Talk:Vilna Troupe

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Further possible sources[edit]

Someone might want to get hold of "On Stage, Off Stage: Memories of a Lifetime in the Yiddish Theatre" by Luba Kadison, Joseph Buloff, and Irving Genn. Kadison and Buloff started with the Vilna troupe. -- Jmabel | Talk 23:05, Jan 23, 2005 (UTC)

Also apparently there is material on the Vilna Troupe in Irving Howe's World of our Fathers. - Jmabel | Talk 18:50, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

Good interview with Luba Kadison: Chloe Veltman, Theatre was my cradle : Chloe Veltman Interviews Luba Kadison -Buloff (1906 -2006), All About Jewish Theatre, excerpted from On Acting: Interviews with Actors (Mary Luckhurst & Chloe Veltman, eds.), Faber & Faber, 2002. May have some useful material. Confirms 1916 founding date.

Short piece on them in the Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre reproduced at - Jmabel | Talk 20:38, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

A page or so on their early years in Gennady Estraikh, "Vilna on the Spree: Yiddish in Weimar Berlin", ASCHKENAS Ð Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Kultur der Juden 16/2006. - Jmabel | Talk 20:43, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

Martin Banham, The Cambridge Guide to Theatre, Cambridge University Press, 1995, ISBN 0521434378, p. 1214 emphasizes that David Herman was a protégé of Peretz Hirshbein (which makes sense: the latter was associated with I. L. Peretz & certainly had a similarly avant garde approach to theater), and says that the troupe had "a repertoire of over 100 plays". - Jmabel | Talk 20:51, 7 November 2008 (UTC)


I've done my best to spell names appropriately; in most cases all I had to go from was Bercovici's sometimes idiosyncratic Romanian orthography. Also, I'm almost shooting in the dark as to which names deserve links: it's hard to know who there may be more material about, especially because little of it is on line, and presumably much of it is in Yiddish, a language in which I am illiterate. -- Jmabel | Talk 07:26, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)

Renewing "names" discussion November 2008[edit]

Dahn and I just had a brief exchange about some of this on my user talk page, but I thought it would be better to move the discussion back here.

Many Jewish names have more than one possible spelling, and many of these people traveled extensively. Most were born and raised writing their names in Hebrew or Cyrillic characters, and the Latinizations varied from country to country. For example someone born Yakov was likely to be Iacob in Bucharest and Jacob in New York.

Wherever we have a spelling from a good English-language source, we should follow that, unless we have a specific reason to consider it wrong. For example, spellings from the New York Times should be very reliable. When we are going from (for example) Romanian-language sources, or sources in non-Latin alphabets, we have some decisions to make. Let's discuss them here. - Jmabel | Talk 00:09, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

I'm absolutely fine with that. I will stress again that I don't want to go with the Romanianized versions, it's just that one source I have access to lists them as such, and I needed help figuring out if these have a standardized form in English (or relevant Yiddish transliteration other than the Romanian one). This is a prequel to a series of edits I plan in this article, most of them having to do with the Troupe's Bucharest period. To give you some insight for now: the main source I have discusses at length the contribution the Troupe had in introducing Romania to modernism in general and Expressionism in particular (I also have another source who disputes the Expressionist connection); it also deals with some other interesting stuff - from the warm reception offered to the Troupe by Romania's avant-garde and left-wing environment to its contribution in uniting a section of the local public opinion against antisemitism (some of this is referred to in the text, but not in as much detail). Dahn (talk) 00:27, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

Per our previous discussion: yes, it would probably be good to indicate exactly how names were spelled in each of our sources. Unfortunately I didn't do that in the article while I had the Bercovici book in hand. I hope that in his case I will find that in my notes.

