Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Nakhum Lipovski


L. was born in 1874 in Neshviz, Polish Lithuania, to Orthodox parents. He was left a keylekhdiker orphan at age nine. He wandered about for three years until he arrived in Vilna, where he learned in a Talmud Torah and yeshivas and later secular subjects. He arrived in Moscow, where he entered into the dramatic courses in the "Philharmonia", under the leadership of Shestakov and worked later as a stand-in in Moscow's small theatre.

In 1891 L. joined a Yiddish itinerant troupe, but his true stage career began at first in 1892 in A. Y. Kaminski's troupe. Although he excelled in the roles in which he played, he displayed qualities at the same time as a manager and business manager, to which he dedicated himself since 1893. After military service he joined in 1895 the Russian troupe of Nezlobin, with whom he performed in Vilna. Since 1900 he organized alone or in partnership with Kaminski, Kompaneyets, Nozik, Julius Adler or Rudolf Zaslavski, various itinerant troupes acros the Russian state.

In 1904 L. immigrated to Germany and became business manager of a German theatre in Dormstat (Germany), where he at the same time also was a "free listener (auditor)" in the local politechnium. Here Professor Wertheim identified L.'s phenomenal abilities for thinking on various matters, had created with him several experiments and gave him directions how to develop his memoirs. Then L. began to perform from time to time with experiments in the field.

Soon however he turned to Russia, and being in the best attitude with "Natshalstvo", he had, the sole -- thanks to the assistance of the prominent Russian actors -- received on 20 June 1903 the license to perform theatre in the Yiddish language in Russia.


About that period in L.'s life, Amelia Adler recounts in her memoirs:

"Lipovski, even though a Yiddish theatre director, in this time was far from yidishkeyt. He used to always tell us stories and episodes from Russia and Malo-Russian writers and actors. He was were under his direction, L. had very often thus accustomed to, literally in love in each milieu, that he used to use Malo-Russian clothes and had taken to Ukrainian dances, so that Lipovski was very much a kind person, a good friend and had a collegial attitude to actors".

In 1908 L. founded in Vilna the first "Yiddish folks theatre" with cheap prices. In the troupes, which performed in a local theatre, and in the other troupes that were under his direction, L. very often aroused the forces of the Yiddish stage in Russia. The theatre in Vilna had existed until the World War, when it became forbidden to perform in Yiddish as a "feyntlekhe" speech. L. then took over his troupe to Harbin, where he received a license to perform, and then to Kharkov, where  the troupe performed until the Revolution.

Photograph of the license --
original in YIVO.

During the World War, L. was an official for the diplomatic corps of the Lithuanian government and a member of a committee to aid the hungry artists and scientists in Russia, and for a certain time he also participated in the post-war action of the American Red Cross.

In 1918 L. returned to Vilna and again renewed the activity of the folks theatre, in which Morevski had acted for the first time on the Yiddish stage. The troupe continued on until 1920, when it went over to Kovno and from there to Memel.

Now L. began to take up more time with public appearances as a person with a good memory. Besides frequently performing as a black artist, producing a transformation of types of well-known personalities, such as Ibsen, Herzl, Tolstoy, Nordau, Moshe Montefiore et al, he also began to demonstrate with calculations on quickly asked logarithms. At the same time he worked out a plan for an eternal calendar. A pat of the work (a calendar for two hundred years, from 1826 until 2025) he published in the illustrated edition of New York's "Forward" of 28 December 1924.

L. performed in forty-two universities of Europe and America, in which he traveled across in 1924, demonstrating his pneumonic ability and received attestations from famous professors and scholars.

Returning home, L. became sick with a faulty heart and bronchitis. However, this did not prevent him from taking part in Jewish cultural life. He also worked further to put out a new calendar of 413 years (from 6 August 1914). He dedicated the  book inscription to Józef Piłsudski.

In 1925 he further revived the Yiddish folks theatre, across which L.'s name remained as the founder of the theatre.

On 24 December 1928 L. passed away in Vilna, his escort was very imposing.

L.'s wife is the actress Esther Lipovski (Glazer-Volksa). L's adopted son, Sasha, acts on the Yiddish stage, writes compositions, and compiled a calendar of five-thousand years.

In L.'s name as translator and editor there also was published in Vilna (previously in the weekly "Der tog", and later in a separate edition) five one-acters: "Zi hot bezeigt, a shpas in one act by A. Orn, adapted by Nakhum Lipovski, Vilna" [published in 1913 in "Tog", adapted through A. Y. G-t [Goldschmidt]; "Di damen shpilke, a farce in one act, adapted by Nakhum Lipovski, Vilna" [also previously published in Goldschmidt's translation under his name]; "Der damen-shneider, a comedy in one act, compiled by Nakhum Lipovski, Vilna" [previously published in Ben-Zion Makhtey's anonymous translation]. "An advokat oyf a halbe sheh, a comedy in one act by Nakhum Lipovski" [previously translation from Max Bernstein's "Blau", previously printed in Ben-Zion Makhtey's anonymous translation], and "Mit a geleng heym", a highly interesting shpas (from Weber and Weidell), compiled by Nakhum Lipovski" [previously published in the adaptation of A. Y. G-t].

L. donated a large part of his theatre archive that contained many important documents regarding the history of Yiddish theatre as a gift to the theatre museum of YIVO in Vilna. After his death, it was the sole part of his rich theatre archive that was given over to YIVO by his son Sasha.

In this archive one finds the manuscripts of the following plays:

  • "Dos fraye faygele", a comedy-shpas in three acts by Y. F. Karpov, translated by Nakhum Lipovski (censorship of 5 July 1914).

