Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Michal Michalesko


Born on 26 November 1888 in Kovalovka, Kherson Gubernia, Ukraine. Father -- a scholar, a man of great distinction, sitting on heavy maintenance(?). Due to the early death his parents, M. was raised by his grandfather, a manager of land given their town.

He learned in a cheder until age nine in Kovalovka, then went with his grandfather to Krivoy Rog, where he learned Jewish studies and Russian for two years with a special rabbi. At age eleven he arrived in Nikolayev to relatives, and here for a short time learned in a cheder, then in the city school, but soon he became an employee in various shops.

As a child he had an alto voice, and even though he liked the cantors, he was geshemt zikh to become a choir boy. After an initial encouragement, he began to sing on High Holidays with cantors, and herein became a constant choir boy.

At the age of twelve he played "Joseph" in the play "Joseph and his Brothers" in a private home with the local "amateurs".

He was heard by a musician during a singing lesson in the Russian evening school, and through him M. then entered into the chorus of the local Russian musical school that staged "Romeo and Julia". But as a means of a livelihood, he broke away from his lessons and became busy with various artisans. After participating as "Bar Kochba" in an "amateur production", he was taken into a guest-starring Yiddish troupe of Zhitomirski, with whom he debuted in a nava book as "Amerikaner" in Lateiner's "Sarah shayndl", and "Markus" in Goldfaden's "Di kishufmakherin".

A year later he went over to the troupe of Mishurat, then to Sabsey, Sharavner, Spivakovski-Krause and Sam Adler, where he acted in roles for Resinyor (sp), as he second lover and character-comic.

1903-09 -- acted with Kompaneyets in Warsaw's Muranov Theatre.

1909-12 -- again toured across Russia, with the troupes of Zhitomirski, Sharavner, and finally with Kompaneyets in Yekaterinoslav.

1912 -- returned to Poland, where he acted in Kaminski's theatre as the first role player, performing as "Gedalyahu" in Lateiner's "Destruction of Jerusalem", and then in Thomashefsky's "Di neshama fun mayn folk", in which he now caught the attention of Warsaw's Jewish theatre audience and hereupon became engaged to Zandberg in Lodz's "Grand Theatre", in which he performed besides the Yiddish operettas, the European operettas such as "Eva", "Shonshanah di tsnueh" et al.

In the first days of the World War, he acted in the "Grand Theatre" (Direction: Adler-Serotsky), then for a certain time in the Polish province.

1916 -- guest-starred in Warsaw's Kaminski Theatre, where he directed Vaksman-Adler's "Di shayne berta", and became engaged in the newly--build Central Theatre, performing erefnung in Osip Dymov's "Yoshke the Musician", then in I. L. Wohlman's "Der shtroyener almn", and in a range of European operettas, such as "Di tsardash-firshtin", "Fashingsfee", "Gri-gri", "Di dolar-printesin", "Maydl-mark", "Di kenigin fun der luft", et al.

The greatest portion of these operettas was staged by M. in the theatre in which there also acted the actresses of the German stage, such as Pina Serbi, Mitzi Hoppe, Irena Velish and Fritzi Arko, which existed until 1920, and the productions of these European operettas in the Yiddish tongue were from the interesting and successful in history of Yiddish theatre in Poland.

1920 -- engaged for London, however he didn't perform there and went to America, where he arrived on 5 September 1920.

1920-21 season -- engaged in Boris Thomashefsky's National Theatre and performed in "Di tsardash-firshtin", "Shoshanah di tsnueh" and "Di shayne berta".

1921-22 season -- in the same theatre, performed in the title role of "Der vanderer" (with Rudolf Schildkraut), debuting in a dramatic role. In the same season, he acted in the operetta "Lebedik un fraylekh".

1922-24 -- engaged in Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre (manager -- Joseph Edelstein), where he directed and acted in the first roles in "Kluge froyen" (adapted according to "Prof." Horowitz, "Khokhems nisht"). Siegel-Rumshinsky's "Di amerikaner rebetsin", L. Freiman's "Shtarker fun libe" and Freiman-Rumshinsky's operetta "Di goldene kallah".

1924-26 -- engaged as a star in the Liberty Theatre (manager: William Rolland), where he directed and acted in the main roles in the Freiman-Secunda operetta "Zise libe", S. H. Kon's melodrama "Aleyn in der velt", S. H. Kon and Avraham Naumov's "Nokhn shturt", Freiman-Secunda's operetta "Studentn-libe", which was performed for twenty-two weeks consecutively, the operetta "Der goldener soldat", the melodrama "Libe iz shtarker fun gezets", and completed the season with the staging of "Studentn-libe" in Philadelphia's Yiddish theatre.

