Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Chaim Brisman


Born on 1 May 1903 in Kolno, Lomza Gubernia, Poland. Father -- a Dayan. He received a strong religious upbringing. He learned in a cheder, then in the local yeshiva.

In 1915, together with a group of friends he founded a dramatic circle and staged in the municipal theatre several one-acters. In 1916 he went to Warsaw where he entered into, with the help of the famous painter Minkowski, the city academy of painting and sculpture, and he learned at the same time in Fugatshov's (then -- Bernstein's) gymnasium. In 1917 -- became a teacher in Shveyger's vocal school in Zhirardov, near Warsaw. 1918 -- arrived at the home for a visit and staged several small events with a local dramatic circle in Kolno and the neighboring town of Stawiski. Returning to Warsaw, he attended several lectures given by David Herman's studio.

In 1921 he arrived in America, opened a studio, and occupied himself mainly with portrait painting, directed the dramatic work of the Sh. Anski Dramatic Club in New York with whom he directed several one-acters. From 1922 until 1926 he founded and directed the following dramatic groups: "Nayer dramatisher shtern", "Idishe dramatik gezelshaft (Yiddish Dramatic Society)" and "Yunge bine" in New York and "Progressive Dramatic Club" in Newark. From 1926 until 1928 he was a Hebrew teacher in a Hebrew-Yiddish school.

On 20 February 1926 B. staged in Yiddish with the "Amalgamated Yiddish Dramatic Group":  "Stantsye drozhne, a comedy in three acts (five scenes) with singing, dance and music, according to Sholem Aleichem's 'Der deytsh', dramatized by Joseph Zbrizher, settings -- Stein".

At the same time he appeared individually with various organizations, and after reciting "Monish" during a I. L. Peretz symphony and concert in the Central Opera House, the critics described him as a better replacement for "Monish".

On 26 February 1928 B. staged in New York's "Hecksher Theatre" with "Di yunge bine" Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" ["Der gibor in keytn (The Hero in Chains)", dramatized by Dashevsky].

B. took a course about theatre at Columbia University, and in 1929 he became a member of the "Kamer shpil hoyz" (formerly Arts-Ring), where he stage directed and performed under the direction of Joseph Buloff, L. Yarmalov et al.

In 1931 B., under the supervision of George Yarmalov, staged with the "Commercial House" in New York, "In flam fun revolutsye (tamara), a drama in three acts by D. Marshak".

In 1931 B. became a member in the "Artef Studio", and from 1933 in the "Artef Actors' Collective", where he participated as "the Bundist" and as "a partisan" in Daniel's "4 teg", "Chaim" in Sholem Aleichem's "Mazel-Tov", "Der poliak" in Ch. Vaker and F. Peter's "Der driter parad (The Third Parade)", "Tuviya der milkhiker" in Sholem Aleichem's "Nit gefidlt", "Prapatey" in Gorki's "Yegor bulitchev", and "Pavlin" in Gorki's "Dostigyev", "Pinye" in Sholem Aleichem's "Motl peisi dem khazans", "Der alter pedler" in Moishe Nadir's "Rivington Street", "Der bahelfer" (and several times as "Lazar der shnayder"), in L. Reznik's "Recruits", "Der poyer in tserisenem pelts" and Ziskind Lev's "Di shniter (The Reapers)", " Berl rimer" in Samuel Arnits' "Haunch, Paunch and Jowl", "Berl der shnayder" in A. Kushnirov's "Hirsch Leckert", "Shimele soroker" in Sholem Aleichem's "200,000", and "Nuki" in H. Leivick's "Keytn (Chains)".

B. also at the same time performed individually, staging several small events with groups from the Artef collective, also with sections of Arbeter-lebn.

In 1935 B. was manager of the Artef studio, and had, in the absence of the regisseur Benno Schneider, led classes.

In 1937 B. participated in "Broyte gzln (The Outlaw)" by Kulbak, and in 1938 in Dymov's "The East Side Professor" (under the direction of Ben-Ari), and Zweig's "Der guter soldat tsvayg" (under the direction of Mark Schweid).

In 1938 B. directed the Yiddish radio department of the Federal Theatre, and staged Chaver-Paver's "Clinton Street" and "Labzik", and Goldfaden's "Shulamis", "Tsvey kuni lemels" and "Bobe yakhne".

In 1939 B. managed the Yiddish section of A. A. A. in Los Angeles, and here with it arranged concerts, and on 11 September 1940 he had in "Asistant's Playhouse" in L. A. staged in English Sholem Aleichem's "200,000" (translated by Emilia Babad).

Returning to New York, B. on 14 March 1943 staged in the "Lamport Auditorium" with the Yeshiva University Players, in English, the play "Yellow Jack" by Sidney Howard and Paul De Kruif, in 1944 -- in the "New School of Social Research" -- Moliere's comedy "Physician in Spite of Himself", and on 24 may 1945 he staged, in English, in New York's "Library Equity Theatre" Moliere's "Bourgeois Gentlemen".