Dahn was asking me about Ehrenkrantz (article) vs. Ehren-Krantz (Cernat) and Kamen (article) vs. Kalmen (Cernat). I'm not certain in either case; on the latter, we might want to seek additional sources. "Kalman" is a pretty common Jewish name, "Kalmen" a less common spelling of basically the same name, and "Kamen" an unusual one. It is possible that "Kamen" was a typo (mine or Bercovici's or his publishers'). "Ehrenkrantz" and "Ehren-Krantz" are both possible names. - Jmabel | Talk 00:19, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

Okay. Just to make it easier on other editors who may want to join in, I'll paste the actors' list as it appears in my source (Cernat). Most of the variations are based on Romanian transliterations, and are easy to tell apart from the others. Sic: "Iosif Bolov, Iacob Weisliz, Hana Braz, Liuba Kadison, Beniamin Ehren-Krantz, Alexandr Stein, Judith Lares, Hana Mogel, Miriam Orleska, Haim Brakasch, Iosif Kalmen, Samuel Scaftel, Helene Gottlieb, Aizic Samberg." Dahn (talk) 00:27, 7 November 2008 (UTC)
In English "Iosif Bolov" ==> "Joseph Buloff" (who definitely deserves an article); "Iosif" ==> "Joseph"; "Iacob" ==> "Jacob" unless we have English-language sources using, say, "Yakov"; "Hana" ==> "Hanna"; as discussed on my user talk page, "Liuba" ==> "Luba" and Liuba Kadison definitely deserves an article as does her father Leib Kadison; "Beniamin" ==> "Benjamin"; "Alexandr" ==> most likely "Alexander", but also can use the very Slavic "Aleksandr" and some other variants, I'd hope for an English-language source; "Haim" ==> usually "Chaim"; "Aizic" ==> "Isaac" unless we have English-language sources using, say, "Yitzhak". Other than that, no immediate guesses or opinions. - Jmabel | Talk 01:01, 7 November 2008 (UTC)
Well, what I'm hoping for is that we eventually have an attested variant for each of the names. I will certainly not be pushing for the Romanian variant - even those few who are (if I understood correctly) guesses are more relevant than the Romanian transliteration (and, as I have said, the Romanian transliteration itself looks to be approximate and inconsistent). In any case, I'll follow your lead on this and the redlinks, but I agree we would still need to clear those relatively few cases where we just don't know what the names of these persons actually were (not Boloff-Bolov, but Kalmen-Kelmen-Kamen et al.), or at least have the article confront sources who say different. Dahn (talk) 01:18, 7 November 2008 (UTC)
Oh, and I'm pretty sure of "Samuel Schäftel", "Scaftel" is a name I've never seen and it gets exactly 1 GHit. But could be Schaftel without an umlaut. - Jmabel | Talk 01:06, 7 November 2008 (UTC)
I'm ready to assume that myself. If there's one problem with Cernat's book is that it was rather poorly edited. For example, the very paragraph I quoted from above says muilte (a non-existing word) instead of multe ("many"). Then again, since it appears to be based on original reviews, it may reflect the atrocious spelling in those sources. Dahn (talk) 01:18, 7 November 2008 (UTC)
IMDB's page for The Dybbuk has (believe it or not) the spelling Ajzyk Samberg, which looks really weird to me. Maybe a Polish or Lithuanian transliteration? - Jmabel | Talk 01:12, 7 November 2008 (UTC)
Presumably Polish. Dahn (talk) 01:18, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

Bercovici's list (with his spelling, although of course I could have introduced a typo, this is from my old notes) of the troupe members when they arrived in Bucharest; this is from [Bercovici 1998], p. 125: Hana Braz, Liuba Kadison, Helene Gottlieb, Judith Lares, Hana Mogol, Miriam Orleska, Alexander Stein, Iosif Bulov, Aizic Samberg, Iosif Kamen [so this could be right], Iacob Weislitz, Leib Kadison, Samuel Schäftel, Beniamin Ehrenkrantz, Haim Brakasch, and director M. Mazo. Looks to me like he and Cernat had a common source; I'm guessing that Bercovici and Editura Integral were the more careful (although, as I remember, the book was not entirely without typos). - Jmabel | Talk 17:37, 8 November 2008 (UTC)

