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Has spent two-and-a-half years in Europe. --

The greatest "patriots" of Yiddish theatre in Antwerp are Jewish-German youths

and their German women who fled from Hitler's hell. --

Other interesting facts about Yiddish theatre in Europe.

September 6, 1935


Michal Michalesko, the famous actor who is engaged this coming season for the Second Avenue Theatre, returned last Monday from Europe, where he spent around two-and-a-half years. He visited eight countries, and he tells interesting things about his trip.

-- My first stop, traveling to Europe, was Paris, -- the actor began to recall,  -- because for me all the time Paris is enormously interesting, and I remained there for four weeks' time. I played theatre with the local actors, and thank God, I had nothing to complain about.

His next station was Brussels, Belgium, and after that he traveled to Antwerp. In both cities he played for ten weeks' time.

And about Antwerp, Michalesko recalls an interesting case:

In Antwerp many Jewish refugees from Hitler's Germany came, and their situation was not at all exalted. They came without money, and they thanked God that it was possible for them to flee from the German hell with their lives. A large number of Jewish-German youths arrived who were students in Germany. The majority of them had married German women.


-- And who do you think Michalesko made a statement to? -- the greatest patriots [avid fans] of Yiddish theatre for the time that I was there? It was every Jewish-German youth and their German women! For them in the Yiddish theatre this was new. They had no Yiddish theatre in Germany, had never seen it before, and probably never heard of it. If they have once heard of Yiddish theatre, they did not have a good opinion of it. Now however, arriving in Antwerp, for the first time they visited a Yiddish theatre, and -- they became Yiddish theatre patriots. Their German women, even more than the men. They applauded and many of them were hugely enthusiastic. They used to come in whole groups, and they used to sit in the first seats.

Knowing that they are poor people, and that they still wanted to go to Yiddish theatre, the managers decided to sell them tickets for a third of the price. And they expressed their gratitude for it. Even some from the Jewish-German refugees came, who used to obtain support from the local aid organizations. They used to refrain from eating so that they could go to the Yiddish theatre.

The next station was Lodz, Poland, where he played for seven weeks. For the Jews in Lodz, Michalesko made them very enthusiastic. He played there in "The Last Dance."

-- You should see how the Lodz Jews run to the Yiddish theatre! They are simply in love with the theatre, and the Jews who come to the theatre in long jackets (kapotes), in skull caps (yarmulkes), and even some of them have long side curls (payes), also run to the theatre. The Lodz Jews -- Michalesko says -- they are very dear people, warm people, and one feels good when one is among them.

The entire time he was in Lodz, he played seven days a week, and every time in the theatre the attendance was good.

From Lodz he made a trip to England. He played in London, in the Pavilion Theatre, but in London he was greatly disappointed in all respects.

-- I was sure that the Jews in London would be excited for Yiddish theatre -- He complained that they had no enthusiasm. And perhaps they are not to blame because they do not come to the Pavilion Theatre because the theatre is one hundred years old, and he has a face like a hundred-year-old Jew ... The walls are darkened like the Jewish exile; the stage is not large enough; the seats are hard, and the balcony has only long benches to sit on, and everyone who comes early gets a better seat. This was true of the ancient times in the Yiddish theatres ...

And the theatre-goer behaves like he is at home ... They speak at the time when there is acting; they "bite," and even if a child does not behave in a "dignified" manner, the mother shouts at him in an unrestrained manner. From there you can imagine how this makes the actors feel ...

He played in London in the winter time, -- and in the theatre it was no less cold than outdoors, said the guest. -- But outdoors there was air, and there wasn't inside the theatre ... People were banging their hands together and their feet to warm up a little. But mostly it helped like used bankes ... Even loving couples, who were sitting in the theatre, had to huddle together to warm themselves a little ...

Because of this condition, there may not be enough theatre-goers.

For three months' time he played there, and he felt nothing bad when he left London.

-- And they say yet that London is a greater city than New York! -- he added ...

From London he continued to travel to Belgium, and from there to Warsaw.

In Warsaw, he says, the youth is cold to Yiddish theatre, but here there is a reason for it.

It was introduced in Warsaw to drink tea in coffee houses every day at five o'clock in the afternoon, and there they play and they dance. The youth come home, drink tea and they go there, and they dance for several hours. What else do you go to see a Yiddish theatre for?

When he was in Warsaw -- the actor continued to say -- The Polish interior minister Pieracki and the Endekes were killed there [June 15, 1934]. -- the anti-Semitic band -- took off its gloves and began to make pogroms against the Jews. They found enough young Jewish boys who demonstrated the art of giving back, and -- this was interesting to see. The "Endekes" could not be shamed for a long time because the government had arrested them, and they had no more masculinity to humiliate.

From Kovno, where he played for five weeks' time, according to Michalesko the local Jews were cold and not strongly enthusiastic, per his opinion. However, there is a reason for this. The economic conditions are now very bad.

After five weeks of playing there, he traveled to Riga, where the audience was very warm. In Riga they spoke mainly Russian and German. There one finds many former, rich Russian Jews who once would not go to the Yiddish theatre. Some of them were ashamed with Yiddish. Now, however, "Hitler" has "fixed" them a bit. They began to feel that they are Jews, and they are no longer ashamed of their Jewishness, and also not with Yiddish theatre. They began to rely on Jews and their Jewishness.

And in his entire trip -- Michalesko said -- he still did not have as much spiritual enjoyment as he had in Riga. He liked everything there.

-- In Lemberg the Jewish economic situation is a terrible one, -- the guest continued to recall -- they went around like the living dead. -- And about the theatre? It would be better if there was no theatre there at all.

Michalesko spent several weeks in Iasi, Romania. There -- he said -- where Yiddish theatre was born, where Goldfaden staged his first plays -- there are theatrical thinkers there. They play good plays well and Jews come. When they play badly, they are gone from the theatre ...

From Romania Michalesko arrived in New York last Monday. He went straight to work for the opening of the Second Avenue Theatre.




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