Lives in the Yiddish Theatre
SHORT BIOGRAPHIES OF THOSE INVOLVED IN THE Yiddish THEATRE
aS DESCRIBED IN zALMEN zYLBERCWEIG'S "lEKSIKON FUN YIDISHN TEATER"

1931-1969
 

Keni Lipzin
(Kreine Sonyes; Sachar )

She was born approximately in 1856 in Zhitomir, Ukraine. Her father was a drunk, a stagecoach driver. At ten years of age she lost her mother. She was raised by a stepmother in a village Stasnikshevke, near Zhitomir, where it was her misfortune to suffer. When she was still a child she was given away to a laundry seamstress."

According to B. Gorin, Gordin brought details of her life into his drama, "Khasye di yesoyme (Chasia the Orphan)."

L. expressed this herself: "You have no doubt seen Gordin's 'Di yesoyme (The Orphan)' -- here you have my biography. 'Khasye' -- there I actually am, I alone. This I have recounted to Gordin, the subject for the "Orphan," this is my own life, although my father is not any 'Motke Streykhl." ... However, my stepmother, oy, oy, this was a stepmother."

According to an uncontrolled news, L. had, against her will, married an employee of her father, but after six months she fled the town for Smela, and then she became a seamstress.

According to L. Elbe, L., while still in Zhitomir, when attending the productions of the Russian troupe with Savina Brash, developed a desire for the stage.

Around 1881, when in Smela there guest-starred a Yiddish troupe, L. often visited them, and she was taken in as a member.

 


As Jacob Katzman tells it, Israel Rosenberg by chance heard her sing, and he took her in as a chorus singer, and according to Abraham Fishkind, in Smela L. was not involved in anything, and initially some days later, when the troupe had already played in a neighboring city, L. here came on and joined in the chorus. Her name was not even included in the advertisements. Vitaly Maliga remembers that in the same year she even sang "Heyse bobkelekh" in Goldfaden's "Koldunye (The Witch)" in Belaya Tserkov. Reuben Weissman happened to be visiting actors in Kremenchug in 1881-82, where L. was waiting for the opportunity to perform several words. According to B. Gorin, L. soon became taken in as an actress, and about her entry onto the stage, he writes in his "History of Yiddish Theatre": "When the cited troupe (Naftali Goldfaden, Krug, Israel Rosenberg, Katzman, Sonia Oberlander, Sabsey, Jacob P. Adler and Avraham Fishkind) came to Smela, filled with an actress. Until now the company had performed with a Fraulein Diane (later Mrs. Katzman), but her father was not pleased by it, that she traveled with the actors, and he came and took her away. But even in that small town of Smela, they no longer needed to look for a new force. Here the company happened upon Fraulein Sonyes, and she was up on the stage. Fraulein Sonyes was no other than the later-to-be-known actress Keni Lipzin."

Gorin, dealing with the condition of the Yiddish theatre at that time, and the influx of actors, then came to a decision: "As it seems, all that was required was to give only one call, and past actors seemed to grow out of the earth as through a magic that sprouted from under the earth. In the towns where they had never seen theatre thought, they sang many theatre songs with the honest notes and with the correct theatrical influence. This was true not only for folk singers, but for young workers too who found a way to get together in a cellar. Everything aside, if they only had a voice, they were fixed and ready for the stage, and they only had to show the fashion, and they became former actors. ... There were no obstacles to players ... It goes without saying, so that was it, that the acting community was very much in need -- and those who took the stage above, they were also no more than beginners. And that condition made it easy for everyone, Whomever wanted to become an actor, get up on stage."

Her voice is mentioned in Jacob P. Adler's memoirs: "Suddenly as Rosenberg passed the house of a seamstress, a girl's singing hit him from an open window, a mixture of Yiddish and Russian, and the voice sounded strong, fresh and fiery, and he remained standing there, his mouth and ears open and listening intently. And when the fresh, pleasant singing ended, he went inside -- and what can I do for a long time? Soon he came to us to run with the happy announcement. So here it is -- There's a prima donna here, and in the morning, indeed, the poor seamstress Keni Sachar came to us, now known as Keni Lipzin. She looked at me and began her audition. Soon Rosenberg knew that he made no mistake. Keni Sachar was a fiery, young girl with temperament, with a stronger, clearer language ... undoubtedly talented, he took her quickly onto the stage."

According to Elbe, L.'s first role was "Karolina" in Goldfaden's "The Two Kuni Lemels" in 1882 in Rostow-on-Don.

L. had acted for two years in various cities in Russia: Yekaterinoslav, Kremenchug, Odessa, Yelisavetgrad, Lodz, etc. (in Jacob P. Adler's memoirs they portrayed a remarkable scene between L. and her father when he had met her as an actress.) L. performed in the Goldfaden-Latayner operettas, and in the melodrama repertoire of the day.

When performing in Yiddish became forbidden in Russia, L. in 1884 wandered off to London, where she at first performed under the name Sonyes, was in a role of several words in the play, "Don abarbanel," then she played "Di blinde mame (The Blind Mother)" in "Uriel akosta." At first she played in Setland Hall in Vaynkur's, and at the beginning of November 1884 she played with Adler in a Russian-Jewish Worker's Club and Institute (10 Hands-Rich), where she performed as "The Daughter" in Shomer's play, "The Living Dead, or, A Blow for a Blow," "Jeanette" in the comedy, "Der falsher melamed," and in the main role of "Esther of Ein Gedi." For a short time she played in the English province, and on 4 November 1885 she further performed in London in the main role of "Meshugene oys libe (Crazy in Love?" by Bazelinsky. Now she performed under the name Lipzin, the family name of her husband, the prompter Volodya Lipzin. On 7 November 1885 L. performed as "Shulamis," on 6 June 1886 she played "Yehudis" in "Uriel akosta," and on 29 November 1886 she performed as "Devorah" in Mosental's play with the same name.