Also (p. 133–134) at the time of the establishment of Dramă şi Comedie (similar remarks apply): Hana Braz, Liuba Kadison, Judith Lares, Noemi Nathan, Miriam Orleska, Joheved Weislitz, Iosif Bulov, Jehuda Ehrenkranz, Samuel Iriş, Iosif Kamen, Simha Nathan, Samuel Schäftel, Şalom Schönbaum, Alex. Ştein, Henry Tarlo, Simi Weinstock, Iacob Weishtz. My notes suggest that the list is incomplete.

p. 134: Dramă şi Comedie performed (among others) Shalom Aleichem, I. L. Peretz, Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Molière, Goethe. They intended to tour, but only within Romania.

That's about all I've got that's not in the article. - Jmabel | Talk 22:30, 8 November 2008 (UTC)

After 1927[edit]

I know that there was a revived Vilna Troupe after 1927 (maybe under Mazo in Poland? I'm not sure) and there may have been a split off at the time the bulk of the troupe tried settling in Bucharest. I'd welcome any additional sources of information. -- Jmabel | Talk 07:26, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)

This site says "The Vilner Troupe was destroyed by the Nazis following their invasion of Poland in 1937." Since the Nazi invasion of Poland was in 1939, I can't exactly take that as definitive. -- Jmabel | Talk 07:40, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)


Luba Kadison Buloff (mentioned above at #Further possible sources) died Thurs at home aged 99 (December 14 1906, Kovno, Lithuania - May 4 2006, Manhattan) (per NYTimes, Tues May 9, citing dau Barbara B.). She (& fa. Leib Kadison & the Troupe) "moved to Warsaw" "[s]oon after the war" (WWI). Met Joseph Buloff (d. 1983) in Poland, where he joined the Troupe, married him in 1923. Both to NYC, "[f]ive yrs later" ('28, presumably), on invitation of Maurice Schwarz, impressario of Yiddish Art Theater. JB went on to Broadway; she played Linda Loman in the Yiddish Death of a Salesman, performed into the late 1950s, then taught acting, and interpreted for Soviet Jewish immigrants.
--Jerzyt 16:01, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

Roshwald & Stites 2002[edit]

There may be more useful content in the cited Roshwald & Stites 2002 source. It should be available online with Google Books. - Jmabel | Talk 23:30, 6 November 2008 (UTC)

NYT archives[edit]

Quite a bit on them in the New York Times archives. I'll start adding items here, without worrying yet what belongs in the article. - Jmabel | Talk 01:25, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

I'm trying to note all the article mentions; I'm not listing every display ad for a production, or every obituary that mentions the troupe in passing. Note that a lot of this is post-Romania.

