Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Jacob Mestel


M. was born in 25 February 1884 in Zlotshev, Galicia, to not well-to-do parents: craftsmen on his father's side and businessmen on his mother's side. A close relative to the family Margulies -- Berl Broder. Until the age of thirteen he learned in a cheder and in a folk- and birger (citizen) school.

In Lemberg he finished the Polish-Ukrainian teacher's seminary and entered as a teacher in the Lemberg hoypt (main/central) school, where he remained until 1907; he studied philosophy at the same time in Lemberg and later in Vilna's university. In Vienna in 1908 he finished the officer school as an aspiring cadet, and in 1908-9 was again a teacher in Lemberg.

While in the folkshul M. performed in Polish in the role of "the father" in a dramatization for children by Adam Mickiewicz's "Powrót taty", and he participated in the children's chorus of the local Polish theatre. Later, as a student, M. was director and also acted in Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew in various dramatic student circles with the aspiration of becoming a professional actor.

M. was imbued with the Yiddish trends of that time (especially after the Czernowitz conference). In the 1909-10 season, M. entered into the Vienna Yiddish Stefanie Theatre (Dir. -- Ziegler -- Podzamce), where he acted and directed until 1913 in the winter season in Vienna, and during the summer with the same troupe (besides the summer of 1912 with Aschkenazy in Iasi) in


Marienbad, Franzensbad, Czernowitz, Prague, Leipzig, and across the German and Austrian provinces. Under the influence of M. and of the Yiddish-Hebrew writer Isik Lubetski, there were performed then in that troupe for the first time the plays of Gordin, Asch, Hirshbein et al.

In 1913-14 M. acted in Berlin (Dir. -- Loresko-Klug), and in the summer of 1914 in Iasi (Dir. -- A. Aschkenazy-Joseph Kessler) and across the Rumanian province.

During the outbreak of war M. entered into the Austro-Hungarian army as an officer, where there was fighting on various fronts, and several times he was wounded, given medals and he served to reach the rank of over-lieutenant.

After the demobilization (1918) M. returned to Vienna, where he entered into the state "academy for direction and acting arts", while at the same time running a course on Yiddish literature for the "Poaeli Zion", helping to organize the "Der fraye yidishe folksbine (The Free Jewish People's Theatre)", where he soon became the artistic leader, director and actor, and he founded at the same time the first Yiddish dramatic school in Vienna.

In July 1920 M. traveled to America, where he soon was engaged as an actor and regisseur (theatrical/stage director) at Philadelphia's Arch Street Theatre (Director -- Anshel Schorr-Gruber).

For the 1921-23 season M. took over the artistic leadership of the theatre and still remained there as an actor for the 1922-23 season under the direction of Anshel Schorr.

In 1923 M. entered into Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theatre, where he acted until 1926, helping to arrange their European tour in 1924, as both an actor and artistic representative of the Art Theatre. He also had the opportunity to participate in Vienna in the film "Yizkor" by Sackler.

In the summer of 1926 M. made a tour as regisseur and art manager for Jacob Ben-Ami's guest appearances across the American and Canadian provinces, staging with Ben-Ami "Alt heydelberg (Old Heidelburg)", Zhulavski's "Sabtai zvi", et al.

In 1926-27 M. was engaged at the "Dos naye yidishe kunst teater" (Irving Place Theatre) as an actor and regisseur, and there (together with Yevreynov and Ben-Ami) staged Leivick's "Shop" and Golsvoyrt's "Gerektikayt".

In 1925 M. took over the leadership of the "Frayhayt" dramatic studio (see "Artef" in "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre, Vol. 1, p. 92). Then he left the professional theatre and dedicated himself fully to studio work (besides guest-starring in the Art Theatre in Sholem Aleichem-Berkovitsh's "Gol-greber (Gold Diggers)" in 1927, and as guest-director for B. Eppelbaum's "Gerangal" for the Vilna Troupe in 1928), he being the director, teacher and regisseur, with the production of B. Shteyman's trilogy "Beym toyer" (stage text and direction by M.), when the studio became transformed into an actors' collective "Artef". M. also had the opportunity to stage for several other worker dramatic circles and joined for the summer season of 1928 and 1929 the experimental "Nit gedeyget" theatre in [kemp] "Nit gedeyet", performance magical scenes and one-acters of M. Nadir, F. Marish, Novik, Bucjwald, Fenster et al, staging for a short time also with the second "Artef" studio (also having the opportunity to teach diction in M. Elkin's children theatre).

In 1929 M. entered Schwartz's "Yiddish Art Theatre" where he acted until 1931, going on tour (in the summer of 1930) with the "Art Theatre troupe" (Jacob Ben-Ami) during their tour in California.

