Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


H.A. Condell



Born on 24 January 1906 in Berlin, Germany. He graduated from a pre-school, gymnasium and high school in Berlin.

From 1922 until 1925 he studied with Professor Ernst Stern in Berlin. From 1925 until 1928 he was scenery designer in the theatre art studios of Herman I. Kaufman, Reinman and Hugo Baruch in Berlin. From 1928 until 1931 he painted sets and costumes in the German theatres: new theatre, Berlin theatre, Nelson revue, and sets for Tselnik-Mara Productions. From 1931 until 1932-- main set designer and costume designer for the Melanie Theatre in Hanover. In 1932 he was the chief scenery designer for the city opera in Berlin.

In 1933, when Hitler came to power in Germany, C. became one of the co-founders of the "Jewish Culture Bund Theatre," where he worked until 1938, and her designed and prepared sets and costumes for their important productions, among them:

"Goylem," by H. Leivick; "Emkh (The Big Winner)" by Sholem Aleichem, "The Golden Chain" by I.L. Peretz, "Bronx Express" by Ossip Dymow, "Green Fields" by Peretz Hirshbein, "Shabtai Zvi" by Nathan Bistritsky, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Hamlet" and "The Merry Wives of Windsor" by Shakespeare, "The Post Office" by R. Tagore et al.

In 1938 C. immigrated to the America and was soon engaged in Washington to paint sets for "The Holy Johanna [?]"with Luise Rainer, then until 1940 sets and costume designer for the New York Balfour actors, American League for Opera, the Austrian theatre in New York and Civic Centre in Washington.

In 1940 C. was stage and costume designer and instructor in the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, New York College of Music, as well as in Piscator's theatre "Dramatic Workshop," and dramatic work classes in the New School for Social Research. In 1941 he was with various opera productions in the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts, including the world premiere of the American opera, "The Masterpiece" by Paul Nordoff.

In 1942 C. designed sets for the plays, "Criminalist," "Nathan the Wise," "War and Peace," "Winter Soldiers," which was staged by Erwin Piscator in New York's "Dramatic Workshop," In 1943 he painted the sets or the opera, "Tales of Hoffman" in Hunter College, New York, staged by Leopold Sachse, and to I.J. Singer's "Family Carnovsky," which was staged by Maurice Schwartz in his Yiddish Art Theatre. In 1942 he also made contact with the Folksbiene in New York, for which he became the constant scenery set designer or every production, beginning with "Uncle Moses," "Riverside Drive"-- until the last production, "The Wedding in Fernwald" (shortly before his death.)

In 1944 C. became the set designer for the City Center Opera Company in new York, where he painted the sets for "La Boheme," "Turandot," "The Master Singer," "Aida," "Salome," "Faust," "Madame Butterfly," "Don Giovanni," "The Wedding of Figaro," "The Gypsy Baron," "Rozenkavalier," "The Old Maid and the Thief," "Manon," as well as "Carmen" for the Columbia concert with Leopold Sachse.

C. also created the sets for "Sender Blank" by Sholem Aleichem, staged by Jacob Rotbaum with the Yiddish Art Theatre; for Leivick's "The Miracle of the Ghetto," and "We Will Live" by David Bergelson, staged by Jacob Ben Ami (1944); "The Three Gifts" by I.L. Peretz; "Dr. Herzl" by the Yiddish Art Theatre (1945), "Mazl tov Molly" for Molly Picon, and various productions for the "Ensemble Theatre" (ARTEF.)

On 6 November 1951 C. passed away in New York and came to his eternal rest on the grounds of the Workmen's Circle [Mt. Lebanon Cemetery, Queens, New York.)

Boris Levin writes:

"... His last job was in Berlin (his birth city) in "Yehudis" by Friedrich Hebbel for the "Jewish Culture Bund." The sets were painted in dark colors, as the life there was dark."

H.A. Conrad, in his life, made many contributions to the theatre arts. To the Yiddish theatre in America he contributed very wonderful paints and colors. With his sets he artistically illuminated every production in which he took part in. ... The "Bureau of Jewish Education" employed with Condell's entry into the Yiddish theatre arts and appointed himself to design for children's productions for plays about all the Jewish holiday events, which would be performed in the various types of Jewish schools. The Bureau had all the designs for the stage scenery and costumes published in a book, which were used in every school that was associated with the Bureau. His last job for the Bureau, which he had already painted on his sick bed, was for a children's production of Sh. Citrin's dramatization in English of I.L. Peretz's "A din toyre mitn vint," "Der kuntsnmakher" and "Di lbnh dertseylt."

In 1942 he became interested in the Folksbiene, who brought in his wife Luba (Lillian). The first production with the Folksbiene was "Uncle Moses," then "Riverside Drive" and "A Goldfaden Dream."  Unfortunate were the figures of "Bobe yakhne" and "Kuni leml." In them he had exalted love and understanding. Today this "hiltserne ferdl" which Hotzmakh had taken away sitting on him [lozt zikh avek reitndik oyf dem] was literally a wonder for the eye. We cannot forget the sets of "The Poor Kingdom," the wet basement, the clothing of the beggar, the lights, so also was Condell successful with productions of "The Big Winner," "Menachem Mendel's Dreams," and "In Polish oyf der Keyt."

The great artistic elegance came with "Yehudis." Here, by himself, he transmitted a completely different approach as to performance in Germany. Here he was free in his art. He also felt the struggle for freedom that the Jews had then felt in Israel. In the sets of eyngemoyerte walls, [behind] which Jews found themselves during the time of siege, he threw the character into joyous rays, which says about new hope, that the Jews will be victorious. And when the Jews prevailed [against] the enemy Holofernes, the sun broke in, entering through these walls-- a harbinger of a new life.

Later in time Condell painted the sets for "Joel the Fiddler," "A Story About a Prince," and the last, unforgettable sets for "A Wedding in Fernwald." In that production one could see and feel the spirit of the artist. ... In the production of "A Wedding in Fernwald," Condell displayed in his fuller derhoybnkeyt. He and his sets and lights went with the rescued Jews of the gas chambers. He felt that he is one of them, that their fate also was his fate, and when the refugees went into their new lives, he also went with them. But he did not go with them for long. The illness had ripped him away from the new life, which he had found for himself in the country.

Condell was an artist who had painted his work with a responsibility and seriousness. The seriousness had expressed itself in his attitude, punctuality and moods. He was a kind man, full of ambition to create not only for the Yiddish theatre, but also or the American stage."

The famous art critic Max Osborn wrote about C.:

"Condell had continued to bring out a khshufdik artwork. He creates an oysshtatung that belongs with the color and taste of plastics and unity in style of perfection and reytsfulstn, which we have said that we had once had."

Sh. E. from Jonas Turkow.

  • Boris Levin-- Der farshtorbener bine dekorator H.A. Condell, "Forward," N.Y., 30 November 1951.

  • [--]-- H.A. Condell, Set Designer at City Opera, Dies, New York Herald Tribune, N.Y., November 7, 1951.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 2603.

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