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                                                               YIDDISH THEATRE 101 > THE YIDDISH PLAYS > THE PLAY IN HISTORY  >  60,000 HEROES

 

"60,000 Heroes"

by Benjamin Ressler

Presented by the

New York Art Troupe

at the

Yiddish Folks Theatre

 

 

Introductory Note. Only through the medium of the fantastic comedy could Benjamin Ressler have given expression to the multitude of themes which comprise the content of the play. In this strange borderland between reality and fantasy, where though and deed are inseparably connected with the ideal the history of the Jewish race is exposed in all its consequence. The characters of the play, for all that they are cast in the Middle Ages, speak with the accent of modernity. For Mr. Ressler sardonically indicates that the problems which faced Jewry a thousand years ago are still existent -- but he does not permit this strange repetition of fate to warp his objectivity, and rather turns the searing scorn of satire upon the human weakness of his characters with a prickish sense of humor and pathos.

The word "Geboirim" signifies mighty warriors, heroes.

Act 1. Scene 1. It is Sabbath Eve in a market place of the Ghetto. Lemel, a hunchback and a simpleton, predicts that the Crusaders will disturb the Sabbath. All the inhabitants of the Ghetto are in deadly fear. Lemel takes up his never-ending cry that the Messiah is coming, but none pay attention to him. Suddenly two of the Crusaders appear in the Ghetto. Lukas, a Silesian, and Casimir, a Teuton. They are drunk and hungry and despoil the tradesman of food, threatening to return later. Yechiel and Shame enter. Their children are engaged to marry, but the former's son continues to postpone the wedding day. Miriam, the bride, joins them. Lemel again cries out that the Messiah is coming and as he speaks Paltiehl the bridegroom comes in. Lemel is much impressed by the fact that Paltiehl entered just when he was summoning the Messiah. Paltiehl, too, is not unaffected by the incident. Shame insists on a definite date for the marriage and becomes irked when Paltiehl puts him off with veiled and unclear replica. Lemel's Messianic predictions have affected Paltiehl and he suggests that perhaps the Messiah has already arrived and takes as his witness Zarach the scholar, that this is the year in which it is written in the Talmud the Messiah will come. He indicates a desire to go away and fight the Turks. The Jews are incensed at such talk and stalk angrily away, leaving Miriam and Paltiehl alone. She charges him with not loving her. This he denies, but asserts that first he must yield to an inner call to go fight the Turks. His bride tells him he is too weak to be a warrior. As proof that call to fight the Turks. His bride tells him with an iron. Miriam is frightened off by the arrival of Lukas. Paltiehl, no less frightened, nevertheless remains. To Lukas' question as to his identity, he passes himself off as also a Crusader and explains his Ghetto clothes as a ruse to win the good graces of the Hebrew maidens. Lukas already drunk, believes his story and offers him a drink from his cask. He explains that he has become separated from his chief Baron Siegfried of Prussia and his beautiful daughter, Cunegonde, during the fight with the Turks. Paltiehl becomes rapidly drunk, offers to exchange clothes with his new friend. In exchanging garments Paltiehl strikes and overturns Lukas who immediately falls into a drunken slumber. Paltiehl, too, overcomes by the effects of the whiskey, falls down in a drunken sleep and begins to dream.

Scene 2. Lukas' mention of Baron Siegfried and Cunegonde; Lemel's Messianic predictions have affected Paltiehl's dream. He is transported to the headquarters of the Crusaders under Siegfried. Knight Casimir is in love with Cunegonde and sings of his love for her. Lukas is jealous and angry. He insults Casimir by accusing him of being partly Jewish. Father Simon, a priest, attempts to keep the two from fighting. Cunegonde enters and pleads for unity among them. Baron Siegfried comes in and announces a new defeat by the Turks and calls a council of war. He also mentions that a mighty prince is offering him aid. At this moment the prince is announced with Lemel at his side. He claims to be Prince Paltiehl, the son of King Yechiel. He says he is a prince of the Tea Lost Biblical Tribes and offers to put at the service of the Crusaders 60,000 heroes, providing that after the Turk is beaten he and his people receive part of the Holy Land. Cunegonde is much taken by him and offers his suit. Paltiehl retires with Cunegonde to her tent, while the Crusaders decide.

Scene 3. Once she has him in her tent, Cunegonde, attracted by his genteel contrast with the brutal Crusaders, makes love to Paltiehl, but he thrusts her away. He is more occupied with his doubts about the acceptance of his offer. Cunegonde assures him, but Paltiehl, fearful of the immensity of his deceit attempts to run away. This Lemel prevents by reminding him that he has now nowhere to go. Cunegonde makes him drunk and he spins pretty stories about his alleged homeland. Resigned to his fate, Paltiehl receives the announcement of the Crusaders' acceptance with nonchalant dignity. Before starting for home, he requests and receives a guard of honor.

