Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Rudolf Zaslavsky


Born 10 (23) November 1886 in Uman, Kiev Gubernia, Ukraine. His father was a dealer. He learned in a cheder, and at the age of seven years traveled over with his family to Odessa. From age eight he learned in the home of a teacher, then in a trade school, which he completed at the age of thirteen.

His father -- a lover of nigunah (melodies), would often take him to cantors, and this had aroused in him a strong tendency towards singing. Being a stand-in in a children's chorus for the Russian opera "Pikovaya dama", made him more the actor at home. As a youth, from age nine, Z. became a choir boy in the Shalashn school with Cantor Yankel Soroker, and at the age of twelve Z. participated in Russian in a school production of Gogol's "Khsnim", later in the school production of the trade school "Trud", and in Russian "amateur" productions. Z. also learned for six months in the dramatic school of Selevanov, then he traveled around for four months with the Russian itinerant troupe of Lubymov and later went over to another Russian troupe, which he left, but due to the anti-Semitic mood.

In 1901 Z. was, through the actor Lipovetsky, taken in to the Yiddish troupe of Mishurat in Balta, where he performed as "Absalom". Six weeks later -- due to the ban on Yiddish theatre -- Z. returned to Odessa, acted for several mixed Russian-Yiddish productions and, in order to have an opportunity to act with Meerson, he entered as a chorus singer into Krause's troupe


in Nikolayev. Soon he traveled again back to Odessa and acted in Russian with breaks in the span of the year 1902. In 1903 he entered into the troupe of Kompaneyets. Five months later he went over to Meerson's Kiev troupe, with whom he traveled to Odessa, and when the troupe split up, he traveled to Lipava to Kompaneyets, who directed there for the first time Gordin's repertoire. Z. performed as "Leyzer badkhan" in "God, Man and Devil", then he traveled with the troupe to Warsaw, where he acted for three months in the Muranow Theatre and entered into Sabsey's troupe with whom he traveled around for two years across Russia.

After Z. organized a strike against Sabsey, we went over to the troupe of Genfer, where he acted with breaks for three years, and there directed Yuskevitsh's "Der kenig (The King), and Ibsen's "Geyster (Ghosts)". During the time of his breaks, Z. acted with Esther Rukhl Kaminska in Odessa. In 1909 Z. acted for half a season with Genfer in Kishinev, and from there he toured with Kaminska across Russia, until they arrived in Warsaw, and then he entered into the newly opened  Kaminski Theatre. Several months later, Z. entered into Lipovsky's "first Yiddish folks theatre" in Vilna, where he also directed, acting afterwards across the province, becoming engaged to Zandberg in Lodz's Grand Theatre, where he performed  as the premiere name in both the dramas and the operettas. In 1912 Z. acted in Adler-Lipovski's Circus Theatre in Lodz, and directed there for the first time in Western Europe Shakespeare's "Hamlet" in Yiddish (translated by the actor Vaserman). In Lodz Z. was associated with the "Habimah HaIvrit", and performed in Hebrew as "Uriel Acosta", and as "Yakov" in Hertzl's "The New Ghetto", going on tour across Russia, Poland and Lithuania. In 1914, Z. acted in Vilna and there staged Sven Lange's "Samson and Delilah" (translated by Z. Zylbercweig).

During the war, Z. toured with Kaminska across Russia, in 1916, he was director in Odessa and acted -- due to the ban on Yiddish  -- as a part of the Yiddish traditional repertoire in Russian translations. After the October Revolution, Z. directed with the Yiddish State Theatre in Kiev. Later he moved over to Petrograd, where he directed in the Marinsky Theatre his dramatization of Sholem Aleichem's "Tevye the Milkman". After he helped with the founding of the "Kunst vinkl (Art Corner)" in Kiev, and he acted afterwards in several cities of Russia, immigrated to Argentina, where he was the initiator of the Yiddish folks theatre, which had directed the struggle against the tmim.

After acting for several months in Argentina and Brazil, Z. was invited, at the end of 1926, by Anshel Schorr to America, where he guest-starred for several months in Philadelphia and New York, then he returned to Europe, where he acted for a short time in Paris and went afterwards around with his own troupe across Poland, where he directed his dramatization of Sholem Aleichem's "Tuviya-meshyus", under the name of "Tevye the Milkman Traveling to Eretz Yisroel". In 1928, Z. opened under his direction a dramatic theatre in Warsaw's Skala (formerly Venus), where he premiered and directed and staged there "Farkoyfte hertser" {"Ibergus" or "Gotn-maydlekh"] by L. Malach. After acting for several months in Warsaw, Z. left the theatre due to a conflict with the Artists' Union, and he went on to guest-star in Rumania, France, and from there to brazil and Argentina.

M. E.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- Zaslavsky's ershter oyftrit in amerika, "Morning Journal", N. Y., 24 December 1926.

  • M. Myodovnik -- Meyne teater zikhroynes, Journal "Der shtern", Minsk, 4, 1926.

  • A. Fridkin -- Vegn ibsenen, vegn rudolf zaslavskin un vegn tuviah der milkhikn, "Literarishe bleter", 39, 1927.

  • N. Meisel -- Dos yidishe teater in varshe, "Literarishe bleter", 14-15, 1928.

  • Sh. L. Sh. -- A shmues mit rudolf zaslavsky, "Literarishe bleter", 40, 1928.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Yidishe aktyorn oyf der hebrewisher bine, "Teater-zikhrunus", Vilna, 1928, pp. 46-58.

  • Rudolf Zaslavsky -- Dreyter yor oyf der bine, "Teat"ts", Warsaw, 1(8), 2(9), 1929.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- Zikhrunus fun a yidishen teater-kritiker, "Archive", p. 416.

  • Amelia Adler -- Dos leben fun a idisher aktrise, "Di idishe velt", Cleveland, 7 November 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 751.

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