  • "LONDON NOTES: Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES", New York Times October 28, 1923. p. X2 reports that their production of The God of Vengeance at the Pavilion Theatre in Whitechapel was shut down by the censor (who had originally passed it based on an English-language synopsis). It mentions that the play had not been allowed to be performed in NYC, but doesn't indicate whether the Vilna Troupe were the ones who tried to present it in NYC.
  • A note after a review by Olin Downes, "MUSIC; 'Die Toten Augen'", New York Times January 4, 1924. p. 11 reports that Boris Thomashevsky is bringing them over from Europe to perform The Dibbuk (so spelled) and that the company has 18 players. It also misreports them as having been founded in Warsaw.
  • "VILNA TROUPE GIVE ODD YIDDISH DRAMA; Throng Greets Their First Appearance Here in 'The Dibbuk' at Thomashefsky's Theatre", New York Times, January 29, 1924. p. 17 is the original of the theater review we've already cited for a cast list. The copy we linked appears to be verbatim and complete.
  • "'The Neveile' Acted; Vilna Troupe Present a Study in Heredity at Thomashevsky's", New York Times, Feb 9, 1924. p. 16 favorably reviews their second play for Thomashevsky in NYC and praises Asro, Sonya Alomis, and Chaim Shneier in particular.
  • New York Times, Apr 7, 1926. p. 26, a quick note of a revival of The Dibbuk at the Grand Theater gives the alternate spelling Sonia Alumes.
  • "FOR NEW YIDDISH THEATRE.; Cornerstone of Building Named for Rolland to Be Laid Today", New York Times, Jun 24, 1928. p. 25 mentions that William Roland "…organized the Progressive Drama Club and financed the Vilna Troupe, which he brought to America."
  • an ad Mar 2, 1929. p. 21 shows them to be playing Parnuse (Business) by Clt. [Clement] Gottesfeld at the Intimate Playhouse, 180th St. & Boston Road in the Bronx. A further ad Mar 16, 1929. p. 24 quotes a testimonial from Eddie Cantor. "Theatrical Notes" May 16, 1929. p. 39 says the production is moving to the "Yiddish Folks Theater" at Second Avenue & 12th Street
  • W. S., "Vilna Troupe's Program", New York Times, November 11, 1935. p. 21 reviews a "more than promising" revue performance at the New School for Social Research by members of the troupe attempting to re-establish a company. It lists some of the pieces performed and mentions and praises Noah Nachbush, Miss R. Zelaza, Z. Becker, S. Tanin, Yacob Bergreen, a dancer named Zahava, and Zalmon Zylbercweig. The 5-paragraph piece is interesting (but copyrighted, so I can't just reproduce it here).
  • A piece about Lodovico Rocca's opera based on The Dybbuk: Olin Downes, "NEW YORK 'DYBBUK' PREMIERE", New York Times, May 10, 1936. p. X5. This specifically says that Rocca "was attracted to the subject for a musical setting when he saw the Vilna Troupe perform it several years ago in Milan."
  • W.S., "A Yiddish Program", New York Times, September 28, 1936, p. 14 describes Sonia Alomis (sic), Alexander Asro, and Noah Nachbush, "members of the Vilna Troupe" performing at the New School "to remind us that they are still an active force in [Jewish] theater." They performed Sholom Aleichem's Kapores, Arzibashev's one-act Jealousy, Der Tunkeler's Should I Marry, or Shouldn't I?, and Veviorke's A Philosopher—A Drunkard. Nachbush and Asro are favorably reviewed, Alomis mostly not.
  • A brief note about a 20th anniversary revival of The Dybbuk in "NEWS OF THE STAGE; Special Holiday Matinees Do Thriving Business'Power,' WPA Show, Opens Tonight at Ritz", New York Times, February 23, 1937. p. 25 refers to "members of the now defunct Vilna Troupe again appearing in their original roles."
  • Olin Downes, "VILNA TROUPE REVIVED On the 20th Anniversary of Its Founding 'Dybbuk' Is Given", New York Times, February 24, 1937. p. 18. "Many of the best known members... at the downtown National Theater... under the direction of David Herman, to whom the playwright entrusted the first production of his work. ... Since the company dissolved six years ago, its performance was not as fluid as it should be..." (but then goes on to say quite a bit favorable).
  • Evelyn Philips, "Yiddish Film Pioneer Recalls Early Days; It started with a bit part in 'The Jazz Singer.'", New York Times, October 8, 1989, p. LI19 is about Joseph Green[berg]; it has only a passing mention of the Vilna Troupe, but effectively clarifies that he joined the company in 1917 in Berlin, and that he is the same Joseph Green who went on to direct Yiddish films.
  • Lore Dickstein, "World of Our Mothers; Two novels about women from traditional Jewish backgrounds. Mazel By Rebecca Goldstein… The Romance Reader By Pearl Abraham" (book review), New York Times, October 29, 1995, p. BR54 mentions that Rebecca Goldstein's novel Mazel is partly set in a fictionalized avant-garde theater group modeled on the Vilna Troupe.