  • "Far der muters ere, oder, Di tsveyte yungt", a drama in four acts by F. M. Nievezhin, translated by Nakhum Lipovski.

  • "Di shtiferin, oder, Di lustike parizhanke", a comic operetta in three acts by N. Lipovski (censorship of 24 January 1915) [really a translation of "Shoshana di tsnueh"].

  • "Di fraylekhe lozshe", a farce operetta in three acts by Nakhum Lipovski.

  • "Di opgenarte damen, oder, Lozshe number 6", a comedy-farce in three acts, reworked by Nakhum LIpovski [censorship of 20 June 1914].

  • "Dos farblondzshete shefele, oder, A modner gast", a comedy in four acts with song and dance, translated by N. S. Lipovski.

Almost all of the plays only referred to L.'s name because of censorship reasons, or due to certain financial reasons, or were really written, translated or adapted by others.

As Esther and Sashs Lipovski declared, L. used to very often translate plays with the aid of a secretary, dictating the Yiddish text to him.

Zalmen Zylbercweig writes about L." "Until the war, Lipovski directed troupes. His name was a company. Where he arrived, people had for him feelings of jealousy of actors, and used to always put together troupes from the powerful artistic forces in Russia. Thus he always did not give the oyberhant to the operetta. Under his direction Peretz Hirshbein staged for the firs time "Dos farvofene vinkl", and Zaslavsky's Shakespeare's "Hamlet" in Yiddish, and other plays from European repertoire. To his dignity he was also able to say that under his direction they had never staged either "Khinke pinke" or "Dos pintele yid". ...He had once for every time counted that his shund contraptions were wanted in the boards of the theatre, that he stood in his place at the top, not staging nor producing, and he had his performances."

Sh. D. [Dreyer] writes about L.'s activity: "With exceptional courage with enormous stubbornness, he dragged the cart from the Yiddish stage and aroyfgesheft it on a wide chess of modern art. He opgeshrien der gzrus in Yiddish language, which had a mixed farshleyern for a German. He created in the dark years of reaction and persecution, a permanent Yiddish troupe -- the Yiddish folks theatre. He had, with his bare hands stuck in places, a shelter for the Yiddish theatre museum in Vilna, the folks theatre, which is, for all its faults, the last couple of years was a guest home for Jewish artists from this very world."

L.'s published plays in Yiddish:

[1] Zi hot beziegt, a shaps in one act by A. Orn, adapted by Nakhum Lipovski, Vilna, [16°, 22 pp., 191...].

[2] Di damen-shpilke, a farce in one act [by ?], adapted by Nakhum Lipovski, Vilna, [16°, 16 pp., 191...].

[3] Der damen-shnayder, a comedy in one act [by ?], compiled by Nakhum LIpovski, Vilna, [16° 10 pp., 191...].

[4] An' advokat oyf a halbe sheh, a comedy in one act, a theatre miniature by Nakhum Lipovski [a free translation of Max Bernstein's comedy "Blau"].

[5] Mit a gelegnheyt, a highly interesting comedy shpas (by Webrer and Weidil), compiled by Nakhum Lipovski, Vilna, [16°, 18 pp., 191...].

M. E. from A. Y. Goldschmidt, Esther and Sasha Lipovski.

  • Sidney Gordon [Kh. Ehreinreich] -- A id velkher veyzt vunder mit zayn zkrun, "Forward", N. Y., 7 May 1924.

  • T. -- Der eybiger kalendar fun nakhum lipovski als mtunah far'n marshal pilsudski, "Der moment", Warsaw, 10 April 1927.

  • A. Y. [Grodzeski] -- Nakhum lipovski, "Ovnt-kurier", Vilna, 24 December 1928.

  • Sh. D. [Dreyer] -- A lebn fun a kinstler, "Vilner tog", 25 December 1928.

  • L. M-ki [Stotsky] -- Geshtorbn nakhum lipovski, "Tsayt", Vilna, 25 December 1928.

  • Lazar Kahan -- Nakhum lipovski, "Unzer ekspres", Warsaw, 25 December 1928.

  • Hirsh Abramovitsh -- Lipovski un der folks-teater, "Vilner tog", 26 December 1928.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Nakhum lipovski, "Lodzer togeblat", 27 December 1928.

  • Y. Grodberg -- Nakhum lipovski z"l, "Der morgen", Lemberg, 28 December 1928.

  • Y. M. Warsahvsky -- Tsum toyt fun nakhum lipovski, "Prese", Buenos Aires, 29 December 1928.

  • Bella Mayzel -- Nakhim lipovski, "Nayer folksblat", Lodz, 30 December 1928.

  • Aba Shein -- Nakhum lipovski -- der merkvirdiker mentsh un teater-tuer, "Idishe tsaytung", Buenos Aires, 31 December 1928.

  • A. Morevski -- N. lipovski -- a modner mentsh, "Vilner tog", 22 January 1929.

  • Hirsh Abramovitsh -- Nakhum lipovski -- der leydnshaftlekher teater-mentsh, "Tsayt", Vilna, 10, 13 January 1930, "Frimorgn", Riga, 3 March 1930.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Kleine notitsn vegn literarish-kinstlerishe eninim, "Literarishe bleter", Warsaw, 24, 1930.

  • Amelia Adler -- Dos lebn fun a idisher akterise, "Di idishe velt", Cleveland, 29 August 1930.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Kleine notitsn vegn yidishn teater, "Literarishe bleter", Warsaw, 42, 1933.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1098.

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