Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


S. An-ski
(Shlomo Zanvl Rapoport)


Born in 1863 in Vitebsk, White Russia, into a myu-Chasidic family. He was educated under the influence of his mother, a true Yiddish woman of means, who got married in a bar(?). The father -- an employee of the Poliakovs in Moscow (?), rarely was at home.

Learning in a general cheder created a harsh impression in A., so that he wrote that, among his other boyish attempts and penning, in a drama, and later touched on the theme in his story, "In a yidisher familie" (Russian).

According to Dr. Chaim Zhitlowsky, A. had read this drama for Adler when he had guest-starred in Vitebsk. Adler liked the play, but he requested from An-ski that he should add in songs and dance.

As a youth of fifteen years, A. already knew Gamara with with supplements and Midrash, and a little later on le learned Hebrew. At that time there was also maintained A.'s first familiarity with his neighbor and friend Chaim Zhitlowsky. At age seventeen he was well-versed in Hebrew literature, and under its effect became an Epicurus and began to energetically learn the Russian language, from which he had until then not had any concept. He introduced himself to radical Russian literature, and faithfully its new ideals, and A. learned a trade -- at first to be a blacksmith, then a bookbinder.

In the beginning of 1881 he traveled to Liozna, where he went to study, but most of the time he took up spreading the epicurist socialistic ideas among the youths there. Due to the persecutions of a rabbi, he was forced to go to Dvinsk, and there he continued with his self-education, and also began to write a day book in Yiddish. A.'s first serious literary attempt was his story "Di geshikhte fun a familye".

Soon through the first story he received attention and fell into the atmosphere of the Russian-Yiddish literature. Not finding more for themselves the associated resonance on the Jewish streets, A. descended the depths of Russian folk life, The impact of the "narodnik" literature drove him to "go into the people".

In 1892 he went away to Western Europe to familiarize himself with the life of the worker there, and he spent a short time in Berlin, then in Bern, then in Paris, where he worked as a bookbinder, and from 1894 until 1900 he became the private secretary of the Russian Socialist leader P. Lavrov.

Through the resonance of the new movements in Russia, and thanks to the influence of the Jewish immigrant board in Bern, which A. had visited part-time due to Zhitlowsky, A. became a little closer to the Jewish spheres of interest, and even turned in his Russian stories to Jewish themes. He also began to publish in print in Yiddish, and composed "Di shvueh", which then became the hymn of the "Bund".

During that time A. also composed an application of his Yiddish-Russian socialistic colleagues -- his comedy "In a konspirativer dirh". The comedy generally was written within one night, in Russian, and it was staged through the Russian socialistic members in the yearly ball in Bern. The main roles were performed by Chaim Zhitlowsky (agent of the okhranke) and Victor Chernov (performing from the Zhanarmsker Oprave).

Soon thereafter A. composed in Yiddish his comedy "Foter un zun", which for the first time was published in print [according to a personal declaration by An-ski to Z. Zylbercweig] in an illegl Bundist edition in Switzerland. Then it was published in the publishing house of "Di velt". [S. Anski "Der foter un zuhn", Vilna, 1906, 24 pp., 16].

After the manifest of 1905, A. returned to Russia, where he began to take a active role in the S. R. movement, and he also began to take up with Yiddish folklore, published in the Russian-Yiddish edition a series of articles about the Yiddish folk establishment, participating in the Yiddish historical-ethnographic society in Peterburg, directing the first scientific expedition in the name of Baron Horace Ginzburg to collect the works of Yiddish folklore, and together with Joel Engel and his nephew Yudovin, visited over sixty-six locations in Volhynia and Podolia, where he collected all together a rich collection of old and rare museum objects and writings, folk stories, legends, songs, melodies, etc.

In 1909 A. translated into Russian and published in "Yeverysky mir", Peretz's "In polish oyfn keyt'.

During the World War A. was in body and soul fed into the work aid for the war victims, and he brought morale and material assistance to the unfortunate communities and kibbutzim.

