Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Alexander Azro


Born in 1892 in Vilna, Polish Lithuania, to parents who were managers of houses. Later his father managed a hotel.

He learned until age thirteen in a cheder (then in the home, especially Hebrew), finished the city school and learned in the governmental school.

As to the stage he had manifested a desire as a child, learning together with Sonia Alomis' brother, and they both used to make "circus productions" for children, later taking part in the dramatic circles of the "Bund", which was under the leadership of Y. Piarozhnikov.

At the age of thirteen, A. made the first public beli-malukhus as "Yehuda" in "The Sale of Joseph". He was noticed by the actor Bartanov, who took him into Russian vaudeville. He also participated in the guest-starring production of Ben-Ami.

At age sixteen he was pulled out of the Worker's Movement, sat arrested in the Lukashker jail, and then fled to Kiev, where he entered into the local "art school", in the painting department, attending at the same time a "real school" on a stipend from Baron Gintsburg, and he participated as a stand-in and later in small roles in Solovtsov Theatre.

A. entered into the Yiddish facultat of the Kiev Trade Institute, where he learned for three to four years, then he had one year of military service,, and there he put on Russian productions.

After military service, A. returned to Vilna, where it then emerged a literary dramatic circle, Peretz Hirshbein is then in Vilna, and he staged his play and acted by himself. A. participated in the local production, together with Nachbush, Shneyer, Alomis, Rivkina and Blumental, and traveled across the Lithuanian province.

In wartime, during the German Occupation, A. created a circle in Vilna of Yiddish intelligentsia, for which he used to stage with "amateurs" one-acters and recitations in Yiddish. Meanwhile, an accident had occurred: the owner of the local circus, Gurevitsh, fearful that the circus will be [requisitioned?=rekvirirt], gave the dramatic circle over to him.

A. organized the first production, in which Asch's "Der landsman" was staged. The group took on the task of completely transferring the repertoire and [became infatuated with=als forblid] Stanislavsky's troupe.

This group later became the famous "Vilna Troupe", which from Vilna guest-starred across the United States, ntil they arrived in Warsaw, and afterwards traveled to Lodz.

In 1918 A. went back together with Sonia Alomis, with whom he had married to Vilna, where he acted with a troupe for a season. Then, already under the Bolsheviks, when there a "Yiddish state theatre" was organized , A. became the director of this theatre, and later of Yiddish theatre, who opened the "Yiddish Theatre Society" under the business representation of Dr. Wigodski and Dr. Shabad. Here A. also staged for children "Der gliklekher prints (The Happy Prince)" by Oscar Wilde, which he had dramatized.

From Vilna, A., Alomis, Zhelazo and Birnbaum traveled across Poland with artistic events.

When the Poles again entered Vilna, A. went to Kovno and organized there a dramatic circle with amateurs and actors with whom he acted across the province, and from there he traveled out to Berlin.

In 1920 he created in Berlin a "Yiddish theatre society" with Dr. Graneman, Bart, Leo Vints, Herman Shtruk and Arnold Zweig at its head, and in order that could demonstrate the possibility of performing as a Yiddish artistic theatre, he arranged in Berlin an artistic event.

The plan took off. With the help of the society, film director Henry Galen, and Reinhard's actor Jean Gotoff, on 1 September 1921 there opened Peretz Hirshbein's "Puste kremtshe" in the Yiddish artistic theatre in Berlin on the Komendantenstrasse. The productions had made an impression, especially so on with a non-Jewish public. However, business was bad, and A. went on a tour across Germany, acting with a special success in Leipzig. The Belgian dramatist Jan Fabritsius then invited the troupe to Holland, where their success only grew greater. From there A. traveled with the troupe to Belgium, then to Paris, where it performed for the first time in the elegant Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and later in London in Kingsway Theatre.

When A. arrived in Berlin, the activity became affixed for the "Yiddish Theatre Society" with the further aim of uniting the entire "Vilna Troupe". However, due to the shock of the German currency, the society fell apart, and A. again made with the newly formed troupe a tour across Holland and London. Here he became engaged by Thomashefsky and came with the troupe to America.

In New York they began to perform on Broadway, but due to an internal conflict, the troupe went over to the "National", but the contract was annulled by the union.

A. then traveled with a tour across America and Canada and during a break between tours, he acted for seven months in California.

In 1925 he acted with the "Vilna Troupe" in Chicago, but due to a union bylaw, the troupe had to enter into a local, stable Yiddish theatre to perform only two days a week.

A. then by himself became a director for the trope, and with several members of the "Vilna Troupe", and several union members, he began in September 1926 to act in New York in the Lipzin Theatre, but the production didn't have any success, and A. took up direction. Since 1926-7, A. has toured with his wife with artistic events, or acts in several productions with various troupes.

In 1929 A. traveled to Belgium, where he founded in Antwerp a new "Vilna Troupe".

Specialty: Dramatic roles.

Sh. E.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Alomis and Azro in "Eyferzukht" and "Motke ganef", Forward, 15 March 1929.

  • G. B. Linder -- Di kunst-forshtelungen fun azro-alomis, "Tog", 15 March 1929.

  • Zalmen Reyzen -- Di geshikhte fun der "Vilner trupe", "Vilner zamlbukh".






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 46.

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