Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Sholem Perlmutter


P. was born on 19 March 1884 in Podvolochisk, Eastern Galicia, to Orthodox parents. He learned in a cheder and yeshiva, then in a Husiatiner kloyz (house of study). Secular studies were taken from a private teacher.

At the age of twelve he secretly visited a Yiddish troupe that had come to perform for those in the village, and thus he became excited about the theatre; then he had decided to "become one of them" and he fled from his home. After a short stay in Tarnopol, he became a waiter in Filtnik's restaurant. Here he gained access to the Yiddish theatre through prompter Max Haker, for whom he rewrote [cured=geheyt] Yiddish theatre shtik.

In 1900, being an active member of the "Evri" organization (which later changed its name to "Akhuh"), he staged there with the members Moshe Richert's "R' Hertsele meyukhes", in which he also performed in the role of "Mikhl shadkhan", then Feinman's "Dos faters kale", Scharkansky's "Rachel, dgl mhnh yehuda" (in which Ludwig Satz debuted in a children's role), Auerbach's "Bet yerushalayim" (in which Regina Zuckerberg debuted), Goldfaden's "Rabbi yozelman", and other plays, where he had created competition for the professional Yiddish theatre in Lemberg.

In order to break into the club, the director of the Yiddish theatre in Lemberg, Y. B. Gimpel engaged him as a professional prompter,


and in 1903 he became engaged as a prompter to Avraham Axelrad in Czernowitz. Later he toured with various itinerant troupes across the provinces of Austria, Bukovina and Galicia, until he immigrated to America, where he arrived via New York on 10 September 1906.

Here P. entered into a small vaudeville house (on Cannon Street) as a prompter, and he wrote sketches, mostly adaptations of Steinbeck's plays, which were performed in the "Miner's Theatre" on the Bowery, as well as cuts of Yiddish plays, especially historic operettas, which he had adapted as one-acters.

In 1907-1908 P. was the prompter with David Kessler across the American province, and he wrote sketches for Sam Shneyer, David Baratz and Greenberg.

From 1910-1914 he was the director and prompter in the "Plaza Garden House", and he wrote sketches and short operettas for Saul Brandes and Julius Wilensky. From 1910-1914 he was director and prompter in the "Plaza Garden Theatre" (5th Avenue and 110th Street, Manhattan. Barney Abramowitz and Skol). In 1916-1917 he was a prompter with Aged, and he wrote sketches and short operettas for Itsikl Goldenberg.

After more seasons with various itinerant troupes, P. from 1922 until 1926 was the prompter in the "Irving Place Theatre".

In 1926-1927 he was with Max Gabel.

In 1927-1928 he was in the "Hopkinson Theatre".

In 1928-1929 he was in the "City Theatre" with Maurice Schwartz.

In 1929-1930 he was in the "Folks Theatre" (Managers Rovinger and Max Wilner).

In 1930-1931 he was in the "Second Avenue Theatre". Since then he has given up prompting.

After being in Galicia, P. debuted with sketches in the "Lemberg togblat" and in the "Czernowitzer vokhenblat" which was under the direction of Leybl Toybes, and he wrote a play "Lbn harmi" in the style of Goldfaden's historical plays. But first in America he had dedicated himself to his writing desires. Beyond fiction he worked on various periodical publications and often wrote articles about actors, composers, dramatists and theatre -- people. He had in New York's "Amerikaner" (21-26, 1926), published a part of Jacob P. Adler's autobiography; on 18 November 1928, in Philadelphia's "Idishe velt", he began to print his large work about 38 dramatists and had until 23 December 1928 published there the biographies of Director Shlomo Ettinger, Avraham Goldfaden, Joseph Lateiner, Moshe Horowitz, Yosef Yehuda Lerner, Nakhum Meir Sheykevitsh (Shomer), Moshe Zeifert, Avraham Mikhal Scharkansky, Reuben Weissman, Jacob Terr, Zigmunt Feinman and David Moshe Hermalin. On 5 April 1929, in the same newspaper, he began to publish under the title "Der anfang fun yidishn teater (The Beginning of Yiddish Theatre)", Avraham Goldfaden's autobiography, according to Goldfaden's "Khb-id fun fir heftn", which is the first full Goldfaden autobiography. However, he only delivered the last [transfer=forzetsung] of the series (5 July 1929) after the production of "Breyndele kazak". In "Archive for the History of Yiddish Theatre and Drama" (Editor: Dr. Jacob Shatzky, Vilna, 1930, Volume 1, pp. 422-430), he had reprinted the first status of Yiddish theatre in America, with an introduction about his composer, the performer Moshe Finkel. In New York's almanac "Ten Years of Artef" (March 1937, pp. 101-118), he had published "Episodes of Yiddish Theatre", that is a [brief=min kitsur] history of American Yiddish theatre. On 30 September 1944 he had begun to publish in New York's "Tog" the autobiography of Ludwig Satz. But [subsequent to] the first chapter, which was prepared by Satz, there were the further chapters written by P. himself according to his own memoirs and various other information.