According to S. L. Citron in his "Three Literary Generations", A. recounted that the idea for his drama "Between Two Worlds" [S. A. An-ski, Among Two Worlds (The Dybbuk), a dramatic legend in four acts, Vilna 1919, issued through Israel Kwiat, Paris, 7 rubles, 83 pp., 16], which A. wrote at first in Russian, and then in Yiddish, to the author it came in 1911. As a foundation for the first act, A. began it during his assistance activities in Galicia in 1914, the Gorlice Beit Midrash. The first act was written in Tarnow, the second in another Galician location, and the last two acts in Moscow.

The play was named for the Stanislavski for the studio for a Moscow Arts Theatre [A. in his letter to Zhitlowsky, in "Literarishe bleter, 11, 1924], but thereof nothing became of it, A. had the play read for theatre people in Odessa and in Vilna, but they did not stage it. In September 1918 A., when he arrived in Vilna, he had, not having the Yiddish text from his play, translated it into Yiddish [published in Vilna in 1919] from Kh. N. Bialik's self-rizirter Hebrew translation [Htkufh", 1, Moscow]. A. attempted to staged the drama in Vilna through a bad troupe, abi zi to see it on the stage, but it didn't come to pass. A. also endeavored through Zhitlawsky, that the play should be performed in America. A. also recounted that in his aforementioned letter that David Herman had it had gone to be staged by "Di vilner", but thereof nothing became of it.

A.'s view of his play was that: [in his aforementioned letter to Dr. Chaim Zhitlawsky]:

"The play is, understood to be a realistic [piece] about mystique. The only unrealistic feature in it -- not tired speech and visions, but the mshlh -- I umishne portrayed him in mystical shtrikhn. He wasn't in the first edition. ....

In the entire play there was a struggle between individuals and the collective. More correctly -- between the aspiration to individual happiness and the ophitung of the existence of national rasn-life. Chanan-Leah pulled themselves to their own personal happiness, the wise man thought only about the "It might not to wither a branch of the eternal tree of House of Jacob". Which of the is right?

From his first performance vis--vis Leah-Chanan, the tsadik (wise man) begins to convince himself that the raising of both souls (aspiring to individual happiness) is not anything for pritsus-eul, for shrirus-lb, but has deep roots. Shows self out that in high hikhlim it is assumed that Chanan had pulled in a higher power, and that the tsadik expelled it with the sound of a trumpet, he felt "that someone strongly helped him." After the tsadik knew his way not to optretn. In the end, Chanan-Leah are overcome. But is the tsadik right?

Here the messenger comes from a higher plane [world], from that world, "that melting together in his flame the supreme bergshpitsn with the deepest splendor." For him there was both: Chanan-Leah, and the tsadik, right and even more right was their struggle. The messenger kept himself with the tsadik. Correctly, for him the body was maintained, and in the moment of supreme struggle, that the tsadik cries out his taboo, and with Chanan gives up his last khkhut in the struggle, bashtimt the messenger: "The last spark has been cast out from the flame."

After the March Revolution, A. threw himself again into political work, chose a series of managed institutions, came to direct an important political system, and was from the S. R. chosen as a deputy in the first Russian Founders Assembly.

After the Bolshevik Revolution -- he went away to Vilna, where A. began to take an active part in social and cultural life of the city After the horrible April days in Vilna, during which there arrived his close friend A. Veyter, A. became ill in Otwock, near Warsaw, where he worked very much literarily, and participated also in literary evenings in Warsaw and Lodz.

When the Red Army marched into Otwock, A. arrived in Warsaw and settled in the clinic of Dr. M. Hurvitz, where he passed away suddenly on 8 November 1920.

The procession was imposing. A. was brought to a gravesite near I. L. Peretz and Jacob Dineson, and in 1925 above all three graves was placed the [words] "Ohel-Peretz". Thirty days after his death -- on 9 December 1920 -- the "Vilna Troupe" in Warsaw staged in the Elyzeum Theatre, under the direction of David Herman, A.'s play "Among Two Worlds", or "The Dybbuk", with the following personnel:

  • First Beggar -- Eliezer Zhelazo

  • Second Beggar -- Avraham Morevski

  • Third Beggar -- Jacob Waislitz

  • The Messenger -- Noach Nachbush

  • Chanan -- Elihu Stein

  • Meir -- Sholem Tanin

  • Henech -- Joseph Buloff

  • Asher -- ?