In the summer of 1931 M. was regisseur and art representative for Ben-Ami's guest appearances across Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil where among other things he translated and stage directed Langer's "Periferye" ("Mord"). Then he entered in New York into the "Yiddish Ensemble Art Theatre" (Civic Repertory Theatre) in which he was also the regisseur (together with L. Sniegov, for V. Ivanov's "Der gepantserter tsug" (Yiddish -- M. Osherowitz).

In 1932 M. again was with the Yiddish Art Theatre, and in the summer of 1932 he was again the regisseur for Jacob Ben-Ami's guest appearances across the United States and Canada, and in the same year he was regisseur in New York's "Mecca Temple" (together with Joseph Buloff) for the production of the first act of David Pinski's "Rev-Arb-Kom".

In 1932-33 he was the director of the Yiddish theatres in Toronto and Montreal (Canada), where he acted and was regisseur in mixed repertoire, staging at the same time in both Yiddish and English dramatic circles of the leftist Worker's Movement.

M. in 1919 participated in Vienna in the German film "Der gekreytsikte yude", and in 1924 was in the Yiddish film "Yizkor" by H. Sackler (with New York's "Yiddish Art Theatre"), in 1927 in New York in the film " East Side Sadie", in 1932 in the Yiddish sound-film "Uncle Moses" (according to Sholem Asch), and he wrote the dialogue (and co-acted) in the Yiddish talkie "A Yiddish Daughter", according to Karl Emil Franzos' novel "Yehudis trakhtenberg".

In 1921 he was taken in as a member of the Yiddish Actors Union. M in the span of several years was a member and Secretary of the union's Executive Board.

In 1903 he began his literary activity, when M. published since then many songs, essays, critiques and publicities in various periodic editions in Europe and America. M also had written very much about the theatre in general, and about Yiddish especially in the "Archive of Yiddish Theatre", in the "YIVO bleter", "Lit. bleter" and in the "Morgen-frayhayt".

As to his published books, especially popular was his "War Notes from a Jewish Officer" (published by Brzoza, Warsaw, 1924 -- 3 editions), which were translated into German and Hungarian. In 1921 M. published a book of dramatic poems, "Dmyunut" ("A dur", "Oyku", "Glgulim", self-published?, Vienna-New York, 1921), and in 1928 a book named "Soldatn un payatz-lider" (publisher, Brzoza, Warsaw, p. 278), in which were portrayed scenes on or about the stage. M. also finished and published a handbook of Yiddish diction.

In 1921 M. staged in Vilna's Stefanie Theatre his comedy "Mir shvakhe fun en", and in 1913 under the pseudonym "Eumr" his operetta "Der shabas-goy" (music by L. Graf), which also was performed in Warsaw as "Der shabat-farriner".

M. translated Arnold Zweig's "Semels zendung", Shenher's "Kinder-tragedye", Veyde's "_ata Morgana", Langer's "Periferye" ("Mord"), and Feuchtwanger's "Jew Suss" (staged by Samuel Goldenberg and Jacob Ben-Ami).

M. co-edited the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre". With his brother, Itzhak, he acted on the Yiddish and German stage. His brother Meir acted in the Yiddish theatre in Lemberg.

Sh. E. from Sarah Kindman.

  • Zalmen Reyzen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature", Vol. II, pp. 458-61.

  • B. -- Von der jüdischen bühne, "Dr. Bloch's Wochenschrift", Vienna, 29 December 1911.

  • Robert Stricke -- Im jüdischen Theater, "Jüdischer Zeitung", Vienna, 8 March 1912.

  • M. N. -- Funt vilner yudishen teater, Togblat, Lemberg, 13 March 1912.

  • Dr. K. -- Yudish teater in vien, "Der so tzyaldem okrat", Lemberg, 22 March 1912.

  • [--] -- Der shabat-ferdiner, "Heynt", Warsaw, 11 August 1913.

  • Ab Zmn -- A geshprakh mit yakov mestel, der literarisher direktor fun artsh str. teater, "Idishe velt", Philadelphia, August 1920.

  • A. L. Yakubovitsh -- A liebe misterye, "Neyer heynt", Warsaw, 20 January 1922.

  • A. L, Yakubovitsh -- Entbloyzte simbolik, "Neyer heynt", Warsaw, 24 January 1922.

  • B. Rosenzweig -- Dimjojnes (Fantazje) Jakoba Mestel, "Chwila", Lwow, 23/4, 1923.

  • Dr. M. Bienenstock -- Jakoba Mestel "Dimjojnes", "Na z Przeglad", Warsaw, 30/9, 1923.

  • Dr. M. Bienenstock -- Jakov Mestel: "Dimyunut" from Yakov Mestel, "Literarishe bleter", Warsaw, 45, 1924.

  • Y. Shpigel -- "Dmyunut" fun yakov mestel, "Tagblat", Lemberg, N' 127, 1924.

  • Dr. Anzelm Kleynman -- Yakov mestel (tsulib zeyn neyem bukh "dmyunut"), "Di tsayt", New York, 1925.