P. also had written full plays of which (the first), "Mendel Beilis", was staged in 1913 in the "Plaza Garden Theatre", then in the Comedy Theatre (with Louis Kremer in the title role), and in the "Second Avenue Theatre" (with David Kessler in the title role). In the same year in the "Plaza Garden Theatre" the four-act comedy "Das veybel fun sirakiuz" was staged (with Hymie Jacobson, Berta Gerstin, V. Zigenloyb, Moshe Ganz and the Augenblicks, as well as "Zayn letster dolar (His Last Dollar)" (taken from the English play "Charlie's Aunt"), which was also later staged in the "Lyric Theatre".

In 1915-1916 under the direction of J. Cone, P.'s play "Der kale's sud (The Bride's Secret)" was staged at the Liberty Theatre (with Rosa Karp, Bina Abramowitz, Madame Schrage, Kalmen Yuvelir (Juvelier), Moshe Simonoff, William Schwartz, Zigmunt Weintraub and Hyman Meisel). In the 1917-1918 season in Philadelphia's "American Theatre" there was presented P.'s play "Zol a meydl gloybn?" (with Samuel Goldenburg, David Baratz, Annie Meltzer, Clara Rafala, Max Bulman), and in the 1917-1918 season in New York's "Manhattan Opera House" his dramatization of "Potash un perlmuter" (with Berl Bernstein and Sam Manne in the title role, and P. in the role of "Stoyrman"). In 20 October 1922 in Brooklyn's "Lyric Theatre" there was staged by I. Tanzman P.'s play "Di unbazingbare froy" (with I. Tanzman and Stella Gold in the main role), which was performed in February 1923 under the name "Der brik fun lebn" in Detroit (with Elias Rothstein, Karl Gutentag, Ida Dworkin et al), and from there across other cities. About the same time P.'s "Der groyser khub" was staged in Philadelphia's Arch Street Theatre (with Mae Simon, Clara Rafala, Helen Bernardi, Betty Simonoff, Moshe Simonoff and Jacob Rechtzeit), which was later staged by Louis Kramer in Williamsburg's "Lyric Theatre" under the title "Das farkoyfte meydl".

In 1925 in Philadelphia's "Arch Street Theatre", P.'s play "Di fremde mame (The Strange Mother)", was staged by Anshel Schorr under the title "Di farshemte kale" -- announced as N. Rakov's, later as N. Ravov's and Anshel Schorr's, and finally as Sholem Perlmutter's. The play was later performed under both names, through Michal Michalesko in Brooklyn's "Rolland Theatre", and also by Joseph Shoengold and Menachem Rubin.

In the 1927-1928 season in Williamsburg's "Amphion Theatre", there was staged P.'s play "Der heyliker bokher (The Unknown Heritage)" (with Joseph Shoengold, Frances Adler and Max Wilner), and on 21 February 1930 in the "Folks Theatre", under the direction of Ludwig Satz, P.'s tragi-comedy (taken from Dr. Stieglitz) "Narishe tates" (music by Ab. Elstein).

P. also had the following plays that were not staged: "Karbones fun der tsayt", "Dos akhte gebat", and "Biznes is biznes (Business is Business)".