  • Sarah, daughter of Tuvim -- Paula Walter

  • R' Sender Brinitzer -- Matityahu Kovalski

  • Leah -- Miriam Orleska

  • Frieda -- Yehudis Lares

  • Gittel -- Chava Braz

  • An'urkh -- Shmuel Sheftel

  • A Hunchback -- Joseph Buloff

  • An Old, Poor Person -- Yocheved Weislitz

  • Dance of Death -- Paula Walter

  • Batya -- Rose Birnbaum

  • R' Nachman -- Leib Kadison

  • R' Mendel -- Jacob Weislitz

  • First Chasid -- Shmuel Sheftel

  • Second Chasid -- Jacob Weislitz

  • R' Ezrielke Mirapoler, a Wise Man -- Avraham Morevski

  • Michael -- Sholem Tanin

  • R' Shimshon -- Leib Kadison.

The play in a span of years was the sensation of Yiddish theatre across the entire world, being staged not only in Yiddish, but also on various world stages in various languages, On which one has since then not staged any Yiddish plays.

The offering of "Dybbuk" in Warsaw [the play [according to Daniel Leibel] a short time earlier was staged in Yiddish through Stanislawow's "Goldfaden's Union", which evoked a protest in the Warsaw "Arbeter-tsaytung", because the offering was performed from An-ski's texts evoked a great discussion in the Yiddish press due to the regisseur David Herman's exchange (?) and stage work of the play. The discussion over the margins of the press, and about the publication M. Vanvild's brochure "Pseudo-critique", Lodz, 1921, [42 pp., 16].

Also soon the melodies from "Dybbuk" were published [composed by David Beigelman, Lodz].

The success of the offering of "Dybbuk" soon extended across the Yiddish theatre world, and a short time later Herman stage directed the "Dybbuk offering in Lodz with a completely new personnel. All of the other troupes copied the same production, until Avraham Morevski, who earlier had performed as the "Tsadik (Wise man)" in Herman's offering, went to Vilna in May 1921 with a new offering of "Dybbuk" (performed according to the original, in four acts]/

Due to the popularity of "Dybbuk", B. Yushzon and M. Kipnis composed a parody, "Mitn khh fun dybuk", which was staged on 3 April 1921 in Warsa'w Central Theatre.

On 1 September 1921, the "Dybbuk" was staged by Schwartz in New York's "Yiddish Art Theatre".

On 31 January 1922, the "Dybbuk" was staged in Hebrew through the "Habima" in Moscow, under the direction of Wachtangov, music by Joel Engel [published later in the publishing house "Yubl", Berlin].

On 29 November 1921 the "Vilna Troupe" staged in Warsa'w Elyzeum Theatre, under the direction of L. Kadison, there was staged A.'s unfinished drama of Chasidic life, "Tog un Nakht (Day and Night)", in the adaptation of his close friend A. Kacyzne, who the third act completely tsugeshrayben.

The same play on 29 December 1924 was staged in new York's "Unzer Theatre" under the direction of Egon Brecher. The play here was performed in the adaptation of David Pinski (first and third act), and Mendel Eliin, who wrote a new second act that was under the name "Smals mmshlh", printed in "Shiftn" (8, 1925-6).

Through the "Dybbuk"-productions in Eastern and Western Europe by the divided "Vilna Troupe", the play was also popular in the non-Yiddish theatre world, and in March 1925 in Berlin there was staged "The Dybbuk" in German, under the direction of Bertold Fichtel. The offering [Leah here was played by Gerda Miller] didn't have any success. Arnold Zweig characterized the poor German translation [which may have been done -- according to Dr Weichert -- by Felicia nosig, not from Yiddish]. At the same time in the Vienna Rolland stage, there was staged the "Dybbuk" in German, under the direction of Marholin [when the "Dybbuk" in German was not put into print, daily, that here there was performed other translations, as in Berlin].

In the summer of 1925 in Lodz's municipal theatre, and then in Warsaw's municipal theatre, there was staged the "Dybbuk" in Polish in the translation and direction of Mark Arnstein. The main roles were performed by: Tsadik -- Konstantin Tatarkewicz, Leah -- Halina Halska].

