Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Shmuel Iris



Born on September 10, 1889 in Kishinev, Bessarabia to poor parents, craftsmen. He learned in a cheder, folkshul, yeshiva, but he never had any desire for learning. He only liked to follow street acrobats and organ grinders, whom he helped with joy. His father gave him away to work in a business as an employee, but I. became close with the illusionist Malinovskiy with whom he learned a trade and he began to arrange in chambers of his apartment “productions”, in which he demonstrated magic and his friend sang and “made him crazy”. When his father foiled him, he ran away with Malinovskiy and traveled around with individuals performing there as a magician.

In 1903 I. saw for the first time theatre: the theatre troupe of Feldman-Bronstein. He soon copied the actors, entering into an amateur circle, and in 1905 for the first time performed with them as “Hatsmakh” in “Koldunya” (“Witch”), in 1907 became a stand-in in the Strelska troupe. After that he traveled with Trakhtenberg's small itinerant troupe, where in one evening he performed as “Hatsmakh” in “Di bobe yakhne”. He returned to Kishinev where he was with “amateurs".

At the end of 1908 I. entered into Fishzon’s troupe and traveled around with them until 1915. Then he performed as a Russian coupletist in a Russian miniature theatre. In the summer of 1916 he played with Rappel and Zaslavsky, in May he was mobilized, went away  to the Front and deserted to Harbin, where he acted together with Lebedeff, Arco, Kuschinskiy et al. participating at the same time in the Russian productions of a local Russian troupe.

1918 he performed in Odessa with Albert Segalesco in an older-type theatre, in 1919 I. was a co-founder with Bertanov of the first Yiddish state theatre in Odessa, where he is a member of the director's collegium. In 1921 he began to perform in Rumania in Misha Fishzon’s “Muster-teater” (“Master Theatre”), then with an itinerant troupe in Rumania and Bessarabia. In 1925 he went off to America ,and he acted for a short time in Detroit. After ten months and he left America and traveled back to Rumania, where he acted for two years in the Vilna Troupe then in the Ziegler troupe in 1928-9 in Vienna, and in the summer of 1929 he was in Argentina and Brazil.

Iris translated “Trilby” (“Hat”), Evreinov’s “Hoiptzakh” (“Principle”); Hauptmann's “Farzunkener glok” (“Sunken bell“), and from the Russian dramatized created Dickinson,s “Der gril untern oyvn” (“The Cricket Under the Furnace“).






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 60

Translation courtesy of  Yefim Kogan.

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