In London L. played with the actors Jennie Kaiser, Dina Shtetin (later - -Feinman), Jacob Katzman, Leibush Gold, Max Rosenthal, Israel and Aneta Gradner, Avraham Brim, Shenkman and Adler, and after the imaginary fire in the Princes Club in March 1887, together with Adler, Volodya Lipzin, Leibush Gold, Feivele Friedman, Herman Fiddler, A. Boym, Oberlander et al, they went off to America.

M. Seifert recalls in his memoirs that L. at first performed in New York, and then she traveled to Chicago. According to him, Morris Finkel had declared to him that the play could not be performed because it demanded a woman for the main role, and initially in about a week. When Mrs. Lipzin would come, they would be able to produce the play. Seifert characterized his familiarity with L. in this way (in our translation): "In around a month the 'famous actress' came from London. The next evening the director presented her to me. When I had talked with her and she beheld, I had lost hope that my play would have success. The main female role in my play not only had to be young, but also beautiful, which only thanks to the enchantment of your beauty and grace that captivates her husband's heart. About the "famous artist," although she was once a lovely woman, however, signs of antiquity had already begun to appear and her face was already plagued by many wrinkles. But Finkel calmed me down, saying that the make-up and paint do wonders. They change an ugly one into a beauty, and an old one into a young one."

At dusk, I once again met the "famous actress" in the theatre, and in course of our conversation, did she trust me, that several had told her that my play is not fit, and she had no idea what to do with her. That's why she asked me, "So tomorrow I will come to you at your home and read the play before her.

When I came to her there, I also met her husband, Mr. Lipzin, and I read my play for both of them. Mr. Lipzin listened very attentively to my play, and from the impression on his face, I knew that my play interested him. But "the famous actress" often would reread it, with a lot of remarkable questions, which didn't have any relationship to the play, but with which she wanted to appear to me as a connoisseur in all branches of drama. After she finished reading, she thanked me and shook my hand and said:

-- Your play is fine and good from the beginning to the end, and my role feels very [good]. I will endeavor with all my might, that the play should be successful and make an impression.

But the singing of praise by the 'famous actress' did not help, that my play should be successful. Something of an inner feeling made me foresee the failure. For me this feeling grew stronger day after day. Every actor at the same time learned their role, but one, who studied their role very attentively, and with interest? But I didn't believe it, that one swallow will bring summer. And what about the 'famous actress'? I understood beforehand that she will help with the failure of my play. She studied her role for twelve days, and by no means was it possible to penetrate the idea of my play. The many explanations I gave her about every matter, and what was needed for the play didn't help, which she didn't understand. She It kept in my mind without my knowledge and without my permission. She stayed in my mind without my knowledge, and without my permission.

Understand that my play had really fallen apart, and together with the play, also 'the famous actress.' She was not taken into the troupe and was compelled to leave New York and travel to Chicago, where she tried her luck as an actress."

(Zeifert's episode does not agree with the reality because L. arrived in 1887, and soon thereafter acted, when his play, "Der shloser," was performed initially in 1890. Also Leon Blank, who debuted at the time when L. played, declared that L. at first performed in New York in "Debora.")

In Chicago L. performed in the same repertoire, which she played in London. "The audience came to see the plays -- B. Gorin writes -- but you could at most play a piece two or three times, and the troupe had no new plays. Immediately after Passover, the troupe declared a strike of Adler, and the fire came out of it, that where one theatre could not stand. Soon they became two theatres. ... But both theatres now were a big headache, and both quickly burst. Almost the entire company, which came with Adler from London, remained, stuck in Chicago, and Adler and the Lipzins went off to New York."

L. soon was engaged in the Roumanian Opera House, where she performed in "Debora" and had -- according to Elbe -- stormed the Yiddish theatre world in New York. Three times regularly she acted in the play for fully packed theatres, an event that was not customary in New York, and received for all three productions ten dollars.

B. Gorin remarked that  it, what L. in the Roumanian Opera House, immediately entered into it as a "star," although the main roles in the theatre during that time were played by singing prima donnas. This was a certain epoch in the history of Yiddish theatre in America (actually, however, soon in that theatre Sophia Goldstein [Karp] and L. was eliminated from the theatre.)

Others portray L.'s first performance in America, such as David Kessler: "Then Mrs. Keni Lipzin came to us. ... Both (Adler and Lipzin) wanted to play with us. However, most of our actors have personal inclinations, with Professor Horowitz at the head (of the troupe). They did not leave after trouble, and maternal Keni Lipzin remained with us. This was already near the end of the season.  The summer soon began, when in New York there was not much to do, and Keni Lipzin made a suggestion to me to travel to Chicago and play over the summer. ... We played for vacant 'houses,' and this turn forced us to collect some dollars to cover expenses to return to New York."

Thus on 19 September 1888 L. performed in the Oriental Theatre performed in Joseph Latayner's "Der antisemit (The Anti-Semite), oder, "Di yudn-lage in rumenye (The Jewish Condition in Romania)." The "theatre reporter" of "The Volksadvocat" writes in his review: "The strongest impression on this spectator was made by Mrs. Lipzin in her heroic role, in which she lifted the spirits and conducted art for those around her, proving that there was no one who was better equipped to send good wishes to, for being a first class artist ..." In 1889 L. performed in the Poole's Theatre in a play, "Di merderin (The Assassin?)." The newspaper, "The Volksadvocat," which writes very infrequently about the acting of others, remarks in a notice: " ... The public was very enthusiastic about the principal's artistic execution of Mrs. Lipzin, who possesses a very rich talent for dramatic roles."

In the same theatre, L. played in Latayner's, "Di grinhorns (The Greenhorns)." On 9 May 1889 she performed in the same theatre as "Yehudis"  in Gutzkow's "Uriel akosta (Uriel Acosta)." In a notice about the offering of the play, "The Volksadvocat" writes again: "Every attendee of the Yiddish theatre who understands and appreciates drama must admit that Mrs. Lipzin is one of the most talented and faithful actresses. Under better lighting, the Yiddish stage could have an unbelievable future as an art form and could support future Yiddish culture to grow. Mrs. Lipzin earns the full support of the public. She has the ability as an actress to feel deeply and to work very hard on the stage."

