Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Yehoshua Bertanov

Born on 16 March 1881 in Vilna, Polish Lithuania, father -- a bookbinder. Learned in a cheder, Talmud Torah and then in a business school.

In 1905 B. entered into the Vilna Russian city theatre as a beginner. His debut was in the play "Griadzhtshi rastvet" by Eliza Orzheshko. He acted in the troupe in small roles until one time when an actor suddenly became sick, and B. had to rush to perform in the role of "Shmaga" in Ostrovski's "Umshuldik-shuldike". The production went over with such success that B. became featured as the first comic of the troupe. B. then went onto other Russian stages as an actor and regisseur.

Being a regisseur in a Russian governmental theatre in Tiflis, he had the opportunity as regisseur and director for that Yiddish dramatic circle.

In 1912 B. was invited by known Russian artists Orlyenev to guest-star in the Bialystok region, and on arriving in Bialystok, he met with Nachum Zemach, the founder of the Hebrew "Habima", who interested hi in that theatre, and there became regisseur and actor.

After the former "Habima" fell apart, he turned back to the Russian stage, but in 1914 met him in Vilna to act in Yiddish in the "Philharmonia" theatre, together with Peretz Hirshbein.

At the same time he organized an amateur circle for the offerings of better Yiddish theatre pieces. In this circle one finds the former beginners Alomis, Azro, Shneyer et al., who were later the founding members of the "Vilna Troupe".

Before Vilna was evacuated, B. again went to Russia, entered into Sibiryakov's Russian theatre in Odessa, but was soon a trainer of comics, encouraging the founding there of a Yiddish artistic theatre, where there would be performing under his direction: Moshe Lipman, Misha Fishzon, Vera Zaslavska, Sh. Iris et al.

In 1922 B. acted in the Sholem Aleichem Theatre in Russia, later turning again back to the "Habima", where he has acted up to the present day.

  • Ben-Tsion Kit -- "Tsayt", Vilna, 85, 1925.

  • A. Tspuri-Bley -- Dos harts fun der "habima", "Id.Folk", New York, 21 January 1927.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 203.

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