Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Avraham Itzhak Tanzman
(Abraham Isaac)


R. was born in 12 November 1857 in Warsaw, Poland. His father was a businessman and a glove manufacturer. He learned in a cheder, with private religious teachers and then in a yeshiva. Later he learned other subjects with a teacher.

In 1877 T. became taken in through his father's work, the later well-known actor, Shlifershteyn, and tried as an "amateur", with whom T. became secretly a prompter, and he toured across the province, later (around 1879) he came in (in Brest-Litovsk) as a prompter in Gradner's troupe, which fell apart. However, T. came back to Warsaw . Here he became a prompter in the troupe, in which was found the prima donna Berta Berlin. The troupe toured across the province. Here T. married Berta Berlin, and when in Zamosc they performed in 1879, the actress of the troupe cast T. in the role of Shomer's "Bel-tshuva." T. used as a prototype for his role a city street singer, by him singing the street singer's songs, and soon he became from his first performance popular as a character-comic.

In the beginning of the eighth decade of the nineteenth century, there came the troupe to Warsaw and he began to act in the "Eldorado". The permission to act in Yiddish came from the then director of theatre, who also stopped a Russian chorus. T. directed for the first time "Shulamis", which was performed 125 consecutive times to sold-out houses, the Russian chorus sang in the application; in the summer there was the theatre outputs by the Russian theatre director Litsienka, who had to however, due to


the bad business of the Russian troupe, entered into a compromise, that T.'s Yiddish troupe could perform four times a week.

T. had then was especially successful in Shomer's play "Der treyfniak" and in "Katorzhnik, oder, Der yeshiva-bukher", later in Goldfaden's "Bar kochba" ("Papus") and "Ahasuerus", which Goldfaden staged alone in Warsaw. In 1885 T. Goldfaden traveled to Lodz, where they had a great success, then they performed again until 1887 in Warsaw, where Adler came to guest-star. However soon afterwards it became forbidden to perform in Warsaw and T. toured for a short time across the Polish and Russian province, until he came again back to Warsaw, where he obtained a license to perform under the pseudonym of "Yiddish-German Theatre" with conditions. Then three nights of the week he made preparations geyn farn Russian ?itn-kreyts, but evenings the first production came on a forbiddance from the general, and T. had to go away to perform in Gimpel's troupe in Lemberg.

In 1891 in Warsaw there was published: "Hatsmakhs kremil", from various rarities. Twenty-five Yiddish folksongs that were sung in Goldfaden'sYiddish theatre gekleyeben together from Abraham Isaac Tanzman. Published by Moshe Mordecai Tsukerman" [88 pp., 16]. The book contained twenty-five couplets and songs, of which only a small part wre Goldfaden's. The book began with an introduction (written in Odessa in 1832) by tsuzamenkleyber, who declared the motif and went away from publishing his book.

In 1889 there came to Lemberg the manager Mandelkern, and T. was taken with his wife to America, where he debuted on 7 February 1890 in Rudolf Marks' "Di tsvey shvester, oder, Engel un teyfel" in the Hengens Theatre. Also here he soon acquired a name (reputation) from the theatre public. Due to theatre politics, T. schlepped off to Chicago, and they did not let him back into New York's legitimate theatre. T. then went to act for the first time in Yiddish theatre in California, and this evoked with his rich production of "Shulamis" a great interest, also in the English press and with the non-Yiddish theatre attendees. From there, T. toured across the greater cities of the province, performing in the Yiddish vaudeville houses of New York. After a family tragedy, he passed away on 13 November 1906 in New York.

T. had composed the plays, "Shimsen hagiber (Samson, the Hero)" (staged by Kessler), "Captain Dreyfus" (staged by Max Rosenthal), and many one-acters, adapted many plays, and left the non-produced operetta "Abigail di shaynhayt fun khbrun".

T. printed several songs in New York's "Yidishes tageblat", and other newspapers, and when he had performed in Chicago, he printed articles in the Sunday edition of the "Yiddish Courier".

In New York also there was published a brochure with T.'s couplet "Naye komishe kupletin und theater lider, original ferfrast fun artist A. Tanzman. Published by Jacob Drukerman".

T. left four children: three daughters and one son, Joseph, a Yiddish actor and playwright.

Sh. E. from his brother Pinchas Tanzman.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre", Vol. I, p. 241; Vol. II, pp. 126, 143.

  • Yehoshua Mezakh -- "Bms yshkhk u msha gia khziun", Warsaw, 1889.

  • Bessie Thomashefsky -- "Meyn lebens geshikhte", p. 132.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- "Thomashefsky's theater shriftn", pp. 62-67.

  • Berta Kalich [memoirs] -- "Tog", N. Y., 29 April 1925.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Der libling fun amoligen yudisen teater-publikum in poyln -- avraham-yitzhak tanzman, "Lodz togenblat", 7, 13 May 1929.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 852.

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