B. settled for a short time in Detroit and there directed, in Yiddish, on 31 March 1946, with the "Dettoit Dramatic Society" Sholem Aleichem's "Tsezayt un tseshprayt".

On 8 May 1946, during the forty-sixth convention of the "Worker's Circle", he staged in the "Masonic Temple" Goldfaden's "Shulamis" (adapted by Michael Gelbart), and on 9 June 1946, the first act of Sholem Aleichem's "Dos groyse gevins (The Big Winner)" (acting in the role of "Shimele soroker").

B. moved over to Montreal, where he was the regisseur there for "Miteg", and directed on 14 December 1946 Sholem Aleichem's comedy "The Goldddiggers", on 1 March 1947 a small-arts evening ("Txvey shlkh-mnusn" by Sholem Aleichem, and songs of the people and poets), and on 31 May 1947 H. Sackler's "Yizkor (Remembrance)".

On 1 March 1948 B. directed through the "Ol Canadian Actors Ensemble" in Ottawa, and then across to other cities of Canada, his play "Under One Roof", in English (music by his son Yechezkel S. Brisman, settings -- Marcel Celeste. The play was translated into Yiddish by Diana Blumenfeld-Turkow), and on 27 November 1948 he directed with the "Yiddish Theatre Ensemble" in New York, in the "Barbizon Plaza", Sholem Aleichem's "The Goldddiggers".

From 1949 until 1955 B., in the evening, worked for the "United Jewish Appeal", and from 1956 until 1961 he directed "Histadrut" work in Pittsburgh.

B. who also is a painter and sculptor, has had several exhibitions, including in 1936 in "ACA" in New York, in 1950 in the "Ward Eggeleston Gallery" in New York, in 1954 in "COEVAL", in 1961 in the community center in Pittsburg, and in 1962 in the center in Milwaukee, outside of the group exhibitions in various galleries.

For the 1961-1962 season, B. was engaged as the drama director of the "Community" Theatre in Milwaukee, where he, with the "Perhift" players there, staged on 10 February 1962 Sholem Aleichem's "Golddiggers", and with the local English group "Tevya and his Daughter" by Arnold Perl, according to Sholem Aleichem, and then Tennessee William's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".

M. E.

  • "Ten Years Artef", New York, 1937, pp. 13-15.

  • (--) -- Experimental Drama, "People's World", L. A., Aug. 13, 1940.

  • Eddie Vermeiren -- Play "200,000" is a Masterpiece, "L A. Daily News", Sep. 12, 1940.

  • Katherine von Blum -- "200,000" Unusual Offering, "L. A. Times," Sep. 12, 1940.

  • Tex Vorce -- Art makes Bow with "200,000," "People's World", L. A., Sep. 14, 1940.

  • W. E. Oliver -- Contasted Stage Pieces Woo Fans, Herald-Express," L. A., Sep. 18, 1940.

  • Eddie Vermeiren -- "200,000" Director Explains Hit, "L. A. Daily News," Sep. 29, 1940.

  • Y. Grosman -- Feyne kultur-pozitsye vert geshafn, "Keneder odler", Montreal, 20 November 1946.

  • M. R. [Melekh Ravitch] -- Shtilerheyt grobt zikh an utsr in unzer shtot, "Vokhnblat", Montreal, 5 Dec. 1946.

  • Y. Rabinowitz -- Idishe teater-gezelshaft makht guten onhoyb, "Keneder odler", Montreal, 17 December 1946.

  • Breine Berkowitz -- Tsu der premiere fun sholem-aleichems "goldgreber", dort, 19 Dec. 1946.

  • Breine Berkowitz -- Vegen der farshtelung "di goldgreber", dort, 25 December 1946.

  • J. H. G. -- Jewish Group in Fine Show, "Montreal Star", March 3, 1947.

  • Y. Rabinowitz -- Fun unzer lid un leyd, "Keneder odler", Montreal, 5 March 1947.

  • Sholem Stern -- A trot vayter, "Vokhnblat", Montreal, March 1947.

  • Breine Berkowitz -- Men greyt zikh tsu a zehr insteresanten spektakel, "Kendeder odler", Montreal, 22 May 1947.

  • (--) -- Group Chooses Ottawa for its World Premiere, "Ottawa Citizen", March 20, 1948.

  • Barnetta David Lange -- A Boutonniere for Brisman, "The Jewish Criterion", Nov. 11, 1960.

  • [--] -- Jewish Folk Play Delights Milwaukee, "Sentinal", Milwaukee, Nov. 26, 1961.

  • J. S. -- "Cat" Production Dynamic, Explosive, "Center News", Milwaukee, April 13, 1962.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 3211.

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