For her benefit in Poole's Theatre on 22 May 1889, L. played in Latayner's "Dos 5-te gebot, oder, Kavod av (The Fifth Commandment, or, Honor Your Father)."

On 2 May 1890 she played in New York in the double role in "Rokhl un leah (Rachel and Leah)" in the play, with the same name, finally to "Professor Jacobi from London"). .

M. Osherowitch rightly remarks: "It is now difficult to determine what a success or failure of an actor has had at that time. No Yiddish theatre critic had yet existed in the United States. ... and therefore it is difficult to determine that, according to written documents, and how the first Yiddish actors in America took off ir not in the public." This was also the reason why L., playing the repertoire then, not having any opportunity to develop and draw attention to.

According to L. Elbe, "Gordin had seen her play for the first time in 'Rachel and Leah,' and he brought up that such power is wasted in shund (trashy) plays. ... The first theatrical pairing between Gordin and Mrs. Lipzin  was in Goldfaden's 'Meshiekhs tsaytn (The Time of the Messiah),' (5 October 1892). In this play Gordin wrote a special role for Mrs. Lipzin-- 'Hanze,' a servant girl. (In January 1894 L. performed in 'Devorah,' and on 18 August 1894 she played "Ophelia" in Thomashefsky's offering of Shakespeare's "Hamlet. Later (15 September 1894) she performed as 'Rivkale' in 'Di brider lurie (The Brothers Lurie)' (by Jacob Gordin. Stage direction by Boris Thomashefsky). She played this role so well that she became the central figure of the play."

Initially when L. had -- according to B. Gorin -- "Married to a publisher of a daily newspaper (Michael Mintz from "Der teglekher herald (The Daily Herald"), and although Yiddish newspapers then were in very much a poor state, had your situation become such, she didn't have to be dependent on him for the theatre. With the assistance of her husband, who managed to watch a theatre for a week and perform such plays as she herself wished, do not take into account the taste of the public, and with the box office, as Gordin was the only writer who could create a better play. who could make a actor's reputation. Without it she began performing his dramas from time to time. She couldn't put on many plays, but because of that, she had few plays that were so popular that they attracted everyone's attention. Little by little she created a small repertoire, and the gain was mutual. Her name was connected with the Gordin dramas, and for Gordin it began quite a few episodes of his creativity."

"However -- B. Gorin recalls further -- "the managers did not want to suffer, that Mintz came to the theatre with a broader opinion, and the fuel was out. Soon she was unable to get any involvement in any theatre. Mintz then for her used to each time when there was bad business in the theatre, rent productions, and she used to perform occasionally."

About the same matter, B. Botwinik writes:

"Her marriage to Mintz made her popular very quickly, because Mintz had simply shaken the world with his Keni's talent. They say that Lipzin had success due to her temperament, due to her fiery acting. However, this was not the only reason for her success. The main reason was, it seems, that Michael Mintz was the most fieriest person among all people, the most temperamental and feudal advertisement agent of all the agents, and the entire flame and fire he exploited in advertising his Keni Lipzin. ... He was ashamed and guilty and acquired plays specifically for his queen. That he saw that Jacob Gordin was the success of the Yiddish drama writers, that he exploited from Gordin the best roles for Lipzin. ... And he bought from Gordin the plays with the exclusive rights for Mrs. Lipzin. No one else was allowed to play them. And that Mintz had seen to it that the press wrote enough about his Keni Lipzin. He himself began to publish a newspaper. (Mintz had even earlier published the newspaper. In the newspaper he gave many notices and reviews about L.) And the newspaper floundered and laughed only with Mrs. Lipzin, and that Mrs. Lipzin wanted to have a theatre for herself, to be well-to-do. Mintz appeared to have done it."

Bessie Thomashefsky recalls:

"Mrs. Lipzin was then the richest Yiddish actress. She had, true, not had then the brilliant roles from the Gordin plays in her repertoire. Hence she was hung with diamonds and jewelry. She made me look like a doll when I saw her for the first time: Not tall, not small, and lovely shoes with big bangs, Speaking quickly and very well. Pretty wonderfully dressed, clean and neat, Big piercing eyes and very mobile."

In 1896 L. appeared in "Medea" by Grillparser, which Jacob Gordin had especially adapted for her.

On 26 October 1896 she appeared as "Kameliendame" by Dumas (translated by Bukanski), and in 1897 as "Di vilder printsesin, oder, Medeas yungt," which Gordin had specially written for her, after her great success in "Medea." About her acting as "Medea," and in "Medeas yungt," Leon Kobrin writes in his memoirs:

"She was so born for such tragedies as 'Medea.' She has had this melodeclimatic tone, the temperament, tragic glance and this scream. ... The primitive, completely naked, as though just emerging from natures fiery springs, whose image was carried by Medea-Lipzin. And when she leaves him (Yazan) ... not a passionate woman loved it who had lost their loved one, but the only source of despair and passion was crying and weeping.

A new chapter in L.'s career was formed on 19 August 1898, when she was on stage at the Thalia Theatre in Jacob Gordin's, "Di yidishe kenigin lir, oder, Mirele Efros (The Yiddish King Lear, or Mirele Efros)" (later the first name of the play was entirely eliminated.) With that role L. took a special place in the Yiddish theatre. Very often they identified her with that role.

Joel Entin remarked: " ... The play arose at the express request of Mrs. Lipzin, who wanted to perform for the audience as the female David Moshele, as the female Adler (Jacob P. Adler then played the role of "David Moshele" in Gordin's "The Yiddish King Lear.) It was Yiddish romanticism, power, and the Jewish beauty, which the artists had grinned and laughed at."

Soon after the offering of the play, there was published a review on the front page in the "Daily Herald." The anonymous review was written about L.'s acting: "However we remark that Madame Lipzin also has, for the first time, had the opportunity to display her complete talent and genius. We have seen Mirele Efros in her. The proud, noble, kind, loving and sympathetic suffering woman, which offended us keeps and sheds tears from our eyes. With your word, Madame K. Lipzin, is there any doubt that she is the greatest dramatic actress of our stage."