That's it. - Jmabel | Talk 19:35, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

Bercovici notes[edit]

To my own minor amazement, I found the notes I took a few years ago from Bercovici's book. To my minor chagrin, they are in a mix of Romanian, English, and variously transliterated Yiddish. Over the next day or two I'll try to get anything substantive either written down here or worked into the article. - Jmabel | Talk 17:30, 8 November 2008 (UTC)

p. 126 mentions them having played in London & Paris.

Plays performed by the Vilna Troupe in Bucharest 1923–25 [Bercovici 1998], p. 125-126. Transliterations of Yiddish and of playwright's names are probably mostly his, but clearly some are not; chart being updated as we go along:

Romanian title Transliterated Yiddish title English title Playwright
Dybbuk Dybbuk Dybbuk Anski (S. Ansky)
Tag un Naht Day and Night Anski (S. Ansky)
Gelozie Jealousy M. P. Arţibaşev (Mikhail Artsybashev)
Mokte Ganev Mokte the Thief Sholem Asch
Potopul The Deluge (orig. Swedish: Syndafloden) Henning Berger
Flăcăul de laţarǎla ţarǎ Leon Korbin
Farloirine Hofenung Lost Hope Hermann Haermann
Johannis feuer The St John's Eve Fire Hermann Sudermann
Cârciuma pustie Di puste kretşme Peretz Hirshbein
Azilul de noapte The Lower Depths Maxim Gorki (Maxim Gorky)
Uriel Acosta Uriel Acosta Uriel Acosta Karl Gutzkow
Camarazi de şcoală Friends of Youth (orig. German: Jugendfreunde) Ludwig Fulda
Amnon şi Tamara Amnon un Tamara Shalom Asch
E greu să fii evreu It's Hard to be Jewish Shalom Aleichem (Sholem Aleichem)
Strigoii Ghosts Ibsen (Henrik Ibsen)
Cel care primeşte palme He Who Gets Slapped Leonid Andreev (Leonid Andreyev)
Fiicele potcovarului Dem Schmids Tekhter The Smith's Daughters Peretz Hirshbein
Georges Dandin Molière
Meleh David un zaine frauen King David and his Wives David Pinski
Enoriaşul din Vilna Der Wilner Balebesel B. Gorin
The Miser Molière
Staged songs (folk)
Cântăreţul tristeţii sale Der zingher fun zan troier The Singer of His own Sadness Osip Dimov (Ossip Dimoff)

- Jmabel | Talk 18:16, 8 November 2008 (UTC), updated 05:27, 23 November 2008 (UTC)

p. 127 he specifically mentions the influence of Russian literature and of Stanislawski.

Unfortunately, I didn't write down the original of the Adevărul or Integral quotations; my notes there are in English. If someone wants the originals, they are probably going to need to track down either the Bercovici books or the originals, most likely in a Romanian library (but if someone is in Chicago, they could get a look at the copy I used).

Between the Integral quotation and the manifesto quotation "to offer the masses and intellectuals simultaneously an institution of culture", I have in my notes "A. L. Zissu, Iacob Sternberg, & Mazo". I don't know if it ties specifically to one of the two quotations, though. -- Jmabel | Talk 22:22, 8 November 2008 (UTC)