  • Jacob Kirshenbaum -- Yakov mestel, der itstiker shoyshpiler hot gedint in feldmarshal hindenburg's army, "Di idishe velt", Cleveland, 8 May 1925.

  • Jacob Mestel -- Proletarish teater, "Literarishe bleter", Warsaw, 86, 1925.

  • Holder Jozsef -- Jakob Mestel a Kolto, a Szinesz, az Ember -- "Mult es Jovo, Budapest-Wien-Berlin", February, 1926.

  • F. Viernik -- "Y. Mestel: "Soldaten-un payatsen-lider", "Morning Journal", N. Y., 10 March 1928.

  • Mlkh Ravitsh -- Tsen poetn un paetlekh, "Folks-tsaFreyytung", Warsaw, 16 November 1928.

  • N. Bukhvald -- Mir hoybn on, "Frayhayt", 17 November 1928.

  • R. Yukelmon -- Greyt um ekzamen, "Freyeht", 14 December 1928.

  • A. M. Mandelbaum -- Unzer groyser ntskhun, "Frayhayt", 14 December 1928.

  • David Manievitsh -- Dos neye royte kind, "Frayhayt", 20 December 1928.

  • M. Algin -- Inzer yunger proletarysher teater, "Frayhayt", 21 December 1928.

  • Yamb -- Y. mestel's "soldatn-in payatsn-lider", L. A., "Idisher buletin", L. A., 1928.

  • Jacob Mestel -- Meyne interesante momenten oyf der bine, "Der tog", N. Y., 5 April 1929.

  • Jacob Mestel -- Zkhrunut fun etlikhe tsvantsig yohr tsurik, "Der morgen", Lemberg, 25 April, 1929.

  • Moshe Gros -- Drey yubilarn, "Literarishe bleter" Warsaw, 8 June 1930.

  • G. -- Yakov mestel, "Der shpigl", Buenos Aires, 21 May 1931.

  • Zh. -- A shmues mit yankev mestel, "Di prese", Buenos Aires, 22 May 1931.

  • R. -- A shmues mitn shriftshteler un rezhisor yakov mestel, "Id. tsayt", Buenos Aires, 22 May 1931.

  • A. T-Sh. -- A shmues mit yakov mestel, "Pnim'er un pnim lakh", Buenos Aires, 29 May 1931.

  • V. -- Yakov mestel vegn maurice schwartz un ben ami, "Teater in kino", Buenos Aires, 5 June 1931.

  • N. Tsuker -- Lkbud yakov mestel, "Der kundas", Buenos Aires, 5 June 1931.

  • Dr. L. Zhitnitski -- Yankev mestel, der dikhter fines mentsh, vos darf zign, "Di prese", Buenos Aires, June 1931.

  • Dr. L, Zhitnitski -- "Mord" ("Periferye" -- di rezhi un yankev mestel), "Di prese", Buenos Aires, 26 July 1931.

  • Shmuel Rozhanski -- "Periferye", ("Mord"), oyfgefirst durkh y. mestel, a groyser kinstlerisher spektakl, "Di idishe tsaytung", Buenos Aires, 26 July 1931.

  • T. Beylin -- Di vert fun rezhi un yankev mestel der rezhisar, "Di prese", Buenos Aires, July 1931.

  • B. Y. Goldstein -- Tsi veyst ir az -- "Fraye arbayter shtime", N. Y., 27 July 1931.

  • Dr. L. Zhitnitski -- Yankev mestel, "Di prese", Buenos Aires, 31 July 1931.

  • K. -- "Periferia", "Mundo Israelita", Buenos Aires, 1 August 1931.

  • Sh. R. -- Yakov mestel, "Di idishe tsaytung", Buenos Aires, 3 August 1931.

  • Sh. Rozhanski -- Der impozater teater-akt in "neuva" tsum ehren-ovend fun yakov mestel, "Di idishe tsaytung", Buenos Aires, 5 August 1931.

  • Dr. L. Zhitnitski -- Yankev mestel -- der shoyshpiler, "Di prese", Buenos Aires, 7 August 1931.

  • T. Beylin -- Notitsn un bamerkungen, "Di prese", Buenos Aires, 7 August 1931.

  • T. Beylin -- Iz epes geblibn?, Buenos Aires, 25 September 1931.

  • A. Bergman -- Yakov ben ami un yakov mestel, "Di idishe prese", Rio de Janeiro, 163, 1931.

  • Critico -- Jacob Mestel Fala do Teatro Judeu, "Diario Nacional", Sao Paolo, 10 October 1921.

  • Sh. Mbinzon -- Der onhoyb  fun dem idishn teater-sezan, "Der idisher zhurnal", Toronto, 28 September 1932.

  • Y. Rabinovitsh -- Di velt fun teater, "Keneder odler", Montreal, 23 November 1932.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1369.

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