Ab. Cahan, during his struggle against Gordin, writes, analyzing the play, "Mirele Efros": "On stage there is a certain unpleasant impression covered by Mrs. Lipzin's personal attitude.  ... One must read this book, not see how Mrs. Lipzin forgets it on stage, to find out what kind of mishmash Mirele ('Mirele Efros') is." And in a review about the Kaminska's acting in America (1911) in the same role, he writes:

"In her manner, Mrs. Lipzin is a better Mirele than Madame Kaminska. Mrs. Lipzin's Mirele is not a Jewish person. Her pride, her good-humored humor, her sovereign spirit, her actual mind -- all this does not smell like Lithuania, only like Shakespeare. She is not proud like other Jews, but with a queen's lyrical pride. She goes on the stage not as a sovereign, rich Grodno or a Berdichev woman of valor, but as a queen (A queen, after all, goes after a man, too, but in classical productions, it is already accepted that a king must go with a 'classical' footprint.) But when all this is forgiven for a while, you must add that Mrs. LIpzin creates a bright figure. Let me be a classic Mirele, my father is a Mirele. She makes you cry, She instills in you all the feelings, What the author has, God in his mind awakens."

 And in his memoirs he remarks about this matter: " ... Mrs. Kaminska's natural tenor was not as successful as Mrs. Lipzin's "looks," or her impressive declamations. Speaking simply, as to a natural conversation of a living being, Mrs. Lipzin could not, but in a non-realistic manner she was a splendid artist, with her flaming temperament, with the power of imagination, with a small but effective voice, and with a remarkably clear and penetrating speech. In her technique on the stage, on the mechanical means, which help in melodramatic acting -- She was more than happy about this than were the guest-starring actresses. ... Melodrama also was the essence of her 'Mirele Efros,' but what you shouldn't say about the lack of her acting in this play, her "Mirele" was one of the most prominent figures, whic is what happened when it was created on a unique stage."

 

Keni Lipzin as "Mirele Efros"

A similar view is expressed by Leon Kobrin in his memoirs:

"Even in 'Mirele Efros,' her best role in the last years, she was also a more classical tragedienne than real-life actresses. And because of that role, in my opinion, it has little of the tone of the classical tragedy. Because of this, Lipzin has been so excellent."

L. alone has expressed herself about the role:

"I have played Mirele Efros more than 1,500 times. This is a huge thing for a performer. ... Nevertheless 'Mirele' was never overplayed. We always played it with fear, just like the first time, when Gordin sat in the loge."

On 24 September 1898 L. appeared in the Thalia Theatre in the singing role of "Yehudis" in the operetta, "Yehudis un olofernus (Judith and Holofernes)," then she guest-starred in Philadelphia and in Boston.

On 6 January 1899 she played again in New York in a new role -- "Madeleine" in Octav Mirabeau's "Di shlekhte pastukher (The Bad Shepherds)," (Years later it was published in Vilna in another Yiddish translation under the name, "Dzhan un madlena"), which Jacob Gordin has specially adapted for her. In the same year she appeared as "Esterke" in Jacob Gordin's, "Di shkhithe (The Slaughter)," which increased her popularity even more.

On 29 November 1900 she appeared in Jacob Gordin's "Di shvue (The Oath), oder, Ronye di potshtarke," which remained one of her best roles.

In October 1901 she gave seven productions in the Thalia Theatre.

On 18 October 1901 she appeared in Gordin's adaptation of "Der momzer, oder, Lukretsia bordzha (The Bastard, or Lucrezia Borgia)," by Victor Hugo.

About L.'s activity during that time, Leon Kobrin writes in his memoirs:

"These productions of her were constantly a holiday for the intelligent class of theatre attendees, and a sacred holiday for her along. In that time a few times I had the opportunity to see her as she prepared for a performance. I have never seen such a kind of preparation between actors and actresses. ... She prepared herself for a walk. Then she became quite another mistress of the house out there. She noticed nothing more in the house. No one and nothing existed for her anymore, beyond her role and her play. Her eyes once again entered another world. And she spoke only about that world, What she saw in her fantasy, and in which she became more and more engaged with her soul, with every feeling and thought you have. "God, give me strength -- she then spoke with piety in voice -- that I could break out in the role, as Gordin wrote it for me. A role! See, it's almost a whole book. three-quarters of the entire play he wrote for me, God bless his hands and his head." -- her trampled champion. She also prayed to God. That's how she felt. The rehearsals in the theatre too were altogether finished, and they vanished till she appeared."

In the 1901-02 season, L. also appeared in the Grand Theatre as "Katyusha Maslova" in Isidore Solotorefsky's "Rezurekshon (Resurrection)," a dramatization of Count [Leo] Tolstoy's novel, "Tkhies hameysim (The Resurrection of the Dead)."

In the 1902-03 season, she acted (after Berta Kalich) in Jacob Gordin's drama, "Di yesoyme (The Orphan)" (known as "Khasye di yesoyme (Chasia the Orphan)," which became one of L.'s best roles.

On 4 November 1904 L. appeared in the Thalia Theatre in the title role of David Pinski's, "Di muter (The Mother)."

In 1905  in the Thalia Theatre L. appeared as "Berta" in Jacob Gordin's "Der umbakanter (The Unknown)," and also in the role was one of the most important in her Gordin cycle.

"When Gordin wrote 'Der umbakanter' -- she expressed herself to Elihu Tenenholtz -- He abandoned the play for another Yiddish actress, except for me. When he finished reading, this actress did not want to take the play. She didn't want to play the main role 'Berta,' because 'Berta' is a hardcore girl. ... But I took pleasure in playing the 'hardcore play.' Upon reading it, I soon realized Bertan's tragedy of the unhappy, hardcore girl. It didn't even come into our minds that one must appear to the public only in 'lovely' roles. We are mainly the character, the soul of my heroines whom I play, and not the external brilliance, what is false."

