Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Peter Graf


G. was born in 1873 in Lemberg, Eastern Galicia, to well-to-do, pious parents. He learned in a cheder and in school, where as a mezzo-soprano, he became the "star" of the singing class. The teacher of the children, who also was the conductor of the Lemberg synagogue, took him into the synagogue choir, but G.'s religious father did not permit it, that his one son should sing in a synagogue where young boys sang together with young girls.

Later G., through the same chorus director, who had worked with the city cantor, Aaron Sholom Sherman, who was charmed so by his voice, that he took him into his chorus -- with the consent of his G.'s father -- with a contract that he may for the first three years for the sum of seventy-four ranish.

With the cantor, G. learned music theory, and with him he sang until he had advanced to mezzo-soprano.

During that span of that time, G. attended the Polish and Yiddish theatres, and he decided to become a Yiddish actor.

The conductor of Yakov Ber Gimpel's troupe, Eskreyz, had him soon rise up as a chorus singer, and the theatre director of the troupe then, Yosef Veynshtok, had begun to give him small roles.

G. used to have a nature to not only be in small roles, but in all the roles of the plays, and that played an important role in his career:

When the main actor of the theatre, Yosef Vaynshtok, suddenly disappeared from the theatre, G. had on the initiative of the conductor Eskreyz, the opportunity of performing in the title role of the operetta "Shlomo HaMelekh (King Solomon)", and immediately drew a great deal of attention to himself.

Later, when Goldfaden came to Lemberg to perform his "Latkhmud", G. acted as "Akhitufl". Later, Adler came to Lemberg and took to the popular actors of the troupe, and thus the local theatre was abided to support only G.

When in several years ("Professor") Horowitz came around to Lemberg, he assembled a troupe for Romania, also taking in G.

In 1900 Horowitz took his troupe over to America, and G. performed in a minor role at the Windsor Theatre. In 1904 G. was engaged by Adler, and initially in Gordin's repertoire he revealed himself in such a way that Gordin wrote especially for him the role of "Israel Yakov der zeygermakher (Israel Yakov the Clockmaker)" in "Der meturef (The Worthless)", and "Kalman Moshe" in "Der fremder (The Stranger)". Then G. acted in operas and melodramas with Thomashefsky, later again with Adler, then in Edelstein's theatre, in Irving Place, in the Grand Theatre, from 1922-7 in Gabel's theatre, from 1927-9 in the Prospect Theatre, and then in 1929-30 in Satz's Folks Theatre.

Sh. E.

  • Uriel Mazik -- Bilder galerye fun unzere idishe shoyshpiler, "Der tog", N. Y, 3 February 1917.

  • Peter Graf -- Moment fun aktyorn-lebn, "Teater-zikhrunuts",  (Editor, Z. Zylbercweig), Vilna, 1928, pp. 59-68.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 525.

You can also read Peter Graf's amended Lexicon biography in its new online volume no. 8.

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