1926-28 -- manager (together with Elias Glickman) in the Yiddish theatre in Chicago, and there renewed the productions of the last season in New York and staged Freiman's operettas "Senorita" and "Der kavkazer khasun".

1928-29 -- engaged as a star in the newly founded Brooklyn Rolland Theatre, where he directed on 25 September 1928 L. Freiman-Sh. Secunda's operetta "Dos lid fun libe", on 28 November 1928 Freiman-Secunda's "Der odeser khasun", and on 21 December 1928 Freiman-Secunda's "Senorita". The melodrama "Zayn farshpilte velt", 21 February 1929 William Siegel's "Hertser fargesn nit", and several Goldfaden operettas.

Summer 1929 -- M. made a visit to Europe and had in June given several guest appearances in a Paris Yiddish theatre.

1929-30 -- star in New York's National Theatre (manager -- Jacob Jacobs), where he directed on 14 October 1929 and acted in the main roles in Avraham Blum-Olshanetsky's "Di eyntsike nakht", then -- Meir Schwartz-Olshanetsky's "Mazel in libe", on 24 January 1930 -- Chaim Tauber's "Dos goldene ringele", and completed the season with the guest role in the greater provincial cities.

1930-31 -- manager in the Bronx's Prospect Theatre, where he directed and acted in the main role in Avraham Blum-Olshanetsky's "Zayn letster tants", "Avraham Blum's "Ikh vil a kind", and a melodrama "Der gedemedzshter man".

1931 -- began to direct (together with Louis Goldberg) the New York Public Theatre, which opened with Alexander Granach's derfolglozn performance, soon thereafter M. was to direct Freiman-Olshanetsky's operetta "Di dray farlibte", but the theatre closed. M. toured in guest-roles across the American province, and then he went to guest-star in Argentina.

1932-33 -- engaged as a star in Brooklyn's Rolland theatre, where he directed Freiman-Rumshinsky's operetta "Dos lid fun israel", William Siegel's melodrama "Der dank fun kinder", and prepared  Kalmanowitz-Rumshinsky's operetta "Ven ikh bin raykh".

In the span of his acting in America, M. also had various opportunities to perform as "Hershele Dubrovner" in Gordin's "God, Man and Devil", as "Hamlet" by Shakespeare, "Shloimke sharlatan" by Gordin, and "Di bobe yakhne" by Goldfaden.

M. E.

  • Gimel un bays -- Ver zaynen di dray naye idishe aktyoren?, "Forward", N. Y., 1 October 1920.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Importirte operetes un dramen far unzere hige theatere, "Forward", N. Y., 1 October 1920.

  • M. Osherowitz -- Di troyerige lebens-geshikhte fun dem lustigen komiker mikhalesko, "Forward", N. Y., 11 March 1921.

  • M. Grim -- Der import fun eyrope, "Fraye arbayter shtime", N. Y., 12 March 1921.

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum -- Mikhal mikhalesko als filzaytiger shoyshpiler, "Rolland Theatre Journal", N. Y., 1928.

  • Michal Michalesko -- Mayn interesantster moment oyf der idisher bihne, "Der tog", N. Y., 25 January 1929.

  • Spectator [N. Frank] -- Mikhal mikhalesko als sinorita in "pali dramatik", "Parizer haynt", 27 June 1929.

  • Norman J. Ginsburg -- "His First Kiss" Charming Operetta, featuring Michal Michalesko at Arch Street Theatre, 22 April 1931, Philadelphia, "Di idishe velt".

  • Anshel Schorr -- Blumen far mikhal mikhalesko, "Idishe velt", Philadelphia, 24 April 1931.

  • Dr. L. Zhitnitsky -- "Der prints fun libe", "Prese", Buenos Aires, 10 July 1932.

  • T. Beilin -- Notisn in bamerkingen, "Prese", Buenos Aires, 15 July 1932.

  • Yankev Botoshansky -- M. mikhaleskos mentshlekher shpil in an immentshlekher melodrame, "Prese", Buenos Aires, 29 July 1932.

  • Y. B. [Botoshansky] -- Haynt der apshikh ovnt fun m. mikhalesko in teater argentine, "Prese", Buenos Aires, 23 August 1932.

  • T. Beilin -- Der aktyor in der operete, "Prese", Buenos Aires, 11 August 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 1309.

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