On 26 November 1905 L. appeared in "Di vilde (The Wild)," by Z. Libin. At that time Michael Mintz, the husband of L., had the Thalia Theatre in New York, only for Sundays, and for an entire week the troupe used to travel around with L., to play theatre, under the direction of Edwin E. Relkin, in the province.

For the 1906-07 season L. played solidly in New York, and outside of the old repertoire, she appeared on 21 October 1905 in "Tereza raken (Therese Raquin)," by Emile Zola.

On 20 January 1907 she appeared as "Penina" in Jacob Gordin's "Oyf di berg (On the Mountains)."

In the 1907-08 season she appeared on 6 September 1907 in the Kalich (Thalia) Theatre in M.M. Dolitzky's "Di kharote (The Regret)."

On 27 September 1907 L. appeared in "Di bundistke (The Bundist)," by Kornblit.

On 28 November 1907 L. was in St. Pshibishevski's "Schnee (The Snow)" (translated by Jacob Richman, stage direction by H. Schorr).

On 5 January 1908 L. appeared as "Mary" in Leon Kobrin's "Di makht fun libe (The Power of Love),"

In April 1908 L. guest-starred in Chicago and was said to appear in Sholem Asch's drama, "Got fun nekome (God of Vengeance)" (due to an attack on the play that was presented by a local newspaper). This also motivated her desire to play: "Because the honor, what I learned from the Yiddish stage is dear to me, that I think I should get you into such an immoral play." The statement calls for her protests in the press.

In the 1908-09 season L. became the owner of the London Theatre in New York, which would be named the "Lipzin Theatre" (manager -- her husband Michael Mintz, and for the first season also Heine-Chaimowitz).

She appeared there on 19 September 1908 in "Salome" by Oscar Wilde, which was played together with Molgar's "Der tayvl (The Devil)." In the same season she appeared as "Chaya" in Isidore Solotorefsky's, "Di zinderin."

In the 1909-10 season she played in Leon Kobrin's "Di shpin (The Spider)."

On 16 September 1910 she appeared as "Hilda" in Henryk Ibsen's ""Der boymeyster solness (The Boyfriend Solness?)." About her acting in that role, Ab. Cahan writes in his review:

"Mrs. Lipzin does not appear in the role as a twenty-year old. She can't prove it. The wig of short hair, the , The dye and the costume do not help. The voice of Mirele Efros ... but not only the voice, ... faces and manners are far, far from a twenty-year old. '

In her role as Hilda, she is the same as Solness, the character in the play. She too attempts to show his youthful violence. The result is a very sad one. Overall, the play was beyond her reach. There is no trace of Hilda.

In the role of Hilda, she now comes with her for the same, What happens in the play occurs with Salnes. She tried his young adult ,and the result is quite sad, ... and the play in general is too high for her. ... for Hilda it is not. Mrs. Lipzin even cries out: 'I am a princess, I want my kingdom.' It helps, however, so little like the wig with the dye. Instead Hilda looks like a finisher (tailor), who is not young, who matures to be young."

On 30 September 1910 there was put on "Fimka di sigaretn makherin (Fimka, the Cigarette Maker)," by W.A. Trachtenberg (translated by M. Katz).

On 17 October 1910 L. was in Isidore Solotorefsky's "Kortn (Cards)."

On 24 November 1910 L. played in Russian, together with A.A. Chernov in Maxim Gorky's "Meshtshanye (Middle-Class People)."

On 15 November 1910 L. appeared in Andreyev's "Der ashmadai" (translated by M. KIatz).

On 23 December 1910 she was in M. Katz's dramatization of Count [Leo] Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina."

On 20 January 1911 she appeared as "Lilly" in Solotorefsky's "Kinder, oder, Far di elterns zind" (later called "Gedemedzhte kinder") ("Children," or, "For the Parents' Sins"; "Damaged Children.")

On 24 February 1911 she appeared as "Berta" in N. Rakow's "Di ganefte (The Shoplifter)."

On 13 April 1911 L. was in Abraham Shomer's "Oyfn yom an elis eyland (On the Sea and Ellis Island)."

And also in the same season, in Solotorefsky's "Erlekh batsolt."

In the 1911-1912 season she played Zeyfert's "Fraye libe (Free Love)," and due to the guest appearance of Ester Rokhl Kaminska in her theatre, she guest-starred in other theatres.

On 8 December 1911 L. returned to her theatre with Solotorefsky's "Di egunah (The Forsaken)."

She appeared on 26 January 1912 in Gershon Zeykin's, "Libe oder reykhtum (Love or Riches)."

On 2 April 1912 L was in Z. Kornblit's "Ir ershte zind (Her First Sin)."

The business in her theatre was bad, and Michael Mintz committed suicide on 14 April 1912. L. took a break from acting in New York and traveled once more across the province.

On 30 August 1912 L. opened her theatre again with Z. Kornblit's "Glaykhe rekhte (Equal Rights)."

On 25 September 1912 she played in Moshe Richter's, "Libende hertser (Loving Hearts)."

On 25 October 1912 L. was "The Mother" in Rakow's "Der genster (The Gangster)."

Due to illness L. took a break from acting.

She appeared again on 10 January 1913 as "Beile, the Dressmaker" in Z. Kornblit's "Dos getlekhe lid (The Divine Song)."

On 7 March 1913 she was "Rokhele" in Z. Libin's "A mames nekome (A Mother's Revenge)."

And then she traveled, under the management of Edwin A. Relkin, across the province, playing virtually only in a Gordin repertoire.

On 28 August 1914 L. began to act with Thomashefsky as "Olga" in Dymow's "Milkhome (War)."

Then she went over to play her old repertoire and, leaving Thomashefsky's troupe, she left again on a tour across the province.

On 30 March 1915 L., together with Jacob Cone, joined in under Relkin's direction in Harlem's "Lenox" Theatre, and here she appeared as "Emma" in Moshe Richter's "Ir ervakhung (Her Awakening)" (Tsu shpet"), and played with the same troupe on 22 October 1915 in Brooklyn's "Liberty" Theatre.