In June 1925 in Krakow's  Bagatela Theatre, there was staged in Polish the "Dybbuk" in Polish from the printed translation of Maximillian Karen [--reich?], who also helped in the stage direction.

In October 1925, under the direction of David Vardi and H. G. Alsberg, there was staged "The Dybbuk" [according to the stage direction of Wachtangov] in English in New York's Neighborhood Playhouse, and later in other American cities.

In March 1926 in a Lemberg Ukrainian theatre, there was staged "The Dybbuk" in Ukrainian. Almost at the same time there was staged in Hebrew by the "Hiatrun Eretz-Yisrael", under the direction of Menachem Gnesin [after Wachtangov] "The Dybbuk", for the first time in the land of Israel. The offering was a great success, and also evoked a certain opposition, which publicly forced out a condemnation that came from Kh"d and the Tmuz trp"u in the place of Bit-Em, and the entire management of the condemnation was then published in a special brochure, "Condemnation of the Dybbuk, Tel Aviv, Tr"pu"], 102 pp., 32], later, when the "Habima" arrived in the land of Israel, they again staged the "Dybbuk", and celebrated in May 1928 in Tel Aviv its six hundredth time the play was performed.

On 4 April 1927 in the King's Theatre in London, the "Dybbuk" was staged in English.

In August 1927 "The Dybbuk" was performed in Copenhagen in Danish.

In October 1927 the play was staged in Swedish (translated by Mrs. Rafael-Linden) in Oscar's Theatre in Stockholm, under the direction of English showman Robert Etkins. The main roles were played by:

  • Tsadik -- Nils

  • Leah -- Inga Tidblad

  • Chanan -- Edwin Adolfson

In January 1929 the "Dybbuk" was staged in Bulgaria in the National Theatre in Sofia.

In all the places, the production evoked very many spirited reviews in the press, but the play in that language (hardly in Yiddish and Hebrew) was no longer performed.

Unconfirmed information is available about the "Dybbuk" productions in Serbian, (translated by Taps), French (translated by L. Blumenfeld), and Japanese.

A.'s second play "Tog un nakht (Day and Night)" [in Kacyzne's adaptation) was staged in Polish in Lemberg in July 1925, under the direction of Karol Adwentowicz, who also performed in the role of "Dn".

An-ski's "new drama": "Di pest" in the adaptation of Arno Nadel, which was advertised as being staged in German by the National Theatre in Mannheim, was not performed. The play, which was fanandergeshikt, was written on a typewriter, of stage-fartrib F. Schlessinger in Berlin, without the name of the adaptor, actually was [according to Dr. M. Weichert] a completely new adaptation of "Day and Night".

According to L. Kadison, A. read fragments of a drama for the "Vilna Troupe", which he had called "Di muter".

A.'s dramatic works in Yiddish were:

Sh. An-ski (Shlomo Zanvil Rapoport) Collected Works, Volume 2. Dramas, publishing house "An-ski", 1928 [contents: "Among Two Worlds" (The Dybbuk), "Tog un nakht (Day and Night), a tragedy in three acts. Together 144 pp., 16. As to the last play, from which fragments were published in print here, the redaction noted that "from this work there remains only individual fragments of the first feder. By the poet, however, the work is ready and gedank. We have from the poet alone heard the story sipur. We have also controlled the contents according to the distribution of the poet's friends, Mrs. Dr. Sofia Sirkin-Binstein, for whom he had the recounted things shortly before his death. This gives us the opportunity to give apart the fragments, according to their order and give over in short the contents of the unwritten parts".]

R. Z. Volume 3. Comedies. ["Father and Son", a comedy in one act, "In a konspirativer dirh", a comedy in two acts, "Der zayde", a one-acter [137 pp., 16].

In Hebrew:

Bin shni eulmut (Dybbuk) agdh drmtit barbe merkhut, trnum Kh. N. Bialik.

[printed in "Kol Khtbi Sh. Anski, Berikht Sh. L. Citron, Khlk rashun, Vilna Tr"pa, with a fragment by Sh. L. Citron].

