Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Sholem Asch

Born on 1 January 1880 (according to his mother's account -- the fourth day after Pesakh) in Kutno, Poland. His father had an import house, descended from a family of ritual slaughterers (shokhatim). He learned in a cheder and then until age fifteen or sixteen in a Beit Hamedrash, later as an auto-didact. At age eighteen he went away to Vlotslavek (Wloclawek), where he gave Hebrew lessons. Around 1899 he began to write Yiddish under Peretz's influence, and his first work "Moshele" was printed in 1900 in "Yud." A. settled in Warsaw, and in very bad material conditions, he printed accounts and images in Yiddish and Hebrew. In 1902 he published under the publisher "Tushih" his first collection "Spurim," A. gradually associating himself entirely with Yiddish literature, only writing in Yiddish.

In 1904 A. began his dramatic activity. He published his play "Tsurikgekumen (Coming Back)" under the name "Itsa ukhzr" in "Hshlkh" 1904, and at the same time in Yiddish in Peretz's "Yudishe bibliotek" 1904, the play was subsequently published under the title "Mitn shtrom (With the Current)" (publisher "Progress" 1909). The two-acter soon was staged in Yiddish and in Hebrew by various amateur groups, and A. alone performed "Dovid" in one of several productions in the Peretz-Herman dramatic studio.

Also, later the play was included in the repertoire of professional troupes.


On 9 January 1905 the play was staged in Polish in Krakow's city theatre, and then on the Polish stage in Warsaw.

The second play, which A. published, is his drama "Moshiakhs tsaytn (The Time of the Messiah)," that was previously printed in Vilna's "Nayer veg," and then it was printed separately ("Moshiakhs tsaytn -- A Dream of My People" -- publisher "Tsukunft," Vilna, 1906). The play was rarely performed by professional Yiddish theatre. The only productions of it that are known are that of Adler in New York, and by Mestel and A. Lubetsky in Vienna's "Yiddish Stage." However, the play for a certain time was very often found on the posters of the various Yiddish dramatic amateur societies. The play under the name "Na puti v'sion" was staged on 12 February 1906 in the Russian translation by Yevgeni Tropovsky in Peterburg, in Komissarzhevskaya's troupe; 15 July 1906 the play was performed in the Polish translation of F. Sokolow on the Warsaw Polish stage.

In 1907 A. published his drama "Got fun nekome (God of Vengeance)," which soon was included in the repertoire of professional Yiddish theatre and also in amateur circles in the entire world. The main role "Yekl Shapshovitsh" in America was performed by Kessler, in Europe by Meyerson.

The subject of the play had called out for a great discussion in the press, and several times it even went further, that certain Yiddish elements, especially the sacred, had tried to be performed within the play, declaring them as immoral. David Frishman had in the "Theatre World" 1, 1908, published a parody of he play under the name of "Got fun rakhamim (God of Mercy)." A.'s drama was performed in several European languages, such as Russian, German (by Reinhardt, the role "Yekl Shapshovitsh -- Rudolph Schildkraut, who performed it later in America also in Yiddish), Polish (one act in the translation of Dr. Gottlieb, staged in the Polish [now Slavotski] city theatre in Krakow, on 27 December 1908 it was staged by Karol Adventovitsh in Warsaw, then in various other Polish troupes; French (in the translation of L. Blumenfeld), in English and in Italian. The English production with Rudolph Schildkraut in the main role, was forbidden by New York City's police, and the troupe was arrested and judged innocent. The Hebrew production in Eretz Yisrael was not derlozt.

In the "Literary monatshriften" (III, 1908), A. published his historical tragedy "Shabse tsvi," the tragedy in the adaptation of Joseph Buloff was staged in 1926 by the "Vilna Troupe" in Rumania, indicating on the poster as the basis for the first and third act of the play of Asch's "Shabse tsvi," and the second and fourth acts of Zhulavsky's "Der suf fun moshiakh (The End of the Messiah)." The play in the same form also was staged in 1928 in the "Yiddish Dramatic Literary Society" in Chicago. Both productions were directed by Joseph Buloff, who performed in the title role. The same play in 1928 was also staged in Riga's "New Yiddish Theatre" by A. Stein, who performed in the title role.