About that time L. expressed in an article, "The Theatre Public Here and in the Country" (in "Di varhayt" of 5 Dec. 1915):

"For the last couple of years, since the death of Michael Mintz, I have gone through a great deal. Mintz was shook up for fear of bankruptcy. I was a bad wife, but I had obtained a 'Mirle Efros" spirit in me and lived and traveled around all the cities and towns, putting on good plays, and to the cent of the ten thousand dollars owed, which Mintz had, I paid off. But now I am homeless -- without a theater of my own, and so it would play like this in good serious dramas. ... With the death of my husband, Michael Mintz, until I remained alone and lonely, And my only genus, my only happiness is just the stage. After all, I often have to sit empty for months because I don't have my own theatre, where I could express my feelings. My wish was to always have always played serious literary dramas. And I want to explain a strange thing: In the country perhaps there are more pleasant and serious plays than in new York. That I played once in the country a drama that is not highly literary (L. means Gordin's), that wants that the public should not suffer."

On 24 December 1915 L. was under Relkins' direction in the newly opened Spooner Theatre in the Bronx, where she remained for only a few days, and on 7 January 1916 she appeared again in the Liberty Theare as "Franye" in Osip Dymow's "Tsvishn felker (Among Nations?)."

On 26 May 1916 she appeared in Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre in Solotorefsky's "Dos royte likht (The Red Light)."

On 21 February 1917 in the same theatre, L. was "Fraydl" in Moshe Schorr's "Milkhome mames (War Mothers)."

Ending her stage activity, on 11 January 1918 she was in the same theatre as "Roza" in Sheine Rokhl Shimkoff's play, "A nomen nokh der mamen (A Name After Your Mother)."

In 1917 L. twice was operated on, and despite the prohibitions of the doctors, she was further in a sick condition, playing until in the middle of 1918. In July 1918 the actor Elihu Tenenholtz, on the basis of conversations with her, detailed in "Di varhayt" several episodes of her life. The last days of her illness, she was unconscious.

On 28 September 1918 L. passed away and was buried in Washington Cemetery in New York. Her funeral was a large one, but the only one who considered a eulogy was Abraham Shomer.

Her rich collection of received gifts came from her family, the theatre that had carried her name, the "Lipzin Theatre,"
soon after her departure from there, ended and changed to the People's Theatre, but the name Lipzin remained in the memories of the Yiddish theatre public in America, which thought of her until today as one of the most important Yiddish actresses, and virtually the only tragedienne on the Yiddish stage.

About her last years at the theatre, Lead Pencil (B. Botwinik) writes: "When she became old and ill, she became lonely.  Her 'Velvele,' her husband was gone long ago. Every patriot (fan) of hers had gone away, and she became cranky, nervous and superstitious. She used to faint while playing when they didn't give her so quickly a wig or a dress. She used to create scandals when they used to give her a small booklet with a blue book cover. Red is lucky -- so she had claimed. That she used to become ill if her performance was not attended, She used to claim that she had been given an evil eye. When David Kessler several days before her passing, she said to him: 'You know, Kessler, it's not good. I'm finished. They gave me an evil eye, and there's no one to scare me.' ... For the last year, she had not even played for non-visited houses. She would lapse into spasms, she used to faint and scream heartbreakingly. Her funeral was not as big as she deserved. Her last production was not strongly attended ... The mortician, who had prepared the funeral, had told us: ' ... They didn't let me execute her request, But she died with the belief that her funeral would be with a large tarot and with six horses. Ye, with six horses in length -- so she wished -- I was very friendly with her. Sometimes she thought, So I'm her 'Shlomo' (Mirele Efros' employee). ... She called me to her sick bed and said to me, 'Please, Sigmund, you are an honest man, and I pray that you will promise me that for my funeral there will be a big parade. Six horses should lead my hearse. Listen, Sigmund, two in a lane leading my hearse, three pair of horses and beautiful, fine horses, should lead me down Second Avenue. This is what I want. ... She had barely spoken then.  With her last bit of strength she spoke to me with an official tone, just as she would have played 'Mirele Efros.' "

About her role in the Yiddish theatre world, B. Gorin writes:

"Around the theatre circles it has been said that Mrs. Lipzin did not know how to read and write, but that wasn't right. It is difficult to say when she learned to read and write. It is incredible to believe that this had happened, when she had already played on stage. However, it is certain that she did not have any elementary education. ... But the circumstance does not speak against her. She had, with her own power, with her inborn talent, reached the top of the Yiddish theatre, and throughout the year she was its queen. ... She reached for her greatest greatness in the second half of the nineties, just when she was removed from Yiddish theatre. It goes without saying that it also helped a lot, what she did in the past few years was to become a small repertoire of Gordin's best plays, and that she could only afford to play in the better dramas. In those years she was the only recognized tragedienne in Yiddish theatre, with whom the intelligentsia had counted. Although, then, Mrs. Lipzin played with us. And to the highest level, she made amends when she performed in 'Mirele Efros.' As to her fame, to the actress came the great earnings, What a thank you, the better drama got some support on the stage. She began to play better pieces, on her own account at a time when the better drama shook off her struggle. This was in the middle of the nineties, When Adler gave up his small theatre, where from time to time they used to play better pieces, and it it no longer remains, who should settle for the better drama. In that time Mrs. Lipzin began to appear (only act, because the plays had been staged by Adler, Gordin, Kessler, Max Rosenthal, et al). One better drama after the second, and they all more and more brought in the greater masses. In that way, she not only kept the better public that was created for her, but it greatly enlarged the audience, and when the other actors got back to the better drama, they already found much better conditions than they had left before.

"Mrs. Lipzin regarded the better dramas with a special love, which was not noticed by the other actors, and you were alien to the craziness that others often pointed out to them. She honored the author, and every word that the author had written, were sacred to her. She was very proud of the fact that she played the better plays, just as they were written, and no jealousy divided the kingdom from the stage with the author. ... It may be that when she was tied up with the periodic productions, which she had given for a number of years, it was that she remained much longer in her greatness because she performed one play a year. She was better able to play with her role, and she had the opportunity to play a piece that might be beyond her powers, But she did not understand her usual (simple) situation, and it drew her to her own theatre, to be a master of the whole season. And her star went down when she got a theatre for herself.

