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FAMILY HISTORY

       the yiddish world

 

EXHIBITION 

courtesy of www.eilatgordinlevitan.com
 

THE VILNA TROUPE

The Vilna Troupe (a.k.a. Vilner Troupe) actors: (r. to l.) Chaim Schneur (Hamerow), Eliosha Stein, Aleksander Asro, Mordecai Mazo, Noach Nachbush and Leib Kadison.

Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Leib Kadison and the
Vilna Troupe


cir 1920
prob Warszawa, Poland

World War I had begun and the battles raged on between the German and Russian armies. This took a great toll on the citizens that stood between them, especially the Jews. Territory changed hands more than once, especially in such areas as Northeast Poland and Lithuania. Jews in various locations such as Kovno were forced by the Russians to move to other towns or cities such as Vilnius. After a year of fighting, the German army finally broke through the Russian lines and Vilnius was captured.

One day, two young actors named Alexander Asro (Azro) and Jacob Sherman approached Kovno native Leib Kadison (the father of actress Luba Kadison) and, knowing that he had done work in the Kovno theatre, asked him if he would set up a Yiddish dramatic company in Vilnius. After all, Vilna at that time was home to many amateur Jewish actors, and it would be no trouble at all putting together a fine assembly of actors.

Hear Luba Kadison talk about the time she and husband Joseph Buloff spent with the Vilna Troupe.

(Read and more about the Buloffs and Vilna Troupe on the pages dedicated to both Luba Kadison and Joseph Buloff (to come.)


The Vilna Troupe perhaps is best known for their performance of S. Ansky's play "The Dybbuk." They were the first to stage this play, having done so at the Elyseum Theatre in Warszawa, Poland on December 9, 1920. Ansky had just passed away one month before, never having seen a professional production of his play. The production of "The Dybbuk" was quite successful and became a classic of modern Yiddish theater. A few years later, the Troupe would tour extensively, performing "The Dybbuk" for the first time in New York City in 1924.
 

From the New York Times, Jan 29, 1924

VILNA TROUPE GIVE ODD YIDDISH DRAMA
Throng Greets Their First Appearance Here in "The Dibbuk" at Thomashefsky's Theatre.

Reb Sender Brinitzer..........Matus Kowalski
Lea......................................Sonia Alomis
Freide..................................Lea Naomi
Gitel....................................Miriam Veide
Menashe............................Joseph Greenberg
Nachmen............................Alexander Asro
Reb Mendel........................Jacob Lubotsky
Reb Asriel..........................Chaim Shneier
MIchel................................Sholom Tanin
Reb Shimshon....................Moses Feder
Chonon...............................Alexander Asro
Henech...............................Joseph Greenberg
Osher.................................Jacob Lubotsky
Meyer.................................Sholom Tanin
First Batlen.........................Chaim Shneier
Second Batlen....................Moses Feder
The Meshullach..................Noah Nachbush
A Visitor.............................Jacob Bleifer
Sarah..................................Freda Vitalin
Dance of death...................Pola Walter

THE DIBBUK, a dramatic legend in three acts by S. An-sky. Acted by the Vilna Troupe. Presented by Bores and Harry Thomashefsky and William Rolland. At the Thomashefsky's Broadway Yiddish Theatre.

"One of the strangest Yiddish novelties offered in New York City in a long time was acted by the Vilna Troupe, the latest importation from Europe, last night when they gave a private performance of "The Dibbuk." The play when produced by the same players in their native city was hailed by many as the best piece in the repertory. It was produced in Berlin before the Vilna Troupe, eighteen  players, was brought to America.

The first appearance here of the Vilna Troupe was not only a dramatic, but a social event among the followers of Yiddish drama. The theatre in West Forty-fourth Street was filled to capacity. In the audience were many prominent men and women of New York. Although there were many who could not understand Yiddish, they were able to follow the unfolding of the dramatic legend which the playwright had in mind and show by their generous applause that they appreciated the fine work of Sonia Alomis in the part of Lea and the talents displayed by Alexander Asro in the role of Chonin, a poor rabbinical student, in  love with Lea...
...The rabbinical student, who is also steeped in the study of mysticism, dies of a broken heart when he learns that the father of Lea has caused her to become betrothed against her wishes to another. On the day of her wedding, Lea goes with her nurse to the grave of two lovers to invoke the presence of her dead mother at her approaching wedding.

The spirit of her dead lover invest the grief-stricken Lea who at the time of her marriage tears off her bridal garments and rejects the bridegroom chosen for her by her father.

In the course of an investigation by the rabbis, it is disclosed that Leah's father and the father of the dead Chonin had pledged in marriage their first born if they were of opposite sexes. Leah's father is adjudged guilty of having driven Chonin to his death by failing to live up to the marriage contract with Chonin's father. He is penalized to the extent that he must give half his fortune to the poor.

When this penalty is imposed, the rabbis supposedly have righted the wrong done the dead lover, Chonin, and they have prepared the way to dispossess Leah of the haunting spirit of Chonin. Rabbi Ezriel appeals to the powers to drive out the Dibbuk and actually succeeds in exorcising that unwelcome visitor. but the spirit is not compelled to depart without the soul of its lost love. Leah dies and joins Chonin in the next world."




 


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