Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Anna (Annie) Shapiro


Born circa 1873 in a small village near Grodno, Polish Lithuania. Her mother was left a young window with many children. She sent away her daughter to a rich relative in Grodno, who had helped them economically.

At the age of thirteen, she arrived with her mother in America and here was taken into work in a cigar factory, introduced to actor Charles Shapiro, with whom she married at the age of fifteen.

According to her daughter, Sh. worked in a shop for very long hours, as Shapiro was an actor, and was not kosher to her family. So he learned house painting. At first they approved of the of the marriage. After several years, he abandoned his trade and maintained the "borders" (neighborhood), in order to be able to "make a living". In 1900 he was recommended to director Elias Glickman in Chicago, and there he became a professional actor, only involving his wife in single shows in the theatre profession.

In the span of a short time she became grounded as the first soubrette, but soon was forced thereof to only perform in the chorus, and at first when she became a member in the then actors union, she was a professional actress. After acting for three seasons with Glickman, she acted for a season with Louis in Chicago, three months with Thomashefsky, the 1920-21 season in the "New Yiddish Theatre", then with Goldenburg and Celia Adler in Brooklyn, and with the "Vilna Troupe" (in the Lipzin Theatre"), but she mostly acted within the province.

Sh. passed away on 28 December 1955 in New York. Her daughter Sadie was married to actor Jacob Goldstein, and their daughter Charlotte has acted on the Yiddish stage.

Jacob Kirschenbaum writes:

"...Anna Shapiro is in truth a character actress, although she has started like other old [elderly] actresses in Goldfaden's operettas, and also has excelled in Professor Hurwitz's and Lateiner's plays. In the last years, she has acted in Yitzhak Zolotarevsky's melodramas, in New York she has acted in the "Yiddish Art Theatre" of the actress Madame Schnitzer in the chief mother roles with the "Vilna Troupe".

...When one remembers that only six years ago that we had the occasion to see Madame Shapiro in "Mirele Efros", in "The Wild Man", and L. Kobrin's "The Blind Musician" and Z. Libin's "Ir fargegenheyt (Her Past)", it brings a little sadness to the heart. We remember that as the time goes by very quickly and "wished" everything away, "swinging" all things. ...interesting, however, what Madame Shapiro has explained, that the struggle for the best Yiddish theatre has just cited the actors in the province,  where the standard of living is not that high as in New York. In the province, as lmshl in Cleveland, Detroit or Chicago, has the audience a warm relation to the actor and actress. The theatre in the province was not after each year as "farbiznevet" as [it is] today. To act in theatre was an honor, not only a source of income.

...Madame Shapiro, who loves the role of "Mirele Efros", as a mother her one and only daughter speaks about the play more than about other roles, and therefore people call her in the theatre circles "Cleveland's Mirele Efros". ...Madame Shapiro, who today is a "forgotten"  and for herself in the artistic flames of her grandchild, has for the writer explained that by Gordin the stage is always in movement, always in her full, no long breaks that come from not being able to concentrate on the action".

M. E. and Sh. E. from her daughter Sadie Goldstein.

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum -- Ana shapiro, di "mirele efros" fun der provints iz a "fargesene", "Morning Journal", N. Y.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 5680.
You may also like to read another biography of Anna's life, as written by her granddaughter Charlotte Goldstein Chafran, found in the Lexicon's Volume 8.

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