"When she needed to play in her own theatre every day, there could not be any talk about taking on a role, and even less about choosing a play. Now they could no longer know if such a play matched her skills. The most important question was if such a play would be good for the box office. Fidgeting and chaos began to enter into her career.

It sounded right, that one week Ibsen's 'Boymeister (The Master Builder)' should be played in one week, and in the second week Solotorefsky's 'Vayse shklafin (White Slaves),' and here it was immediately obvious that she had shortcomings in her acting.

"Mrs. Lipzin was a difficult actress, with a leaning for melodrama, and in the eighties and nineties, This type of play was strongly accepted in the Yiddish theatres, and all the stars on the Yiddish stage played it so. Mrs. Lipzin had a sense of naturalness, and that lifted her to a higher level. But that sense helped her in the better plays that were in her strengths. But when she, for example, fell into a 'Master Builder' role, she immediately expressed her mental impotence, and when she began to play such pieces as 'White Slave,' her inclination to melodramatics found itself in her element. And on the Yiddish street a new kind of play appeared, and gradually, gradually, Mrs. Lipzin took a backseat to the background. In recent years she has not taken any important place on stage. For several years she found no resting place in New York, she had not paid much attention to herself. Over the years, her only solace remained the little retelling of the better plays that she had acquired in the nineties, and when she played "Mirele Efros," she still felt like the queen of the stage."

Abe Cahan writes about her:

"An obvious figure in the Yiddish theatre lives, generally, and in the Gordin group, especially there was Mrs. Lipzin. When she appeared on the stage (in Adler's troupe, in Jewish Russia), she was an absolute ignorant woman; and who became acquainted with the written word, that she remained. Someone had to read her roles for her. However, this did not hinder her from developing and reaching a high level as a stage actress. She had character, a fiery temperament, and a strong dramatic feeling. In her acting one felt more melodrama than drama, but all the time there was sway and vigor. ... She had less than temperamental power. ... Mrs. Lipzin has always claimed ... to develop a proper role with the various strands of the reality -- this wasn't one of her skills. However, she had already been acclaimed, and her temperament has shown itself on the stage to be graceful and very impressive."

And Joel Entin:

" ... She has always been romantic, A lot of fantasy and eternity strive for young, beauty, power and glory. Her soul has always striven for unconsciousness, always do this to exalt, the mouse to hurry up. A beautiful face, wonderful eyes, a lovely figure, a soft, delicate sounding voice, and a non-existent glint, softness and femininity until her last days. ... She isn't and she doesn't want to be realistic. ... She doesn't speak, but she sings, always singing, always with a uniqueness that belongs to her alone, fantastically fervent, someone from Shabse Zvi's times, the expected cadence ... The deceased has a lot of joy, a treasure with passion that is germane, and she has to let it out completely. ... Madame Lipzin has, below the stage, Jewish beauty, a gluttony-type passion, a powerful and transient lyrical romanticism. Her acting is a rare synthesis of power and beauty, of drama and poetry. "

Leon Kobrin tells about her:

"When she was on stage with the gentile nations and the more educated, she would certainly occupy one of the first places there among the famous artists of classical tragedy. Who knows, she might well have been a second. ... A remarkable husband was in her home. Every corner there shone bright and clean. Everything had to lie and stand in its place. The small disorder there soon caught her eye. ... she did not easily appear in her scene, the guests knew to talk to her about everything in the world. Although totally unsupervised, she had an incredible native intelligence, and with understanding even talked about things, who had no affinity with her art. But most of all she liked to talk about her business. She has not been compared to our other famous actresses, like the former Sara Adler, Mrs. Kalich, or Bessie Thomashefsky, but in her appearance she had something that was once more than beauty -- character, uniqueness. Wherever she was found, among whom she did not sit with, one had to notice the little dark woman with the characteristically gypsy face and the big characteristically sad eyes. ... you have always felt free, healthier laughter from our other famous actresses. Lipzin's laughter was always mixed in with a tragic tenor. Therefore, none of those three actresses could laugh as hysterically as she could. There, where the laughter was to be a joyous and a fiery one, but she had to cry out her despair and laughter -- There was no equal to her: such laughter came from her with such natural force, like a stream of fountain. She had many admirers, but the biggest admirer of hers ... who simply forgot about her, was her own husband, Michael Mintz."

Another portrayal comes from the actor Morris Moshkovitch, who played together with her year-round:

"Just as strong and great as were the acting talents of Kessler, Feinman, Adler and Mogulesco, so weak was Mrs. Lipzin's talent. Everything used to come out melodramatic. You laugh, you weep, you cry. Her speech on the stage was always artificial and rare when natural, and one used to wonder how such a weak woman could exert so much effort. But Mrs. Lipzin had ... a significant role played both on the stage and behind the stage. This is only because Adler did not even want to give his own wife the "opportunity," and he always put her in a corner, and she had to play second fiddle to him. ... Lipzin, after all, was more popular than Kalich, and she considered herself a bigger actress. Even in her most vile roles, Mrs. Lipzin does not produce anything original. She used to play only when Gordin read it to her, and somehow she added nothing to it. In the face of ignorance, she and Kessler were like twins. They were both unable to read and write. They both lacked the native intelligence and the familiarity with the stage in general, except for the Yiddish.

She only distinguished herself from Kessler in that she used to look at Kessler from above, Not just on his side of the stage, but even on writers and playwrights, She used to Mrs. Lipzin simply venerated people with education and intelligence. Well, Gordin responded: By Mrs. Lipzin, in her eyes, there is no one greater than Gordin if he had not been in the world. He was her God and she wanted that all may serve him and praise him. But she also despised and valued every one who possessed education and intelligence. She had a temper that found its strongest expression in her big, expressive eyes, What used to make it almost impossible for the audience, however, was that even her eyes used to be his opaque, and her temperament, hen she used to be in a good, no-nonsense mood, And bringing out the temperament with much fire, they would interrogate it and incite her to anger. But then she could own and bring out her temper, and when she used to have to perform in a responsible role (and she always had such roles), one would already find some reason to bring her into an angry state before going on stage, so that she could be disturbed, which would bring out her temper; and the best and most delicious means of getting her into anger was her own doing -- Michael Mintz. No one could so easily indulge her as he did. Because of a word, with a look or a look of it, she would soon be out of patience, and she used to catch on fire, so she would be kept in her in an agitated mood until after the performance, When you used to make, when they used to make themselves available."


