Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Ben Basenko


Born on 20 December 1910 in Lokshivke, Kiev Gubernia, Ukraine, to parents descended from R' Liberl of Berdichev. His father was a businessman. He learned in a Talmud Torah in Uman. In 1919 the family immigrated to Romania, and B. learned in Kishinev in the "Beit Sefer Lflitim," then graduated hrb from Tsirelson's pro-gymnasium. At the same time he sang as an alto in the chorus with the cantors Tsipers and Dovidl Roitman.

In 1924 he immigrated with his family to the United States. Here he learned in the Yiddish prep school and worked as an employee in the office of "Tog," then became a reporter there and was given to an associate of a city editor A.H. Rubinstein. Attending the drama "Kedem," staged by Bulgakov, and during the Habima visit to New York, he joined the Habima studio. Later he acted in Yiddish and Hebrew with the remaining division of the "Habima" troupe, which was run by Nakhum Tsimakh, as well as Glagolin's English production of Lope De Vega's "The Gardener's Dog."

In 1932 B. was a singer and recitator in concerts, including in "Kunts ring," acting in Maurice Schwartz's production of "Yoshe Kalb," "Brothers Ashkenazi," "Jacques Berson" and "The Wise Men of Chelm," and later with Lucy and Misha German in Chicago.

B. went on a tour across the United States and Canada for the Jewish National Workers Farband, with L. Harris and Bela Bellarina, acting for two years in the troupe of the "Folks Theatre"

as a "seriozha" in Artsybashev's "Jealousy," "Enzl shukht" in Ressler's "60,000 Heroes," In Gottesfeld's "In-Laws," in Pirandello's "Er, zi un der okt," in "The Verdict," as well as the small-arts troupe "Tsu-lakh-es" and "Salt and Pepper" with Scooler, Bleich, Gladstone et al, and Bulgarov's English production of Gogol's "Inspector General."

In 1942 he served in the American air flotilla, working in the military secrets section, learning to be a radio operator in Wisconsin and in University of Illinois and graduated as a translator of Russian and German.

He returned from military service, and he performed with Goldinburg in the Parkway Theatre, and in 1945 he came to the WEVD radio station as a news reporter, then became a permanent staff member as an announcer, commentator, and director with the kufs khulim programs. Since 1949 he has performed on the radio several times a week as a reader of Sholem Aleichem's works, and he also directed a children's riddle(?) program in Yiddish, Hebrew and English, under the name "Sharfe kepelekh."

Sh. and M.E.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 2119.

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