Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Ben-Tsvi Baratov

Baratov was born in Russia to non-observant parents, who kept some Jewish traditions. Until the age of seven he was under the influence of his Russian nurse. Only when the family moved to a small town in the province of Poltava did he begin learning a bit of Yiddish and religion with a tutor. Shortly afterwards the family moved to Kharkov, where Baratov graduated from the gymnasium and the Faculty of Medicine at Kharkov University.

While still a gymnasium student, Baratov performed with amateurs and with other students, and at the university he played the part of "Gorodnitshi" in Gogol's "The Inspector General".

In 1898 Baratov entered the Moscow Art Theatre where he played "Shoyski" in "Fyodor Yoanitsh" in the evenings and practiced medicine in his clinic during the daytime. Three years later he joined the Ivanovsky Troupe in Yekaterinoslav.

During the summers he performed in Peterburg. Afterwards he performed the role of Bariatinsky in "Nablotsky's Career" in the troupe of Duchess Baryatinskaya (Yavorskaya). Then he joined Subarin's Literary Theatre where he performed for three-and-a-half years. During the summers he visited the great Russian cities such as Tbilisi, Kharkov, Kiev, Rostov, and Odessa. Then he had to cease performing because of the outbreak of the Russian revolution.


Until then Baratov was not in touch with the Yiddish theatre, except for having seen the play "Caldonia" as a child, and during the war, Clara Young in Moscow. When he came to Constantinople and from there to Vienna he could no longer continue his career in Russian.

In Vienna he became acquainted with Itzhak Deutsch, the leader of the "Der freye yidishe folks-bine (The Free Jewish People's Theatre)", who persuaded him to join his theatre. Knowing only thirty Yiddish words, he appeared as Louis Krashunsky in Gordin's "The Stranger," in the little theatre on Unteroygartn Street, .[?] Later he appeared with this troupe under the name of Ben Zvi, and only later under his full name, changing his Russian given name to Ben Zvi because his father's name was Zvi. He performed in Vienna for a short time, then went traveling with the troupe to Rumania. In 1923 Gruber signed him up for the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

In August of 1923 Baratov appeared at the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia under the direction of Anshel Schorr and Gruber, and after appearing there for a few months he was a guest performer for a short time at the Yiddish Art Theatre in New York. From 1924-1927 Baratov appeared in the Yiddish Art Theatre, then was a guest performer for seven months in Rumania, and a short time with Lidia Potocka in Poland. From 1928-1929 he was guest performer under the direction of "Piscator" in the German play "Merchant from Berlin" playing the title role in Yiddish.

In Vienna Baratov participated in the film, " The Vagabond Collector" and in some more films produced by the same company, and he also performed a number of times in German.

M. E.

  • M. Osherowitz -- " Baratov's career on the Russian stage and his crossover to Yiddish", "Forward", N.Y., 3 Sept. 1923.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- "Around the theatre", "Morning Journal", N.Y. 12 March, 1926.

  • Spectator -- "Guest performances of Paul Baratov in the Tampel [?] Theatre," "Parizer bleter", 130, 1926.

  • Jacob Mestel -- " Six [ball, bullet?] marks," "Yiddish Theatre", Warsaw, 1927, II, pp. 198-199.

  • S. Y. Dorfzon -- " The Yiddish theatre in America," "Literarishe bleter", 67, 1925.

  • Osip Dymov -- " A play that upset Berlin," "Der tog" , N.Y. 18 Oct. 1929. 






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 125.

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