Unfortunately, I don't have the book in front of me, and I'm a bit over my head in RL right now. A minor point for now: Cernat also has some substantial quotes from the journals, but I don't know if they correspond with everything in Bercovici (they may be shorter or longer). I'll be back with more over the following days. Dahn (talk) 21:47, 9 November 2008 (UTC)
Let me also try my hand at translating the Ro titles for plays, that way we can eventually track them down (I discarded the diacritics, because it's easier for me to write without at the moment). Potopul should translate as "The Delurge"; Flacaul de la tara (presumably known then, in the oldish script, as Flacaul dela tara, but certainly not as Flacaul de latara) - "The Country Lad"; Carciuma/Circiuma pustie - "The Deserted Tavern". Gorky's Azilul de noapte (lit. "The Night Asylum") is, if I remember coorectly, the same as his The Lower Depths; Ibsen's play is, factually and literally, his Ghosts. Camarazi de scoala is smthg like "School Chums", and Cel care primeste palme is approx. "The Man Who Puts Up with/for Smacks". Fiicele potcovarului (not potcavarului) is "The Daughters of the Horseshoe Maker". Enoriasul din Vilna is "The Vilna Parisher" (some adaptation is implied). Dahn (talk) 21:53, 9 November 2008 (UTC)
I presume "Delurge" ==> "Deluge"? latara: duh. Probably my bad handwriting in the notes, hadn't looked at them in 4 years. I think you are right on Gorky. Yes, I was aware that the Ibsen was Ghosts, just transcribing what I happened to have written down 4 years ago. Agree w/ your understanding of "Camarazi de scoala"; "Comrades" exists in English. Or maybe just "schoolmates"? - Jmabel | Talk 05:39, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
  • The original German was just Jugendfreunde, and the work dates from 1898, according to the German Wikipedia. The New York Times in 1906 referred to it as "Friends of Youth". - Jmabel | Talk 05:40, 23 November 2008 (UTC)
The Hermann Sudermann play is known in English as The St John's Eve Fire. The Leonid Andreyev play is known in English as He Who Gets Slapped. - Jmabel | Talk 05:44, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
Any objection to filling in the chart as we work this out? Originally it was transcription from my notes, but I see no reason it needs to stay that way. - Jmabel | Talk 05:45, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
First of all: please accept my apologies for 16-day absence - I'm more or less back on track now. Now, a disclaimer: the above was my attempt to give you and all others who may be looking into the alternative English title a clue as to what they translate as - they are by no means anything other than rough guesses (except for Ibsen and the like, which I had no doubt we both tracked down correctly). The main issue would be the more obscure plays - for all we know, they may have standardized English titles, but those are bound to be more difficult in tracking down, especially if we only know the Romanian titles - as a first draft, what I aimed to do was to give readers who do not know Romanian a clue into what the titles mean and (where even these don't coincide in two of three languages) what the plays are about. With that in mind: I hope I did not seem pedantic when correcting Romanian titles - for all I know, the minor errors could be ascribed to the source you used, and, while I'm always pleasantly surprised by your knowledge of Romanian, I do not want to take it for granted; while it is always hard for me to tell how much you can understand prima facie of one Romanian-language text or another, I don't think you would need to explain yourself in whatever situation. Plus, in the case of "de la", bear in mind that it is entirely possible for it to have used "dela", and this would even be confusing to most educated Romanians living today. And then there's my "delurge"... (yes, it should be "deluge" - the misspelling is an automatism I developed the first time I used it in writing, and I can't seem to shake it off...).
Absolutely no objection to filling the table as we go - the only reasons why I didn't intervene there myself are that I hadn't written it and that I could not tell if I was right on all counts. And I'm also looking forward to seeing the info in the article at some point - though I don't know if we should have it as a table or as prose. Dahn (talk) 18:25, 26 November 2008 (UTC)
I took the liberty of filling out info on Gorin, based on this (redlink is advised, per this, but I'm not married to it). Dahn (talk) 18:36, 26 November 2008 (UTC)

This side of the pond[edit]

I came to realize that I never did conduct a search for Romanian-language online sources. Well, I just did, and some interesting stuff came up: this mentions that Mihail Sebastian adapted the Deluge for based on the Vilna Troupe performance (it also has a fragment where Sebastian offers praise to the troupe); this has a reprint of a 1929 Cuvântul article, which, starting with its headline ("The Vilna Troupe Returns"), may help clarify just what happened after 1926. There isn't much else, afaics. Dahn (talk) 04:27, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

I know I also promised another reference for the troupe's influence on Romanian Expressionism (a reference which, incidentally, argued that it was much more limited than one would believe). It will take me a while: I first happened to bump into the one page while I was going through what is a rather big book, and now I just don't remember where it was in the text. I'm revisiting it, but slowly and rather inefficiently. Dahn (talk) 04:31, 10 December 2008 (UTC)