Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Nellie Casman


Born in 1896 in Philadelphia, America. Her father was a cantor. As a child in school she excelled in the children's productions. Through the actress Rose Rubin, she was pulled into a professional Yiddish theatre, where she performed in 1910 in children's roles. Her desire for the stage strengthened constantly, and she took part in various dramatic clubs in Philadelphia. When she acted in such productions, it was already in an adolescent role: "Gitele" in Libin's "Gebrokehen hertser (Broken Hearts)," and she was then noticed by the theatre manager Weinberg (the husband of Regina Prager), and he engaged her for New York. To the disappointment of her family, she left home and went to New York and became a professional actress.

There she acted for several years as a soubrette in the vaudeville houses, and she acquired such a name that in 1918 she became engaged to take the place of Bessie Thomashefsky in Edelstein's "Peoples Theatre." Here she had the opportunity to act in the play "Mish Mash" with David Kessler. Due to a conflict, however, she left the legitimate stage and went back to vaudeville theatre.

Her popularity grew such that she was the first to record year-long for "Victor," "Columbia," and transformed various Yiddish songs into couplets, especially her hit "Yosel, Yosel." She also performed in English vaudeville in the large theatres.



Encouraged by playwright Shlomo Steinberg, with whom she had married, who wrote special plays for her, she went with him in 1929 to Warsaw, where she had earlier performed in a concert, then she acted there in Steinberg's play "A khasndl oyf shabos (A Cantor on the Sabbath)," and really charged into Poland. They did the same business during her guest-appearance in Romania, where she also acted in Steinberg's play "Dos vaybele."

In June 1929 she performed in Argentina with the same great success. In 1930 she performed with the play in New York q5 the "Odeon" Theatre. In November 1931 she again visited Argentina, where she also performed with Spanish songs and performed in Steinberg's play "Di komediantke (The Comedian)." In 1932 she guest-starred in London, Paris, Belgium and Riga, and everywhere with the same great success. She again arrived in Warsaw, where she performed in Steinberg's plays "Di shikhurte" and "Di komediantke". The writer M. Kipnis, I. Perle, Nachman Mayzel, Elchanan Zeitlin, Melech Ravitch, Ephraim Kaganowski, W. Latzky-Bertholdi et al, wrote about her and sang her praises.

In 1937 C. performed in Roxbury in Shlomo Steinberg's play "Di freylekhe zingerin."

In 1939 C. again guest-stared in Argentina, and also acted at the time across the province, including Lillian's operetta "A shif mit kaptsonim (A Ship with Paupers)."

For eight years C. performed in English with Gertrude Berg on radio, and later in television in the role of the "mother of Mrs. Kramer." She also participated in a film that was made by Paramount Studios (Editor's note: Nellie played the aforementioned role of "Mrs. Kramer's Mother" in the 1950 English-language film "The Goldbergs" with Gertrude Berg, Philip Loeb, Eli Mintz et al.)

M. E.

  • Elchanan Zeitlin -- Nellie kesman, "Unzer ekspres", Warsaw, 10 February 1929.

  • Jacob Pat -- Neli kesmans kontsert, "Naye folkstsaytung", Warsaw, 13 February 1929.

  • A. Grafman -- In kaminskis teater, neli kesman in "a khazandl oyf shabes", "Der moment", Warsaw, 17 February 1929.

  • M. Kipnis -- A khazandl... neli kesmans ershter oyftrit, "Haynt", Warsaw, 19 February 1929.

  • Sh. L. Sh. -- Bey der artistin neli kesman, "Literarishe bleter", Warsaw, N' 10, 1929.

  • Elchanan Zeitlin -- A por verter tsum obfohr fun neli kesman, "Unzer ekspres", Warsaw, N' 105, 1929.

  • Jacob Botoshansky -- Der debut fun neli kesman, "Di prese", Buenos Aires, 23 June 1929.

  • Sh. R. -- Neli kesmans debut in teater "argentine", "doz khazndl" fun shlomo steinberg, "Ats"t", Buenos Aires, 24 June 1929.

  • Dr. L. Zhitnitsky -- Fun teater un muzik, "Prese", Buenos Aires, 5 July 1929.

  • Sh. R.  -- A naye piese in teater "argentine" mit neli kesman, "Ats"t", Buenos Aires, 18 July 1929.

  • Tsingentang -- Neli kesmans ernovnt in teater "argentine", "Prese", Buenos Aires, 19 July 1929.

  • H. B. -- Neli kesmans debut in teater "argentine", "Argentiner tog", Buenos Aires, 25 June 1929.

  • N. Tsuker -- Ver darf shtein oyf der vakh, ven nisht mir?, "Argentiner tog", Buenos Aires, 25 July 1929.

  • Sakharnikus -- Do mont men veyts un dey entfern gershtn, dort, 31 July 1929.

  • T. Beilin -- Kunst, shund un kabare, "Prese", Buenos Aires, 2 August 1929.

  • B. Y. Goldstein -- Neli kesman in "dos khazandl", "Tog", N. Y., 3 October 1930.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- Der zingendiger teater, "Morning Journal", N. Y., 3 October 1930.

  • L. Fogelman -- Neli kesman in dem "khazan'del" in odeon teater, "Forward", N. Y., 3 October 1930.

  • B. Y. Goldstein -- Oyf der teater evenyu, "Fraye arbayter shtime", N. Y., 10 October 1930.

  • Alf-Alf -- A komedye far neli kesman, "Fraye arbayter shtime", N. Y., 5 December 1930.

  • T. Beilin -- Notitsn un bamerkungen, "Prese", Buenos Aires, 6 November 1931.

  • Dr. L. Zhitnitsky -- Neli kesman in der spetsieln zhand, dort, 20 November 1931.

  • Sh. Mendelson -- "Vokhnshrift", Warsaw, N' 43, 1932.

  • M. Perenson -- Vegn neli kesmans forshtelung, "Naye folkstsaytung", Warsaw, 9 November 1932.

  • Arye -- Nit gerekhte tenut, dort.

  • Yosef Hernhut -- Hos darfn mir fodern fun yidishn teater?, "Naye folkstsaytung", Warsaw, 21 November 1932.

  • N. M. -- Neli kesman in "komediantke", "Literarishe bleter", Warsaw, N' 43, 1932.

  • Y. Shayak -- Neli kesman's erfolg in "khazan'dl", Di post", London, 18 January 1932.

  • Morris Meyer -- Neli kesman in khzn'dl, "Di tsayt", London, 18 January 1932.

  • Yud Pe [Perle] -- Neli kesman, "Radio", Warsaw, 19 October 1932.

  • Elchanan Zeitlin -- Neli kesman als "shkhur'te", "Unzer ekspres", Warsaw, 21 December 1932.

  • Nellie Casman -- Vos iz azoyns a "subretin", "Der moment", Warsaw, 24 February 1929.

  • I. Perle -- Neli kesman, dort.

  • Melekh Ravitch -- Neli kesman -- di kinstlerin, "Unzer ekspres", Warsaw, 2 November 1932.

  • [--] -- "A shif mit kbtsnim", Neli kesman's beste forshtelung in "Mitre", "Da"ts", 27 June 1941.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 3651.

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