In English:

THE DYBBUK, A play in four acts by S. Ansky, translated from the original Yiddish by Henry G. Alsberg and Winifred Katzin. Introduction by Gilbert W. Gabriel and a note on Chassidism by Chaim Zhitlowsky, New York, Boni and Liveright, 1926. [145 pp., 16 with names].

In French:

Le Dibbouk, legende dramtioque en trois actes par An-ski, version Francaise de Marie-Therese Koerner. [with an introduction by Edmond Fleg. 140 pp., 24].

In Romanian:

Dybuck, Legenda dramatica in patru acte de S. An-sky. Tradusa din idis de I. Ludo (109 pp., 24].

In Esperanto:

S. An-ski, (S. Z. Rappoport) Dibuk (Inter du mondoj) El Juda lingvo tradukis Izrael Lejzerowicz, L. K., Krakow, 1927.

In Polish:

Sz. An-ski, Na pograniczu dwoch swiatow (Dybuk) Przelozyl Maksymilian Koren, Lwow, 1922. [72 pp., 16. At the end of the book was printed the notes of the songs].

In the translation with the same names made by Joel David Dembitzer and Y. Ratersman in their own publishing house [Lemberg, 1922], with commentary from Dembitzer (Pseyd. Yoelon).

M. E. from Leib Kadison.

  • Zalmen Reyzen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature", Vol. I, pp. 125-141.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre" -- Vol. II, p. 253 [list of plays].

  • S. Anski vegn dem "dybuk", "Literarishe bleter", 11, 1924.

  • R. Yukelson -- Anski's "tog un nakht" bay di "vilner", "Frayhayt', 2 October 1925.

  • N. Weinig -- Der "dybuk" in krakever poilishn teater, "Literarishe bleter", 65, 1925.

  • N. M. -- Der "dybuk" in poilish, "Literarishe bleter", 59, 1925.

  • Hertz Grosbard -- Arum der oyffirung fun "dybuk" in poilish, Teater"] "Literarishe bleter", 75, 1925.

  • Dr. Michael Weichert -- Sh. an-ski's "naye drame', "Yid. velt", Warsaw, 1928, 4; pp. 147-160.

  • Dr. Michael Weichert -- An-skis "tog un nakht" [in poilishn teater], "Literarishe bleter", 75, 1925.

  • Arnold Zweig -- Juden auf der Deutshen buhne, Berlin 1928, pp. 287-292.

  • "Unzer Theatre", zhurnal gevidmet der idisher teater-kunst, farlag "idish kunst teater", New York, September 1921 [Anski-number, gevidmet der "dybuk"-oyffirung. Artiklen fun dr. khayim zhitlovsky, sh. rozenfeld, moris shvarts, sh. niger, dr. korolnik, william edlin].

  • I. Grinbaum -- Der "dybuk" oyf der englisher stsene [in london], "Haynt", 13 May 1927.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- "Teater", N. Y., 1927, pp. 237-245.

  • M. Vanvild -- Pseydo-kunst un psydo-kritik, Lodz, 1921, [42 pp., 16].

  • Avraham Teitelbaum -- "Teatralia", Warsaw, 1929, pp. 34-42.

  • A. Alperin -- Der el hta, "Tak", Lodz, 4, 1922.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Der mkhbr fun "dybuk", "Tak", Lodz, 4, 1922.

  • Mshpt "hdbuk", Dinyhshbun stgurgf', Tel Aviv, Tr"pu [102 pp., 32].

  • B. M. -- Der "dybuk" oyf der shvedisher bihne", "Unzer ekspres", 14 October 1927, "Frimorgn", Riga, 4 October 1927.

  • V. Natanson -- Sh. an-ski's "tog un nakht", "Kultur", Chicago, 101, 12 1925.

  • MIchael Weichert -- "Teater un drame", Warsaw, 1926, I, pp. 107-121; II, pp. 5, 122, 170.

  • Chaim Leib Fuks -- Dos dine shnirele "teat. un kino", Lodz, 9, 1922.

  • M. M. Rosenbaum -- Vi an-ski hot geshribn zayn komedye, "oyf a konspirativer kvartir", "Literarishe bleter", 7, 1924.

  • Dr. Michael Weichert -- "Hdybuk" in "Habima", "Literarishe bleter", 97, 1926.

