Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Ben Zion Polipade


Born in 1876 in a village in Kiev Gubernia, Ukraine. Due to the pogroms his family immigrated in 1879 to America, but due to a prevalent epidemic among the immigrants, immigration was blocked, and his family turned to Brody and settled in the colony of Gromokli in Kherson Gubernia.

Here P. learned in a cheder and Yiddish and Russian with a "new teacher." When his family moved over to the town of Novy Bug, and here P. at the age of eight was an apprentice with a house builder. At the age of twelve he participated as the "emes'e mame (real mother)" in a "Solomon the Wise play" during Purim. He was sent away to Khorbinietz to his brother-in-law to become a tailor, and here in 188 he saw for the first time a Yiddish theatre production (performed by Avraham Fiszon's troupe) and became deeply excited about the theatre.

In 1892 he returned to Novy Bug, where he wanted to join Mishurat's troupe, with which he acted, but due to his youth he wasn't taken in; he associated himself with the actor Mogilevsky and, together with even a few youths, he performed in an itinerant circus. Later he was taken into the troupe of Jacob Tsipkus, where he debuted as "Abindb" in "Shulamis," and in 1905 he was the lover of the troupe. Then he toured with the troupes of Rabinowitz, Sabsey and Kaminski. Due to a passport problem, he fled to Lemberg, debuting here with Gimpel's, he was asked to act with the remaining "Brodersinger" and eventually took to acting with the troupes of Joseph Rosenberg, Moshe Schorr and


Avraham Axelrad. In 1908 again in Lemberg, he had the opportunity there to act with the guest-starring Morris Moshkovich.

About his playing in operetta repertoire, P. recalls in his memoirs:

"A series began of Lateiner's German operetta plays: "Ishah raʻah," "Kol Nidrei, ["Kol Nidre" was Sharkansky's, not Lateiner's. -- ed.] The two plays were performed in German, and I had already for a long time plotted with the idea that I could convert to Judaism. Now the time had come. I played the main character "Avner" and had entirely ibergenitsevet in Yiddish. ...All of my partners had asked me in German, and I answered them in Yiddish. My colleagues had a bit of laughter. "He speaks only Yiddish," they made fun. And so I was with the second role, "the Grand Inquisitor Paulus." For my enemies a ray of vengeance. Among them there hadn't been any doubt that the spoken Yiddish is my certain failure. To many  it was the reverse. To the audience I was to become even closer, and they still applauded me warmly.  ...Then in Lemberg there existed a Yiddish weekly... the entire paper was filled with me. ... I had with the victory against the German strongly acquired renown. ...from then on people began to [see] that I could speak Yiddish."

To that Jacob Mestel observed:

  1. In the cited plays there used to be only a few roles ("Avner," the "Grand Inquisitor Paulus," the "Haf singer Bartelo") that were played in German, however the other roles [especially the characters who were "simple people," used to constantly be played by people in plain mameloshen [native tongue]);

  2. At that time already in Lemberg there existed a lively Yiddish movement, with a daily newspaper, "Togblat" (since 1904, under the editing of Gershom Bader, then by Moshe Kleinman, who Mestel had written theatre reviews for), and already other actors, such as Yudl Gutman and Matias Thur) begun to act in some "German" roles in pure Yiddish.

P. then became a member in the wandering troupe of Hart, and in a members troupe, by himself was director, together with Shneckin, acted in a members troupe in Krakow, several productions with Ziegler in Vienna, and again in Hart's troupe.

During the outbreak of the First World War, he was a worker for a short time in a mill, then in Vienna -- a presser and a merchant, until in 1917 he again began to write for director Jacob in Krakow. Here in 1918 he celebrated the twenty-fifth jubilee of P.'s activities as an actor.

Returning to Russia, he performed in Homel with shortened plays, which he put together by himself, then he acted in Kiev with Weissman and Libert and was engaged in Zhitomir's Jewish State Theatre. Due to the anxious conditions that existed at that time in the Ukraine, he had to fled and performed in Alt-Konstantin in plays in half-Polish and half-Russian, then in Tarnopol, Rovne and Brody in Yiddish with "amateurs."

Returning to Vienna, he acted with Molly Picon and Jacob Kalich, later with the Kompaneyets family, with who he traveled to Lublin with, and from there went on to Warsaw, where he joined the "Central Theatre," acting for two years with Esther Rukhl Kaminska, Turkow, Samberg and Landau.

On 1 July 1923 he arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and there he at first was a guest-star, then an ensemble player. Outside of the province, where he often used to tour with troupes, and he also had the opportunity to act for several seasons in Buenos Aires, with the guest-starring Thomashefsky, Morevsky, Sokolov, Samberg, Joseph Shoengold, Kremer, Jacob Ben-Ami (in a tour across the Argentinean province and colonies) et al.

P.'s wife is the actress Fania Reyer.

P. published his memoirs [in "Di prese," Buenos Aires, from 25 October 1931 through 21 August 1932], under the name, "40 Years on the Stage and Behind the Curtains, by Benzion Polipade."

Sh. E.

  • Benzion Polipade -- 40 yor af der bine un hintger di kulisn, "Di prfese," Buenos Aires, 25 October 1931-21 August 1932.

  • Yankev Botoshansky -- Tsvishn forhang un leyvnt, "Di prese," Buenos Aires, 2 September 1932.

  • Pinye Katz -- Bentsien polipade -- der oysgeteylter idisher aktyor, dor.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 1637.

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