Circa 1908 A. also wrote his one-act play "Amnon and Tamar" (staged on 30 June 1919 by Granovsky's Studio in Petrograd, Director A. Granovsky, music Rozovsky, and on 27 March 1921 by the "Vilna Troupe," Director: Mendel Elkin), "Um vinter (Around Winter)" (staged on 30 June 1919 by Granovsky's studio in Petrograd, Director A. Granovsky, music Krein) and "Der zindiker (The Sinner)" (staged on 28 June 1919 by Granovsky's studio in Petrograd, director Granovsky, music Rozovsky, and on 27 March 1921 by the "Vilna Troupe," Director Mendel Elkin).

In 1909 A.'s published the comedy "Yikhes" [at first printed in the collection "Di yidishe yugend," Warsaw, Tr"e, 59 p., 8°]. The play was soon included in the repertoire of the amateur circles, and for a short time after it was published, it was staged under the providence of the author and the director for Julius Adler, by Zandberg's troupe in Lodz's Grand Theatre, in February 1921 the play was staged in New York in the New Yiddish Theatre, and then by other troupes.

Soon after the play was published, it was read by the author for a Russian translation in a circle of Russian playwrights and artists in Peterburg, and it served as a cause for the well-known Chirikov-Arabazhin scandal.

At the end of 1909 A. visited America, and there he wrote a comedy of Jewish life in their new home "Der landsman" (staged by Kessler). The play did not have great success. also the production in Europe (Julius Adler in Lodz's Grand Theatre) hadn't any success. Then the Vienna production of the play with Max Shtreng in the title role in the "Fraye yidisher folksbine" (1919, Director Jacob Mestel), was a great success.

The comedy also was the first play with which the "Vilna Troupe" began its activity.

Several years later in Lodz's Polish theatre, the comedy was staged in Polish by Tatarkovich.

In the span of the years 1910-14, A. published, among his many fictional works the following theatre pieces: the pre-historic, biblical drama "Jephthah's Daughter" (publisher B. A. Kletzkin 1913), the two-act drama of Polish artistic life "Der bund fun di shvakhe" ("Di yidisher velt," Peterburg 1912, I -- II).

In 1916 A.'s drama "Dos heylike meydl oder a shnirl perl" was published (staged on 10 December 1925 in New York's Yiddish Art Theatre), in 1920 A.'s drama "Der toyter mentsh" [staged on 13 January 1922 by the Chicago Literary Dramatic Society, Director Abraham Teitelbaum, and on 2 February 1922 in New York's Yiddish Art Theatre, Director Schwartz], A.'s published "Maranen."

On 15 March 1917 in New York's Second Avenue Theatre, there was staged with Kessler in the title role A.'s drama "Motke ganef (Motke the Thief)" (dramatized by the author from his drama of the same name). The same drama was staged in 1921, which the author attended in Poland, in Warsaw's Central Theatre, with A. Samberg in the title role, and was the hit of the Yiddish theatre, enduring several hundred performances in Warsaw, and going over to all the Yiddish stages in the province. The drama also later was performed in Hebrew in Eretz Yisrael.

On 1 March 1918 there was staged in Adler's Grand Theatre by Adler (Adler performing the role "Hersh Leib the Coach Owner"), Asch's play "Ver iz der tate (Where is the Father?)" [special for the purpose of the free adaptation by the author of his play "Bund fun di shvakhe"]. Then the folk-shtik "Far unzer globyn" was performed (performed by various Yiddish troupes).

In January 1924 A. published in "Tsukunft" fragments of his biblical drama "Joseph," a shepherd's story in five scenes, and in 1928 A. published in "Haynt" fragments of the same drama.

On 3 March 1927 New York's Yiddish Art Theatre Schwartz staged (for his benefit) A.'s drama "Reverend Dr. Silver," which was however performed a few times.

On 2 May 1928 in Warsaw's Elizeum Theatre, there was staged by the "Vilna Troupe" the dramatization of A.'s historical novel "Kiddush Hashem" [assembled for the stage in twenty-five scenes by Michael Weichert, Director M. Weichert, music Kh. Cohen, scenery W. Weintraub]. The production had a huge success, and in Warsaw alone was performed around two hundred times. On 16 September 1928 M. Weichert directed the same play with a fully new personnel in the new Yiddish theatre in Riga, Latvia.