  • Nachman Mayzel -- Fun yidishkeyt tsu teatralishkeit, "Literarishe bleter", 97, 1926.

  • Alter Kacyzne -- Moskver hebreishe kunst, "Literarishe bleter", 97, 1926.

  • A. Morevski -- "Hdbuk" b"novoshtshi", "Literarishe bleter", 98, 1926.

  • Emanuel -- Di englishe dibuk-oyffirung, "Moment", 13 May 1927.

  • H. Wilchinsky -- Yidish-poilishe iberzetsungen "Bikher-velt", 1928, 28 p.

  • Sh. L. Citron -- "Dray literarishe durut", Vol. III, pp. 85-95.

  • I. M. Neyman -- Nokh der ershter oyffirung fun "dybuk" in "habima", "Haynt", 3 March 1926.

  • Shachna Epstein -- Der "dbuk" muz aroysgetribn vern fun der idisher literatur un fun idishn teater, "Frayhayt", 28 March 1926.

  • B. Sh. -- "Dbuk" fun sh. an-ski in shtot-teater (in polish), "Literarishe bleter", 2 April 1926.

  • Tl. -- An-ski's dibuk in nayborhud play-hoyz (english), "Farband", N. Y., 21, 1926.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Anski's "der dibuk" oyf english, "Forward", 22 January 1926.

  • W. Latzky-Bertholdi -- Oyf a dibuk-forshtelung in riger nayem idishn teater, "Frimorgn", 31 December 1926.

  • L. Malach -- Blutm mish (vegn anski-kacyzne "tog un nakht" in "Ideal"), "Prese", Buenos Aires, 22 August 1926.

  • Itzhak Katzenelson -- Der mensh vos iz areyn in dem dbuk, "Literarishe bleter", 23 April 1926.

  • Dr. A. Coralnik -- "Dbuk" a monument, "Tog", 18 December 1926.

  • B. Karlinius -- "Hdbuk", oyfefirt fun habima teater, "Moment", 3, 4, March 1926.

  • Jacob Botoshansky -- Di oysteytshung fun "tog un nakht", "Prese", Buenos Aires, 22 August 1926.

  • Moshe Shalit -- Naye prtim vegn i. l. peretz, "Literarishe bleter", 17-18, 1929.

  • Itzhak Katzenelson -- Shtiker leib fun vakhtangovs "dybuk", "Nf"bl", 9 April 1926.

  • Recht, Charles. The Hebrew theatre in Moscow. (Menorah Journal, New York, June 1923, v. 9, pp. 124-127).

  • Samuel, Maurice. The dybbuk, in three languages and four dimensions. (Menorah Journal. Nw York, Feb. 1927, v. 13, pp. 63-67).

  • Powys, John Cowper. A modern mystery play. (Menorah Journal). New York, Aug. 1927, v. 13, pp. 361-365).

  • Times Literary Supplement. London, May 19, 1927. p. 350.

  • Alsberg, Henry G. (B'nai B'rith Magazine. Chicago, 1926. v. 40, pp. 120-121, 133.)

  • Morrow, Anne. (Woman citizen. New York, Feb. 1926, v. 10, p. 16, 39).

  • Catholic World, New York, 1926, v. 122, pp. 665-667).

  • Era. London, April 13, 1927, v. 90, p. 9.

  • Kalonyme, Louis. (Arts and decoration. New York, 1926. v. 24, no. 4, p. 66, 82.)

  • Glassman, L. M. The apocalypse of the Ghetto. (Jewish Forum. New York, June 1927, v. 10, no. 6, pp. 295-298.)

  • Coralnik, A. Fairy tale to myth. (New Palestine, New York, Dec. 17, 1926. v. 11, no. 21, pp. 440-441.)

  • Walker, Helen. (Commonwealth. New York, 1925, v. 3, pp. 215-216).

  • Jewish Chronicle. London, March 11, 1927. p. 44.

  • Country life. London, April 16, 1927. v. 61, pp. 610-611.

  • [Di englishe bibliografye ongegebn fun der yidisher opteylung fun der poblik leybrary, 42nd Street, New York.]







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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 71.

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