Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Leon Shtrasfogel

Born around 1872 in Warsaw, Poland. His father was a furnace worker.

He began his theatre activities in Warsaw's "Eldorado" Theatre, in the beginnings of Yiddish theatre.

M. Myodovnik speaks about him as a stage director of "amateurs" in Warsaw.

Besides being an actor, he also was stage director of the Warsaw "Muranow" Theatre, and then of the "Venus" Theatre.

Sh. passed away in 1919 in Warsaw.

Zygmunt Turkow characterizes him as such:"L. Shtrasfogel was the typical theatre master, the embodiment of actorial cabotinism (i.e. campy, overly theatrical). His long, wrinkled face with his long, pointed nose looked even longer and bluer because of the black 'sideburns' and curled hair on the flashy scar. Speaking, he appeared as if from a passport and the words used to sound like working across a board, breathtakingly dazzling, choppy ... For each new trial he unconditionally had to do the right 'batschke' and say a word of his own jargon: 'Ashkes ... beharbias, ... bekhniknis.' At one point, a spectator would not even ask: 'What did he say?' And the second one would do with the play, and doesn't know how to answer ... For both it was clear, that this is a "hard" word, What they can't understand, and it's straightforward to make you unaware ...


He has never known any role, nor what he used to hear from the prompter, of which he did not let out an eye. He used to represent himself in his "Ashkes and Beharbias" in varying ways: the public already understood what he meant ...  Shtrasfogel used to play comics, although saw tragedy in him: His sad face, his folded shoulders and the entire bony figure, which moved on the right and on the left. He moved slowly, locked onto his stick with monograms, and his severe asthma was hard on him, which always stung him. He never held a first place in the theatre, but he always used to be called a "character comedian" who could also play "fathers and intrigues" in an emergency. He, along with his wife, belong to the "useful tools." He also had the virtue, having a rich and "library," he, therefore, along with his wife, maintained the "useful customs." He also had the virtue of possessing a rich and "library" This means playing nightly. This happened, especially in the itinerant troupes, highly esteemed. He strongly adored himself, and the young actors with disdain. To me, with Jonas [Turkow], he showed his talent, because he knew us from "the home": He used to come to us for tickets for every benefit ... "

Jonas Turkow, in his book, "Extinguished Stars," writes:

"(Zishe) Katz had a great success in Warsaw's 'Venus' Theatre on the Jelne street, where it had 'denied' the shund witch L. Shtrasfogel -- the main stage director of this theatre. This was a strange creature, the "Venus" Theatre,  ... who sprang to life with his grievous faults, or better said, with theatricality. The director of this theatre, the older actor L. Shtrasfogel, who by the way couldn't act, nor stage direct, not human speech, but was through and through theatrical. His walk, his stance, his own self, his place of speech -- on the stage, just as in life -- everyone was theatrical, not with his artisticness, but with his artistry. His 'speeches' that he kept from the stage to the 'esteemed public' -- After all, in the old Yiddish theatre, it would not have mattered! -- were patterns of cheapness, complexity and non-logical coherence of one sentence with the other. One word did not stick to the other. But when he caught himself, that he was getting engaged [fargalopirt], and he didn't know what he's talking about, he worked with the words back and forth and connected the crooked thoughts -- if there were any such -- through words, some jargon that nobody besides him understood, In addition, he listened to his characteristic asthmatic cough, which had echoes, as if he were coming from a hollow pass.

Even the whole 'Venus' Theatre actor's company was adapted to Shtrasfogel's theatre tradition, although not one actor from his theatre later excelled and occupied a prominent place in Yiddish theatre. Besides the 'star' of the theatre, L. Shtrasfogel and his wife, there was there performing: Y. Gotfrid with his wife, Morris Norflus, Dranov (who copied and imitated the great Yiddish actor Nathan Dranov, and even took his name for a pseudonym). Polia Keyzer, Moshele Poliakevitsh, Sara Ruzga, Gustav Shvartsbard, Rafael Guthertz, Shlomo Lindenfeld, Fishman and Zishe Kats. In that theatre there was also guest-starring from the ... tenor Benny Abelman with his wife Fanya."

  • M. Myodovnik -- Mayne teater-zikhrones, "Shtern," N' 4, 1926, p. 36.

  • Zygmunt Turkow -- "Fragments of my Life," Buenos Aires, 1951, pp. 82-83.

  • Jonas Turkow -- "Extinguished Stars," Buenos Aires, 1953, Vol. 2, pp. 168-169.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 7, page 6201.

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