P. was one of the founders of the Actor's Union Local 18, and from 1911 until 1914 he was their manager and secretary. He also was a founder of the "Yiddish Dramatic League" (that had existed, with breaks, from 1914 until today), where he was secretary and also the founder (1931) of the "Society of Jewish Composers, Lyric Writers and Publishers", of which he was the manager.

P. was also on the executive (board) of the "Yiddish Theatre Museum Society". He possesses a rich archive, with which he served the writers of Yiddish theatre history. He also is a member of the "Lexicon" committee, and he was Executive Secretary for the Yiddish Actor's Union. In 1944 he was chosen as Vice-President  for the same union.

On 29 March 1944 in New York's Central Plaza, there was celebrated P.'s sixtieth birthday, and under the direction of Zalmen Zylbercweig and Jacob Mestel there was the opportunity to publish a special supplement to the "Teater heftn" (Number 4) with articles and apshatsungen about the anniversaries of A. Olshanetsky, Reuben Guskin, Dr. Meir Geyer, Samuel Goldenburg, the Talner Rebbe, Zalmen Zylbercweig, A. Lutsky, Z. Libin, Jacob Mestel, Sholom Secunda, a prompter, Leon Kobrin, Jacob Kirschenbaum, Dr. Jacob Shatzky, Jacob Kalich, Maurice Schwartz, and with biographies of the inerung fun bel-yubl.

Sh. E. and M. E.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre", Vol. II, p. 271.

  • L. Blank -- Detroyter notitsen, "Tog", Province-oysgabe, 8 February 1923.

  • A teatral -- Fier dramaturgen arbeyten oyf "Tog's" editorial fun 1917, "Tog", New York, 18 September 1925.

  • Jacob Mestel -- Galitsianer baym amerikaner yidishen teater, "Togblat", Lemberg, 29 March 1926.

  • D. Kaplan -- "Narishe tates" in folks-teater, "Forward", New York, 28 February 1930.

  • William Edlin -- "Tsvay naye piesen -- A tragedye un a komedye, "Der tog", New York, 8 February 1930.

  • Dr. I. Kritikus [Jacob Kirschenbaum] -- Sholem perlmutter's piese "narishe tates" makhn a "hit" in satz's folks-teater, "Di idishe velt", Cleveland, 9 March 1930.

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum -- Sholem perlmutter, der teater-zamler un dramatirg, tsu zayn 50th yubl, "Di idishe velt", Cleveland, 8 April 1934.

  • Motl Sherman -- Vuhin geht dos idishe teater, "Idishe velt", Philadelphia, 21 February 1935.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Vos hert zikh in di nyu yorker idishe teatere?, "Idishe velt", Philadelphia, 1 November 1935.

  • Israel Rosenberg -- Di umbrenger fun idishen teater, "Noyorker Vokhnblat", 21, 1935.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Mentshn hobn faynt dem emes, "Noyorker vokhnblat", 33, 1935.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Vos hert zikh in di noy yorker idishe teather?, "Idishe velt", Philadelphia, 22 November 1935.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- "Teater-figurn", Buenos Aires, 1936, pp. 43-47.

  • Jacob Botoshansky -- Kafe royal -- Di idishe actyorish-literarishe kibitsarnye in nyu york, "Di prese", Buenos Aires, 5 May 1940.

  • Maurice Schwartz -- Maurice Schwartz dertsehlt, "Forward", New York, 16, 20, 23, 27 August 1941.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Kleyne meshllekh fun idishen teater, "Der amerikaner", New York, 21 July 1943.

  • Jacob Mestel -- "Undzer teater", New York, 1943, pp. 10, 42.

  • A prompter -- Vekhentlikhe grusen fun noy yorker idishen teater, "Jewish Courier", Chicago, 7 April 1944.

  • Joseph Rumshinsky -- "Klangen fun mayn lebn", New York, 1944 pp. 775-781. "Teater-heftn", New York, 4, 1944.

  • M. Yardeini -- Di fayerung fun sholem perlmutters yubiley, "Keneder odler", Montreal, 11 April 1944.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 1843.

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