Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Solomon (S.M.) Mikhoels
(Shlomo Vofsi)


He was born on 4 March 1890 in Dvinsk, Latvia. His father was a wood dealer, and owned an estate. He studied in a cheder and until the age of fifteen studied at home with a rabbi. As a child he was very enthusiastic about the yearly "Purim-Spiel", and later his mother took him to see the play "Di kishufmakherin (The Sorceress)" by Goldfaden, which was performed by the Fishzon troupe. Fascinated by the theatre, he began writing plays and acting in them together with young friends, among them Ginsburg, who later became a well-known sculptor, and Y. N. Steinberg, who, at the beginning of the Bolshevik rule was appointed as Russian Justice Commissar and later became a writer.

Unfortunately, the bankruptcy of his father changed the situation at home, and M. was sent to a high school in Riga, where he graduated in 1908. Since only a limited number of Jews were accepted to the university, he was not able to pursue his studies and began working in the theatre as a prompter in Russian.

M. had never participated in school plays performed by the pupils and seldom recited a poem. His desire and ambition were, however, to become an actor, and although he was rejected several times because of his low stature, he began studying Russian diction with A. B. Weliszew (later director Weliszew).

In 1910 he was admitted to a private school of commerce in Kiev, but in 1912 he was expelled, because he had participated in the students' demonstrations concerning Graf [Count] Tolstoy.


In 1915, he was finally admitted to the law school at Petersburg University, where he graduated in 1918 and began to prepare himself to embark on a law career. However, his love for the theatre was strong, and when by chance he came across a notice by Granovsky who was looking for young actors and actresses to establish a Jewish actors studio, he immediately applied and was admitted. On 29 January 1919 he made his debut in Petrograd in "The Blind" by M. Meterlink and "The Sin" by Sholem Asch.

On 31 June 1919 M. played Yehonadav in the play, also produced by the studio,  "Amnon and Tamar" by Sholem Asch, and the symbolic character Nechten in his own one-act play "The Builder." On 3 July 1919 the same studio performed "Uriel Acosta," with M. in the title role.

M. remained with the studio. In time the studio became a professional theatre, with its home-base in Moscow. Here, on 1 January 1921, M. played Menachem Mendel in Sholem Aleichem's "The Agents" and Alter in Sholem Aleichem's "Mazel Tov." On 13 March 1921 he played Zeide in A. Weiter's "Fartog" [At Dawn] and on 6 June 1921 Yekl Shapshowitz in "The God of Revenge" by Sholem Asch.

On 9 April 1922 he appeared as Uriel Acosta, under the "new concept" direction of Al. Granovsky, and on 2 December he played Hotzmakh in Goldfaden's "The Sorceress."

On 28 June 1923 he played Shimele Soroker in Sholem Aleichem's "200,000" and on 7 February 1925 the entertainer in "At Night in the Old Market" by Y. L. Peretz.

On 17 January 1926 he was the "Yetzer Hara" [temptation] in Goldfaden's "You Shall Not Covet" and on 8 June he played Sheindl in Wiewiorka's "137 Children-Houses."

On 9 January 1929 he played the key role in the play "Le Trohuadec" by Jules Romains, on 20 April 1927 he created the role of "Benjamin" in "The Travels of Benjamin the Third" by Mendele Moykher Sforim, and on 7 November 1927 he played the main role in "The Revolt" by Reznik. 

On 12 March 1928 he played Menachem Mendel in "Luftmenschen" [People of the Air] (Sholem Aleichem-Dobrushin). After that he went with his company on a tour of Europe, and upon his return 11 October he acted in "The Court of Justice is Coming" by Y. Dobrushin. On 5 January 1930 he went on stage in Bergelson's "The Deaf One." 

In February 1931 he produced, together with S. E. Radlov, "Not to Worry" by Peretz Markish. He also acted in the play. on 7 November 1931 that he produced, also together with S. E. Radlov, Daniel's "Four Days." M. arranged the text for the stage and acted as well.

In March 1932 he produced and acted in the play "Spetz" by Dobrushin and Nussinov. He also participated in all tours of the company in the cities and towns of the Soviet Union.

In 1926 he received the title "The most accomplished artist in the country's academic theatres."

He also played Menachem Mendel in the movie "Yidishe glikn" [Jewish Luck] (based on Sholem Aleichem), and as the father of Nathan Baker in the acclaimed film "Nathan Baker Comes Home" by Peretz Markish.

The Russian publishing house "Kino Petchat" (Moscow-Leningrad 1927) published a brochure in the Russian language "Mikhoels" by M. Zagorsky, which contains biographical data, critical appraisals and photos of Mikhoels' characters.

M. E. 

  • M. Zagorsky - "Mikhoels", "Kinopechat", Moscow - Leningrad 1927.

  • Alexander Granach-Granovsky. To Mikhoels and Zusskin Congratulations! "Littblatt," Warsaw, 20, 1928.

  • Ch. Aronsohn Mikhoels and the Granovsky theatre, "Frmorgen," Riga, 25 July 1928.

  • Nachman Meyzil Mikhoels, "Littblatt," Warsaw 48, 1928.

  • Sh. Shamis Mikhoels, Menachem Mendel, "Emes," Moscow, 12, July 1929.

  • B. Orshansky "Theatre Battles," 1931, pp. 94-95, 38.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1312.

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