Stage magic in the Yiddish theatre

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Postby Guest » 12/20/03 02:40 PM

Does anyone know if stage magic was practiced in the Yiddish theatres, and if so, were there any magicians that particularly stood out? I'm not asking about Jewish magicians, but about magic practiced in the Yiddish theatres, such as the ones on Second Avenue in NYC.

Thank you for any information you can give me.

Postby Larry Horowitz » 12/21/03 05:24 PM

My father is 90. He went to the Second ave theater often. He does not recall any magicians.
Larry Horowitz
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Postby Guest » 05/26/05 11:20 PM

Hmm, never heard of any, and I'm a member of the Yiddish Artists and Friends Actors' Club here in New York. Perhaps prestidigitators were cowed by the "No dogs or magicians" sign posted prominently at the door...

Joseph Buloff (best known as the original Ali Hakim, the Persian Peddler in "Oklahoma") was using a few small effects to liven up his production of _Yoshke Muzikant: Der Zinger fun zayn troyer_ (The Singer of His Sorrows) when Morris Schwartz brought him over to replace Paul Muni in 1926. And Susan Burstyn, daughter of Peysakhke Burstyn and Lillian Lux, used to do some vent work in Yiddish.

Still, not quite what you're looking for. Nonetheless, there must have been, if not on Second Avenue, perhaps in the old country: I. L. Peretz wrote the story _Der Kuntsnmakher_ (The Magician), in which Elijah appears in town as a traveling Yiddish speaking magician; there is also Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel _Der Kuntsnmakher fun Lublin_ (The Magician of Lublin) about a magician who is most definitely not a saint.

I'll ask around, but you might also try signing up for the Yiddish theater and vaudeville listserve on, information at:

Postby Guest » 06/26/05 07:48 PM

I've spoken to David Rogow, formerly of the YIVO, and a member of the Hebrew Actors Union. He recalls an appearance at the Vilner Real-gimnazye (Yiddish high school in Vilna, Lithuania -- then Poland) during his childhood in the 1920's-30's by a performer named Messing.

The performance (in Yiddish) consisted of a seance and a hypnotism routine. Rogow doesn't recall any specific effects, doesn't even remember if the seance took place in the dark, used a cabinet, or what, but there you have one reference anyway.

Others have vague recollections of street performers at fairs working in the mother tongue, but nothing very specific. I'll see what else I can learn.

Postby Guest » 06/28/05 08:36 AM

Peretz also wrote "The Golem" which is great for bizzare performers. In fact, Peretz had a very dark, almost bleak descriptive that can be used for "dark" story telling. (My elementary school was named after him in fact). My favourite is still Sholom Alechim because it reminds me how my zaideh used to tell us stories.

PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat
AB Stagecraft
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