This was the name of a group of Broder Singers
(itinerant singers from Galicia and Romania, precursors
of the Yiddish theatre) and folk singers. They used to
wander throughout Austro-Hungary, playing primarily in
Vienna and Budapest. The
most popular of the group were: Jacob and Pepi Litmann,
Leopold and Sara Kaner, Sholem Podzamce, Yonah Reizman,
Herman, Moshe, Saltshe and Pepi Vaynberg, Philip and
Sally Weisenfreund, Sam Ludwik, Chana Shtrudler,
Steiner and his wife, Mendele Rothman, the brothers and
They performed in taverns or
gardens. These groups were comprised of
two, three, up to as many as eight persons (men and
women) -- dependent on local conditions and also upon a
few additional talented colleagues, and whatever kind of
folksingers who might accidentally pass through. Whether
or not this person could be hired depended on the
"company." This matter relied a great deal upon old
friendships and was very informal.
During the first World War,
prior to the Russian invasion of Galicia, the Vienna
"Yiddish stage" had been composed mainly of veteran
members of the "Pol'nishe," and they absorbed the
entire Lemberg theatre troupe that had escaped from Vienna. Whatever they earned was divided among
At first the repertoire of
the "Pol'nishe" was the same as all the other folk
singers: folk and humorous improvised music, often with
"costumed' wedding entertainment and comedies (short
acts). Later when they started to play in larger
theatres (at the "Stempenyu" in Vienna and Wertheim's
variety shows in Budapest), they began to also present "kestelach"
(short precise pieces), and shortened plays that took
over half or more of the performance time. Since, by and
large, not every audience understood their Yiddish, they
would substitute the Hebrew and Slavic words with
German, sometimes with Hungarian. They did this, at
first, in their solo numbers and later in their "kestelach."
Over time they also began to introduce into their
repertoire foreign-language performances. Quite
independent of local circumstances: in Vienna--German;
in Bukovina--German and Polish; Hungarian in
Bohemia--Czech, etc. In the same manner they would often
hire special foreign-language singers and duos (for
example, in Pepi Littman's traveling variety troupe.) In
those days, in the course of a two-hour performance,
they would weave together Yiddish and foreign-language
musical numbers and finish with a "one-act" play.
This troupe would travel all
over the Austro-Hungary [region] without missing a town
(even those with a miniscule Jewish population).
Wherever there was a military garrison, the officers
were the most enthusiastic attendants. They traveled as
far as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Turkey. Some
even went as far as Egypt. The "Pol'nishe" even created
schools using their methodology. "The Budapester"--a
group of German-Hungarian variety players, mostly Jews,
would entertain their audiences with "little Yiddish
material" (speaking in a German-Jewish-Hungarian
dialect), and with real Yiddish stories and jokes (for
more details, see "trifles" or "shmontzes.")
They also discovered several
old-time "Pol'nishe" in their group (like Mendele Rotman--under
the alias of Rota.) The most popular troupe was the
Viennese "Budapester," which was under the leadership of
"leading man" Eisenbach, who had once performed in a
large hall on Tauber Street, in the same neighborhood as
"Stempenyu," which belonged to "Pol'nishe."
Sh. E. from Jacob Mestel.
"Lexicon of Yiddish
Theatre," Vol. 1, pp. 216-220; Vol. 2, pp.
1054-1057; Vol. 3, pp. 1602-1606.
Jacob Mestel-- "Unzer
teater," pp. 13-15, 22, 23, 43, 46, 49, 51-54.