickly took him away from there.
S. went back into
the cheder and learned Gemora from his father.
She sang as an "alto" with a cantor. In Warsaw
there then existed three Yiddish theatres, and
S. let them not by hiding at first behind the
scenery in order to baytsuvinen the
performances, then there he became an errand
boy. He took with other children to imitating
"theatre", acting for kreplakh Later he
"made theatre" in private homes with "amateurs"
(the future actors Yablonski, Shidlover,
Silberkasten, Gerstenzang, Weisshof), performing
"Ḳabtsnzohn eṭ Hungerman". When all of the
amateurs moved about as a troupe under the
management of Misha German, S. put together a
troupe of children, with them studying two plays
and traveling around with them for a year across
the province. After acting in Mezritch with
"amateurs', he joined Mishurat's guest-starring
troupe, then performed in the troupes of Krause,
Sabsey and Genfer.
S. recalls in his memoirs:
around with an itinerant troupe of actors in
Russia. We were..." more....
The Skulnik Family
(Menasha behind his father)
In another episode
from those wandering years S. recalls:
"We were at
After an episode
that portrayed the material conditions of the
former itinerant trope, S. relates in his
"The town was called
Lukov. We arrived in the town as a troupe of
eighteen people performing theatre, and we
performed in an inn or a simple house." ...more...
The poet Z. Weinper
portrays the period as such:
In order to avoid
military service, S. was smuggled across the
border to Krakow (Galicia, then a part of
Austria-Hungary), where he met a performing
troupe, which didn't want to take him in, and he
went to Vienna and there he put together a
troupe with three actors, a quartet, which
toured across Austria, Czechoslovakia and
performed in beer halls and bars, where they
went around with a plate for their "honorarium".
From there S. traveled in 1913 to America.
In April 1913 S. arrived in
New York, where he visited his older brother, who was
entirely cold to taking him in. S. the next morning went
away to an actors club, but not knowing anyone, and due
to his poor dress, decided not present himself. However,
meeting his friend Harry Weissberg with whom he had
acted in Yiddish theater in Europe, he entered through
him into a Yiddish vaudeville house on Willett Street,
where S. became engaged through the director Bernard
Elving for twelve dollars a week as an actor and stage
director. Here he debuted as "Ayzkl" in Moshe Richter's
"Hertsele miukhs" and acted on the Sabbaths and Sundays
in the sketches, which consisted of "arbl prose". In the
summertime he traveled to his sister in Albany, where he
became a "busboy" [assistant waiter] in a hotel, acted
with "amateurs" in "Brothers Lurie", and acquired
therefore a great sum, traveling back to New York, and
became engaged by Mike Thomashefsky for his "Arch
Street" Theatre in Philadelphia, where the stage
director Max Rosenthal soon rewrote plays and roles for
him. Performing in small roles as a gebekhdikher
"teacher" in "Dos meydl fun der vest (The Girls of the
West)", S. came out for a certain time in a certain
scene when the farmer, a high, ongepakeveter...more...
But here S. was noticed by
the Yiddish Actors Union, that he should provide, after
a period of six years, exams that consisted for him the
performance in the three roles: of "R' Akiva" in a scene
from "Uriel Acosta"; "Motye Shtreichl" in "Chasia the
Orphan"; and "R' Elie" in "God of Vengeance".
S. displayed only two or the
three roles, and he portrayed such the attempt in the
"...When in...." more....
Joseph Rumshinsky portrayed
as such this audition:
"Et had in that..." more....
Sh. E. and Sh.
E. from Yakov Tikman and Harry Weissberg.