On 14 September 1928 "Kiddush hashem" was staged in New York's "Yiddish Art Theatre" in Schwartz's dramatization and direction. In the same year through the "Culture League" publishing house in Warsaw, A.'s four-act drama "Koyln" [two acts previously printed under the name of "Di kind fun the erd (The Child of the World)" in "Tsukunft," 1, 2, 1922].

In 1929 in the "Oysgabe avtorn (author's edition)," Minsk, there was published: "Uncle Moses," a play in three acts -- fourteen scenes (according to Scholem Ash) by Y. Mlinek and H. Fafak [64 pp., 16°].

A.'s dramatic work in Yiddish are:

  • Sholem Asch. Collected scripts. Volume 15. Publisher "Culture League," Warsaw. Dramatic Script. (Biblical and historical drama) Volume I [Contents: "Jephthah's Daughter," 60 pp, 16°; "Shabse tsvi," a tragedy in three acts and six scenes with a prelude and postlude, 88 pp., 16°; "Amnon and Tamar," a dramatic song in five gezangen, 73 pp., 16°].

  • D. Z. Volume 16. Dramatic script. (a social drama) Volume II. [Contents: "God of Vengeance," a drama in three acts, 96 pp., 16°; "Der bund fun di shvakhe," a drama in three acts, 63 pp, 16°; "Motke the Thief," a folks-shtik in three acts with a prologue, 85 pp., 16°; "Yikhus," a comedy in 3 acts, 93 pp., 16°].

  • D. Z. Volume 17. Dramatic script (national drama) Volume III [Contents: "Moshiakh tsaytn," a tsayt-shtik in three acts, 75 pp., 16°; "Unzer gloybn," a folks-shtik in four acts, 82 pp., 16°; "A shnirl perl," a tragedy in four acts with a prologue, 91 pp., 16°; "Der toyter mentsh," a drama in three acts, 84 pp., 16°].

  • D. Z. Volume 18. Dramatic script IV. [Contents: "Di yurshim," a drama in four acts, 106 pp., 16°; "Mitn shtrom (With the Current)," a drama in two acts, 34 pp., 16°; "Der zindiger (The Sinner)" in two scenes, 37 pp.; "Um vinter," 30 pp., 16°; "Maranen," a shtik in one act and two scenes, 32 pp., 16°].

  • Sholem Asch. "Koyln," a drama in four acts, publisher "Culture League," Warsaw, 1928 [112 pp., 16°].

In Hebrew:

In Russian:

[printed in the third volume of the same edition.]

[printed in the third volume of the same edition, 1909, the edited translation by Sh. Frug, pp. 195-226, previously printed with a small change in the twenty-first volume of the same book, "Znanye," 1908].

"God of Vengeance," publisher "Velt-bine." "Far unzer gloybn." "Moshiakhs tsaytn," translator A. Shultz.

In English:

  • THE GOD OF VENGEANCE -- (In: East and West, New York, 1915, v. 1, p. 324-340).

  • THE GOD OF VENGEANCE -- Drama in three acts by Sholom Ash, Authorized translation from the Yiddish with introduction and notes by Isaac Goldberg, Preface by Abraham Cahan, Boston, The Stratford Co., Published MCMXVIII (pp. 99, 24°).

  • WITH THE CURRENT -- (East and West, New York, v. 1, p. 195-199).

  • THE SINNER -- (East and West, New York, 1915, v. 1, p. 5-9. Also criticism by John Erskine, ibid., p. 21-23).

  • THE SINNER -- (In: I. Goldberg's Six Plays of the Yiddish theatre, Boston, 1916, p. 75-78.)

  • JEPHTHAH'S DAUGHTER -- (East and West, 1915, v. 1, p. 108-117.)

  • WINTER -- (In: I. Goldberg's Six Plays of the Yiddish theatre, Boston, 1916, p. 123-150. Review by "Lucifer" in Jewish Chronicle, London, May 27, 1927, p. 34).
    [The English translation was registered, according to the public library on 42nd Street, New York].

In German:

  • SABBATAI ZEWI, Tragödie in Drei Akten (Sechs Bildern) Mit einem vorspiel und einem Nachspiel, von Schalom ash. S. Fischer Verlag, Berlin, 1908, [134 pp., 24°].

  • DIE FAMILIE GROSSGLUCK, Komödie in drei Akten, von Schalom Asch, S. Fischer Verlag, Berlin, 1909, [134 pp., 24°].
    ["Yikhus," translation by Pavel Barkhan, Reyzen's "Lexicon," Vol. I, p. 226].