Act 2. Scene 1. Returning to the Ghetto, Paltiehl begins to recruit the promised army by pressing the Jews into service. His guard of honor is used to force them into the army. The Jews do not wish to go to war, but the wealthy are angry at being forced to associate with common laborers and disputes divide their resistance of the soldiers of Paltiehl. Paltiehl's father is among the recruits. He curses and disowns his son. Paltiehl's mother and his bride come to plead with him to drop this mad undertaking but he is adamant and promises his sorrowing mother to watch carefully over his father and see that he doesn't come to harm. Miriam again pleads with him to marry her, but Paltiehl refuses and promises to return and keep his ward to her. The recruits are marshaled and ready to set off. Once again Paltiehl begins to doubt, and in a masterful monologue, he addresses God and begs his aid. He needs not strength, he says, but a miracle.

Scene 2. Paltiehl's army is lost in a thick wood. They are disheartened, for snow has fallen and rivers frozen despite the fact that in their country it is seldom even cold. It is night and dark clouds have covered the moon so that they cannot see where they are going. United by fear of the Turk they have ceased to hate Paltiehl and trust him as their leader, although his only plan of campaign is to march forward hand in hand when the Turks appears -- God will supply the further plans. The moon rises and they see the Turks crossing a frozen river opposite their position. Hand in hand the terrified Jews go to meet their enemy with ecstatic singing and the Turks who have begun to cross over the ice are drowned due to the river's sudden breaking.

Scene 3. Imam Pasha, the Turkish leader, has been taken prisoner and is now held in a cage while the victorious Jews sing and rejoice. But now that the fear of the Turk is removed, they have again fallen into disunity. Moreover, one of their number sold wine to the Crusaders. The latter have become riotously drunk and have attacked the wives of Imam Pasha. They also attacked the Jews and in despair over his father's death, Paltiehl releases Imam Pasha, orders his army to disperse, and to Lemel's pleading that he continue his path of glory, he replies that nothing is left, save to mourn for his father.

Act 3, Scene 1. The tents of Cunegonde and Brother Simon. Cunegonde prays for the safety of Paltiehl who she loves. Lukas, visiting Father Simon, is drunkenly jealous and decides to seize her by force. Casimir who is also jealous, announces that he and his men are going home because Cunegonde rejected him. Father Simon in desperation calls to Baron Siegfried for help. Cunegonde resists Lukas and manages to evade him. She rushes from her tent to Siegfried but before she can explain what has happened they are startled by an alarm signal which announces the return of Paltiehl's escort of Crusaders. They tell of the miraculous victory and suggest Paltiehl used evil forces to attain it. Imam Pasha enters and adds to their conviction that Paltiehl is supported by evil forces if not himself a devil. Cunegonde alone refuses to believe. It is decided to go to him and confront him with their suspicious.

Scene 2. Father Simon,, Cunegonde and the Crusader's come to the chamber in which Paltiehl sleeps. They are fearful of his evil powers and approach cautiously. Cunegonde, still not believing, is the only one with sufficient courage to approach the sleeping Paltiehl. The  latter when waked is ashamed of his nakedness before Cunegonde and calls to Lemel to bring him his clothing. Cunegonde, half-believing that he is an evil spirit, nevertheless begs him to escape with her to his homeland, but he refuses. She intercedes on his behalf and saves him from death on condition that hey go away, never to return.

Scene 3. Still involved by the terrible thoughts evoked in his dram, Paltiehl wakes from his slumber and with difficulty orientates himself. Lukas, now sober, realizes that he has spent the night lying in the streets and goes away in disgust, first robbing Paltiehl of clothes and shoes. Left lying in the streets, half-naked and still somewhat under the effect of his narrowing nightmare, he is discovered by his mother and father and other Ghetto Jews on their way to Sabbath prayer. Once again faced with reality, Paltiehl yields his heroic dreams and consents to take the course his parent's advice.


New York Artist Troupe:

Joseph Buloff, Artistic Director
Jacob Mestel, Chairman of the Repertoire Committee
Chaim Schneuer, Yehuda Bleich, Members of Management
Isidore Hollander, Troupe Representative
Leib Kadison, Technical Manager
Ben-Zion Katz, Stage Manager
Leon Hoffman, Business Director
Morris Lyons (sp), Assistant Manager
Louis Kestin, Cashier
 

Saturday Matinee and Evening, February 2, 1935

"60,000 HEROES"

Play in 3 acts and 9 scenes by Benjamin Ressler
Direction, Joseph Buloff
Music by Jacob Fischer, arranged by N. Kornspan
Settings according to Lino Palaccio, executed by Michael Saltzman
Dances arranged by Lillian Shapero.

PERFORMERS:
(In order of their appearance)
 

  Borech, the rag-man   Reuben Wendorf
  Enzelle, the shochet   Ben Basenko
  Gershon, the shoemaker   Wolf Mercur
  Zorach, the teacher   Judah Bleich
  Lemel, the simpleton   Lazar Freed
  Menasha, the healer   Morris Belavsky
  Sholeml   Harold Miller
  Shamai   Chaim Schneuer
  Miriam, his daughter   Helen Bley
  Yechiel   Jacob Mestel
  Menuchah, his wife   Leah Naomi
  Paltiehl, their son   Joseph Buloff
  Lucas   Isidore Hollander
  Casimir   Michael Gibson
  Baron Siegfried   Louis Weisberg
  Cunegonde, his daughter   Luba Kadison
  Brother Simon   Leon Kadison
  Carlos   Joseph Ben-Artoff
  Imam Pasha   Wolf Barzell
  Chomel   Uri Kagar


 



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