Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Ben Zion Wagner.


Born 1889 in Zyrardow, Warsaw region, Poland. Father - a sewing machine mechanic. Studied in a cheder; plus secular subjects with a local “private teacher”. At age thirteen he went to Reb Yankele (who later became the Rabbi in Zgierz), with whom he studied Gemora and a little Kabala.

1907 -- W. joined the Zionist-Socialist Party and traveled around the province as an organizer. 1908 -- he saw a Yiddish theatre play and there and quickly developed a strong passion for it. 1909 - he became a member of the theatrical group of Nozyk and Latovitsh. 1911 – he organized a Yiddish production with “amateurs" in the Far East (Vladivostok). 1915 – he performed Yiddish theatre in Siberia, the Urals and elsewhere. 1917 – he was appointed through the Kiev Artists Conference to the “First Drama Cooperative” in Yekaterinoslav (Zaslavsky, Libert, Zhelazo). 1919 – he acted in Odessa with Segalesko and afterwards in the first Yiddish state theatre (director: Bertanov). 1922 – he went to Poland and joined the Yiddish Artists Union and put on plays in Paris. 1924 – he performed with Clara Young in Belgium, where he acted until 1930.

He made his debut as a writer in 1909 with a poem published in the Warsaw “Theatre World.” In 1919 he wrote “Toglider”, Day Songs/Poems, in “Di shtime", (edited by Shachne Epstein).

1922 – he worked on the Parisian periodicals “Dos yidishe lebn”, "The Jewish Life" and “Parizer bleter”. 1925 - he edited the weekly “Dos yidishe vort” in Belgium (published six issues) and later was a permanent staff member of the Antwerp “Yidisher zaytung”, where he wrote essays and theatre criticism under the pen name “Benye Plapler”.

Wagner also wrote the following plays: “Di froy in keytn (The Woman in Chains)", (performed in Odessa in 1919 in Yeveryski Theatre); “Shloyme hamelekh der tsveyter (King Solomon the Second)", (produced in 1915 by Jacob Silbert in Brussels and Antwerp); “Der vilner gaon ("The Gaon of Vilna)", (produced by Wolf Zilberberg in 1927 in the London Pavilion Theatre), and the not-yet performed" Erotomania".

He translated the following plays: “Ven der tayvel lakht (When the Devil Laughs)", by Sofia Biela (produced by Zygmunt Turkow in 1922 in Warsaw); “Der galekh rasputin (Rasputin the Monk)", (produced in Paris by Blumenthal), and “Vera Irvantsov” (produced in 1923 in Paris by Blumenthal), and the unperformed “Korbones fun zind (Victims of Sin)", and “Dos favoritn-maydl (The Favorite Girl)", both from the Flemish.

Wagner dramatized Andreyev's “Di ziben gehangene (The Seven Who Were Hanged)", (produced in Paris in 1923 by Axelrad), and Sholem Asch's “Kiddush hashem”, (produced in 1929 in Antwerp by Blumenthal).  

He passed away in Brussels on 23 February 1930.

Sh. E.

  • Y. L -- Bn tsion vagner z"l, "Yidishe tsaytung", Antwerp, 28 February 1930.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 638.

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