M.E. from Jacob Katzman, S. Sonyes, Vitali Malvina, Abraham Fishkind, Reuben Weissman and Zaynvil Shenkman.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of the Yiddish Theatre," Vol. 1, pp. 213-15; Vol. 2, pp. 49, 51-52; 135-36; 159-60, 205.

  • Duber Steinhart -- Uriel akosta, "Di tsukunft," London, 48, 1886.

  • Morris Rosenfeld -- Getlikhe kinst in thalia theater, "Der folksadvokat," N.Y., 9 May 1890.

  • Theater kritikerker -- Yudishe kinstler, "Der folksadvokat," N.Y., 22 August 1890.

  • Elkhasnador Harkavy -- Derbora in vindzor, "Der folksadvokat," N.Y., 26 January 1894.

  • ( --) -- Di yidishe kenigin lier, "Der teglikher herald," N.Y., 21 August 1898.

  • Kh. Aleksandrov -- "Di muter," "Der arbeyter," N.Y., 12, 19 Nov. 1904.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Gordin's "mirele efros," "Forward," N.Y., 210, 11 March 1908.

  • W. -- A mhumh vegen "got fun nekome," "Forward," N.Y., 26 April 1908.

  • (--) -- "Got fun nekome," un di nekome far "Got" in shikago, dort.

  • L. Elbe -- Vi azoy madam liptsin in gevorn an akterise, "Di theater velt," N.Y., December 1908.

  • Hutchins Hapgood -- "The Spirit of the Ghetto," New York, Funk & Wagnalls Comp., 1909, pp. 113-76.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Ibsens "boymeister" in Liptsin theater, "Forward," N.Y.,  21 Sept. 1910.

  • D.B. (Sh. Yanovsky) -- In theater, "Fraye arbeter shtime," N.Y., 24 Sept. 1910.

  • D.B. -- In theater, "Fraye arbeter shtime," N.Y.,  1 Oct. 1910.

  • A.K. (Cahan) -- Ver iz a besere "mirele efros" madam liptsin oder madam kaminski?, "Forward," N.Y., 9 Dec. 1911.

  • Keni Lipzin -- Dos theater-publikum do un in kontry, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 5 Dec. 1915.

  • David Kessler -- Der ershter yidisher aktiorn stryk, Der tog," N.Y., 18 March 1917.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- 40 yor oyf der bine, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 29 Sept. 1917.

  • Bessie Thomashefsky -- "Mayn lebens-geshikhte," N.Y., 1918, p. 160.

  • E. Tenenholtz -- A bezukh bay madam keni liptsin in ir eynzamen kranken-tsimer, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 31 July 1918.

  • E. Tenenholtz -- Madam liptsin shildert interesante epizodn un veyzt ir merkvirdige bilder galery, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 1 August 1980.

  • J. Entin -- Zi hot unzer lebn bashent, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 30 Sept. 1918.

  • B. Gorin -- Keni liptsin, "Morning Journal," N.Y., 30 Sept., 6 Oct. 1918.

  • B. Botwinik -- Di fershtorbene akterise madam liptsin, "Forward," N.Y., 1 Oct. 1918.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Madam liptsin erfolg oyf der bine, "Fraye arbeyter shtime," N.Y., 1 Oct. 1918.

  • J. Entin -- Mad. liptsin oyftrit oyf der yidisher bine, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 1918.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- Erinerungen vegn madam keni liptsin, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 3 Oct. 1918.

  • Lead Pencil (B. Botwinik) -- Di tragedye fun "khasye di yesoyme," "Forward," N.Y., 4 Oct. 1918.

  • D.B. -- In theater, "Fraye arbeter shtime," N.Y., 5 Oct. 1918.

  • J. Entin -- Zi lebt "di varhayt," N.Y., 6 Oct. 1918.

  • J. Entin -- Madam liptsin un di goldene epokhe fun yidishn theater in amerika, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 13 Oct. 1918.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- A "shtarker" shlos-akt fun lebn geshpilt fun madam liptsin oyf'n gas, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 9 Nov. 1918.

  • Lead Pencil -- Meshues fun yidishn theater, "Forward," N.Y., 10 Jan. 1919.

  • M. Zeyfert -- Ltuldus htiturn hihudi, "Lukh akhiebr," N.Y., "Trp-a," pp. 137-38.

  • Jacob Grinfeld -- Vi azoy ikh bin areyn in ganeydn (Yidishe teater," editor -- Elihu Tenenholtz, N.Y., 1923.)

  • Leon Kobrin -- "Erinerungen fun a yidishn dramataturg," N.Y., 1925, Vol. I, pp. 145-154.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Yakov p. adler's memoarn, "Der amerikaner," N.Y., 27, 1926.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- "Leksin fun yidishn teater" (prospekt), N.Y., 1928, p. 15.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- A muster fun a teater-leksik0n, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 28, 1928.

  • Ab. Cahan -- "In di mitele yorn," N.Y., 1928, pp. 352-353, 547.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- In iri mut-kedoyshm a mnhg oder a din, "Fraye arbeter shtime," N.Y., 22 Nov. 1929.

  • Y.L. Fein -- Di lebens geshikhter fun dem yidish-englishn shoyshpiler moris moshkovitsh, "Forward," N.Y., 26 Dec. 1929.

  • M. Osherowitch -- Di ershte tsvey yidishe teaters in amerika un di bitere konkurents zayere, "Forward," N.Y., 20 Nov. 1930.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- (series of articles about Lipzin), "Unzer ekspres," Warsaw, 26 May, 4, 11, 19, 23 June 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 1108.
 

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