  • DER SüNDIGE, Drama in einem Aufzug, übertragen von Alexander Eliasberg, Georg Müller Verlag, München, 1919.
    [In the second volume of Eliasberg's "Yidishem teater," 22 pp., 16°].

  • MIT DEM STROM, Drama in Zwei Aufzüg, übertragen von Alexander Eliasberg, Georg Müller Verlag, München, 1919.
    [In the second volume of Eliasberg's "Yidishem teater," 51 pp., 16°].
    "Amnon and Tamar," translation by Sh. Frug, printed in a collection by the Peterburg Publishing House, "Znanye," 1909.
    "Belaya kost" ["Yikhus"].
    "Der bund fun di shvakhe."

In Polish:

  • "Tsurikgekumen" [Mitn shtrom], printed in a journal, ed. of St. Zheromski.
    "Got fun nekome."
    "Moshiakh's tseytn," translation of P. Sokolow.

In Rumanian:

  • SCHALOM ASCH, Dumnezeul Razbunarii, Drama in 3 acte, Tradusa din idis, de: Schoss-Roman si Cidel-Roman, Bucuresti, 1928, [pp. 79, 16°].

  • Z. Reyzen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vol. I, pp. 173-86.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre," Vol. II, pp. 211, 214, 218, 253, list of plays.

  • Jacob Gordin -- Ale shriften, fierter band, N. Y., 1910, pp. 167-171.

  • David Frishman -- Shriften, 3ter band, pp. 66-67.

  • S. Dubnow--Erlich -- Sholem asch "got fun nekome" oyf der bine fun teater "niezalezshni," "Fts"t," Warsaw, 9 July, 1926.

  • I. Manger -- Shabtai tsvi, dramatishe misterye in 3 aktn fun ash un zhulavsky, "Ov-vort," Bucharest, 18, 1926.
    S. -- Shabtai zvi, "Arb"tst," Czernowitz, 211, 1926.

  • Shakhna Epstein -- "Got fun nekome" un unzere naye got's straptshes, "Frayhayt," 13 January 1926.

  • Michael Weichert -- "Teater un drame," Warsaw, I, pp. 76-94.

  • Lead Pencil -- Vi azoy dos "verte publikum" git aroys an urteyl oyf a piese, "Forward," 6 March 1918.

  • Ab. Cahan -- A naye drama fun sholem ash, "Forward," 5 March 1927.

  • A. Eynhorn -- Sholem ash naye drama revrend dr. zilber, "Literarishe bleter," 2, 1927.

  • Dr. Michael Weichert -- Mayn instsenizirung fun sholem ash, "kiddush hashem," "Literarishe bleter," 9, 1927.

  • HERMAN KIENZL, "Die Bühne Ein Echo der Zeit," Berlin, (1907) [pp. 231-235.]

  • Ab. Cahan -- Sholem ash's "der yikhus" in dem nayem teater, "Forward," 15 Febuary 1921.

  • Moshe Nadir -- "Mayne hent hobn fargosn dos blut," pp. 140-4, 161-165.

  • Dr. Y. Shifer -- Premiern in "tsentral," "yidish teater," Warsaw, 1922, IV- V.

  • Sholom Fraynt -- Dos ershte yidishe gezelshaftlekhe teater in poyln. "Yidish teater," Warsaw, II.

  • Ab. Cahan -- "Kidush hashem" in shvarts' kunst teater, "Forward," 22 September 1928.

  • N. Mayzel, A. Kacyzne -- Sholem ash "kidush hashem" bey der vilner trupe, "Literarishe bleter," 19, 1928.

  • N. M. -- Di hundertste forshtelung fun ash "kidush hashem," "Literarishe bleter," 30, 1928.

  • Michael Weichert -- Sholem ash un dos yidishe teater, "Literarishe bleter," 85, 1925.

  • Dr. Y. Vortsman -- "Ver iz der tate?," "Tog," N. Y., 11 March 1918.

  • Yoel Slonim -- "Motke ganev" in theater, "Di varhayt," N. Y., 24 March 1917.

  • J. Entin -- "Ver iz der tate?" in adler's teater, "Di varhayt," N. Y., 6 March 1918.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 105.

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