Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Pinchus Kaniskevitsh

According to  Sam Ludwik, K. was born in Brod [Brody], Galicia. His father was a furrier. He also worked at a furrier store. He became a folk singer, performed together with Shmuel Lukatsher. As a young lad he sang in Psemishl [Przemyśl] with Cantor Schechter, and as a big noten kener chorus conductor.

The actor Ben-Zion Palepade recalls in his memoirs finding himself in a great need in Lemberg. He knew that in Lemberg he found "varieties," where he sang and acted with the so-called Broder Singers, and he portrayed as such the condition in which K. found himself:

“I found my way to such a ‘variety show’ and saw that it is simply a tavern where guests sit around tables on which stand various drinks and, at the front, on a small podium, a sort of little stage on which the singers stand as they sing. … I was quickly led up to the singers and the first one introduced himself as Pinchus Kaniskevitsh, who was also called Crazy Pinchus (K. is introduced as the director). … Meanwhile, before he’d managed to speak a few words with me, he realized that it was his turn and he left me standing there and went up on the podium and at once began singing a song. All of this happened so quickly that I simply couldn’t understand how these acts could be set up in such haste; here one stands in conversation and right then one is on the stage, singing to an audience… Well, the singing was sort-of singing, but while collecting the cash on plates from the audience — that was where the ‘director’ really shone. (K. proposes that Palepade appear immediately. Out of want, P. agrees but refuses to handle the collection plate.) …At the close of the ‘variety show,’ before the tavern closes, the singers, as was their wont, settled with the director (he is the director because he holds the concession) and divided up the income. They gave me a handsome portion and at once engaged me for the next day to come and work with them and there would be a living…”

(Palepade cannot, however, agree to work under such conditions.) “On the next day, I heartily thanked my new colleagues and especially Crazy Pinchus who had been the first in my hour of need to invite me to participate. Crazy Pinchus understood me quite well. I saw his eyes grow moist and he looked at me so strangely. This was a glance that expressed respect and pity mixed together and he wished me that I might find what I was searching for, and that I might not have to return to this [sort of] bread.”

On 19 August 1960 V, after an illness from old age, passed away in New York, and was brought to his eternal rest at Lodge 510 by the "Knights of Pythias."

  • Sholom Santop -- "Alof she, shlof mayn shrhle," Forward, N.Y., 12 March 1965.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 5144.

English translation courtesy of Hershl Hartman and Steven Lasky.

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