Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Pincas Thomashefsky


Born circa 1842 in Talne, Ukraine. His father was a cantor, at first in Talne ("The Talne chazzan"), then in Kamionka (Kamenka). Was very pious in his youth, had graduated from the rabbinate, a musician, was a prayer leader with the Brodskys, with whom he was employed in a sugar factory.

After his marriage, he left his family, [and] went away to the Caucuses and returned without a beard and peyes. Later he opened a vinegar brewery in Kiev and was a hospitable guest of actors, cantors, choirboys and students. He loved Yiddish theatre and Yiddish literature very much, and when the Yiddish theatre still was in the infancy, wrote a comedy "Yankl yungatsh".

Due to a denunciation he was sent away from Kiev (according to M. Zeifert: due to the pogromists), and he immigrated in 1881 with his entire family to America.

He arrived with the group "Es oylem", [and] T. had, as the greatest part of the former Jewish-Russian intelligentsia, carried around with the colonization planners. However, he became disappointed and went off to work by himself, also entering his son Boris into a cigar factory. Here he organized the group that had given [circa 1882] the first Yiddish production in New York. Together with his son Boris, and after several workshops, T. founded later a new troupe, with whom he staged his play "Di shpanishe inkvizitsye (The Spanish Inquisition)" ["Emk harzim", composed together with Tantshuk].


Around 1888 [according to Bessie Thomashefsky], there was staged by the "Boris Thomashefsky Club" in Baltimore T.'s four-act drama "Rothschild's Biography", with music by Boris, in which Bessie had debuted on the stage.

A short time later Boris brought his father in as a manager of his troupe in a dramatic hall in Philadelphia (corner of Gaskill Street), where T.'s first play "Yankele yungatsh" was staged. Here T. wrote and adapted several plays and also acted from time to time. Also, there was never staged S.'s ""Opera with Music", under the name "Di shpanishe inqvizitsye (The Spanish Inquisition)", with music by Boris. Thereafter, he took over this Thalia Theatre, where there was staged  his play, "Chana with her Seven Sons", constructed according to the contents of several plays, then performed in New York due to the competition from a second troupe, advertised by T. as an "attraction", and he performed with great success as "Ekonom" in Shm"r's "Katorzhnik". However, because of this, T. held a benefit for a school with a socialist speech, evoking a scandal in the theatre, and they were forced for a time to interrupt [or cut short] the play.

A short time thereafter, T. managed a competitive troupe against his son Boris. Both competitors maintained a reciprocity to receive abuse(?) from down stage.

In 1901 T. united with Fannie Reinhardt in Chicago's Pavilion Theatre, and there staged his plays "Chana with her Seven Sons", "Captain Dreyfus" and "Itsias mtsrim".

After withdrawing from his theatre activities, T. founded a Yiddish farm [insurance] business. Tsugekilt (Freezing?) during a trip, he passed away on 21 January 1914 (per his death certificate, he passed away on 18 December 1913 -- ed.) in Fallsburg, Sullivan County, New York, and was brought to his eternal rest in New York.

Besides the plays already mentioned, T. also wrote: "Di nakht-kenigin", "Itum mshhle" and translated Dr. Hertzl's "The New Ghetto", staging on 28 December 1911 in Boris Thomashefsky's Peoples Theatre with Boris Thomashefsky and Rudolf Schildkraut in the main roles.

In Goldfaden's "New York Yiddish Illustrated Newspaper", T. printed a novel "Di hshgkhh (The Joy)", or "Der bester gift (The Better Gift?)".

According to his son Boris' opinion, T. was very much a weak actor.

All of T.'s children were: Boris, Mary, Fannie, Mike, Emma and Annie, who were associated with the Yiddish theatre.

M. E. from his son Boris Thomashefsky.

  • M. Zeifert -- "Di geshikhte fun yudishen theater", ("Di idishe bine" fun khanan y. minikes, N. Y. 1897).

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre", Vol. II, pp. 29-30.

  • Bessie Thomashefsky -- "Meyn lebens-geshikhte", pp. 35-41, 80-2, 84-92, 101-105, 107, 111-2, 116.

  • Louis Reyngold -- Di entvikling fun idishen teater in shikago, "Der idisher rekord", Chicago, 1920.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 848.

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