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Played with his wife for more than twenty weeks in Teatro Ambu, Buenos Aires.

-- The remarkable Yiddish theatre patriot in Buenos Aires.

-- A story about posters.

February 4, 1938

"We were not in New York for eight months' time. We guest-starred in Argentina and Brazil, and everywhere we went we were greeted with a very warm welcome, and let me say that the Jews in every country were friendly to a guest; they took to the guest actor with open arms, but it is pleasing to return back to New York, because a state such as New York does not exist."

So after a couple of days back, the famous comedian, Itzik Feld, together with his wife, the actress Lola Spielman, just returned back from the aforementioned South American countries, where they performed in five various plays from his repertoire.

As Feld tells it, they played for over five months' time in the Teatro Ambu, Buenos Aires, and a couple of weeks in the province. Then they traveled to Rio de Janeiro and to Sao Paolo, Brazil.

In Buenos Aires they intended to remain there for only twelve weeks, but, as mentioned above, they played there much longer with success. According to him, the previous Yiddish theatre season there was the best for many years, and all the American actors who came there were a great success. With the arrival of the American guest-stars, this also greatly helped the entire Yiddish theatre profession there.

Arriving in Buenos Aires, Feld tells, he met many countrymen there who had known him from his home in Poland. He was then just a young boy who had begun at first by telling jokes on the stage. However, arriving in Buenos Aires where he was never in before, he found out that his name there is not foreign among the Jewish citizens, and especially among his countrymen who knew him as a young man, and who expected him to become a famous actor, to see him play in main roles. Banquets were given for him and his wife, and there were arranged simkhas (joyous events) for them in private homes.

In Argentina, the actor said, one finds theatre patriots, people who will even offer themselves to the Yiddish theatre, and one of them, who is already not a young man, distinguishes itself in this regard more than any other. Yiddish theatre is a part of his life. He breathes Yiddish theatre, and every actor is a big deal to him ... Doing something for an actor is a sacred duty, and he does "his sacred duties" in a remarkable way.

This theatre patriot has a family and is a worker. However, he has an interesting agreement with his employer, who, if he had refused to abide by the agreement with him, he would have given up the job.

And why is the agreement interesting?

You know that every actor, he may even be a guest-actor, has an evening-of-honor for himself in the theatre that he plays in. Well, if they could sell tickets for the evening-of-honor, then their success would be great.


In Buenos Aires, when a guest-actor comes, he is still a stranger in town. He must have someone who could meet the ship, help find a room in a hotel, show him the city, and so on. It feels like the actor is forced to sell tickets for his evening-of-honor, and they also feel that it is a sacred obligation for a guest-actor to help in everything; take him from the theatre to a café or to his hotel. This takes time to do, and also it isn't easy work, especially to sell tickets for the evenings-of-honor.

That theatre patriot has an agreement with his boss, that each time there must be a benefit for an actor, he could have the right not to work for several days, so that he may be able to sell tickets; and secondly, when a guest-actor comes, he would not work for several days in a shop, in order for him to be able to show hospitality to him by doing the aforementioned good things ...

Oy, they need to make a living? Well, do we have to live to nourish the body? After all, something must be done to satisfy the soul. It satisfies, they say, more the soul than the body, but this does not bother him ... that an evening-of-honor is a success, is to him a spiritual joy, and that he treats an actor "respectably," that he feels a holiday in his heart.

Feld told us in the room that one can find theatre advertisements, or posters in the hundreds, and many of the posters are already several years old. To us it looks like they are hanging on the wall like lung and liver in a butcher shop. He has that archive of Yiddish newspapers in which one finds the critiques of plays. It does not matter if the reviews were written about plays that were played in New York, Chicago, or someplace different. He feels that every Yiddish actor are members of his spiritual family, and he considers the success of an actor to be his success, and he even writes a well-spirited critique of an actor or actress and feels that any criticism is almost a crime against him as well.

Feld tells an interesting occurrence in relation to a critique of the playing of a certain star, who his great patriot is, and how he, who is a boot stitcher, prevented the star from learning about the criticism, which was not favorable.

The critique was written in the "Forward," but so the star could not see the critique, he bought all the copies of the "Forward" that was for sale in Buenos Aires, and he had every copy brought to his house, so that even God alone could not see what he found. He even retrieved the copies that arrived at the editor's office of the newspapers in Buenos Aires.

About the question to him on what was done, he said: "Why provide for him free... [awk.]? Why did he shed his blood?"

It sometimes happens that people swear to be made to believe what they say: And what-what, Shavuos is not lacking in Jews. One, for example, swore: "I should live to see the Messiah," or, "I should have such an income," etc.

The patriot, however, has only one other oath.

Suppose that a play is performed, let's say, called "Toibe, the Mother-in-Law," and he is a great patriot of the star of the play, "Yankl Varabecik." Well, when he says something and wants people to believe him one hundred percent, he swears to himself: "Let him be easily persuaded with "Toibe, the Mother-in-Law," that I tell you the truth." This kind of interesting theatre patriot, says Feld, Buenos Aires possesses!

*      *      *

As was said, Feld is strongly satisfied with his trip in these South American countries, and there he has great nakhes (contentment) from himself and from everyone. Nevertheless, however, in Buenos Aires he also had many annoyances.

"Suppose," the comedian said with a wide smile, "I'm driving in a taxi to the Teatro Ambu, where I had played, and traveling there I see a poster with my image. It gave me a drop of joy in my heart; after all, one needs nothing more as a human being, that one wants only a little publicity. And indeed why not? When one dies, one is still dead, and a dead person can no longer see its image when it is printed in a newspaper or on a poster ... When I saw this, that I had my picture on a poster, it made me happy, and for a moment I thought about it: Here, let my wife really see that she has made a fine match ... Traveling back from the theatre, I again wanted to see the 'good' posters. But imagine my day when I saw that on my posters, there were posters from another theatre, and there was the image of the star of that theatre ... Well, can you comprehend how great my resentment was? But what can be done? Such is life already. Just like humans, posters also climb on top of each other, and I let out a considerable sigh ... 

"But when in the morning I continue to travel to the theatre and look once again at the posters, we my eyes virtually became brighter, because on both posters I saw a third poster glued onto the two earlier ones ... That the star of the second theatre should also feel the taste of being glued! ...

"When I asked myself how such a thing could happen, I was told that it is done because of the competition between theatres."

According to the law, Feld explained, if you do not have a poster, you have to pay a lot of money for it. Such posters are affixed with the seal of the government and may not be affixed. The government, however, allows you to glue for free, small advertisements (posters), when one plays in theatres for the good of a common cause. These little posters can be glued. It's like this: "Let it be so: as soon as people from one theatre hang their posters, people come from a second theatre, and they put up posters on the first ... then people from a third theatre come and stick their own posters on these. And you just can't do that ...

That is the way -- he explained -- is how they run in Buenos Aires. But Buenos Aires is a fine city, and the Jews there are very good and fine people.





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