Eager to present to the American public the world famous productions of the Habima, the Moscow Hebrew Art Theatre, as well as to study American art, thirty-three players of the Habima troupe arrived yesterday on the steamer “Carmania.” A large group of admirers awaited the arrival of the players at the pier, but were disappointed when it was learned that the actors were detained by immigration officials and taken to Ellis Island to be heard by the Board of Review. It was stated that the Habima players may be allowed to land under a bond that they will return to Russia following the expiration of their twelve-week engagement in this country.
The troupe, which consists of fifteen women and eighteen men, is headed by Nachum Zemach, the founder of the Habima.
When interviewed by the representative of the “Jewish Daily Bulletin,” Mr. Zemach reviewed the history of the troupe since its establishment in Moscow in 1907. They left Russia ten months ago, during which period they have toured Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Galicia, Austria, France, and Germany, everywhere attended by success. In Warsaw the troupe played in the Polish Dramatic Art Theatre, Nowosci. The Polish press published enthusiastic criticisms of the productions and it was stated that the performances of the Hebrew actors were a factor in bringing about better relations between Poles and Jews. All performances in Warsaw, Lodz, Vilna, Bialystok, Cracow and Lemberg, which occupied the troupe for four months, were attended with great success.
In Vienna, the Habima played at the Karl Theatre for one month. The Habima played at the Theatre Madeleine for two months. Their performances were attended by Frenchmen and Jews alike. They went from Paris to Berlin, where they were again hailed and where they played an engagement of one month.
When this period expired they were invited to give another thirty performances, which could not be arranged because of their engagements in Hamburg, Breslau and Leipsig and because of their eagerness to come to the United States on the scheduled date.
Asked for the reaction of the European audiences to the Hebrew performances, Mr. Zemach declared that the troupe is extremely satisfied with the results. “Wherever we went, we found appreciative audiences and sincere interest in what we were trying to do. Even our ‘opponents’ recognized the achievements of the Habima.” Mr. Zemach was particularly enthusiastic over the audience which the Habima found in small Lithuania, where he stated, over fifty percent of the audience understood the language in which the performances were given. This may be due, he said, to the fact that many Hebrew high schools exist in Lithuania.
Mr. Zemach paid his tribute to J. B. Wachtangoff, the late director of the theatre, who was an Armenian and a pupil of Stanislavsky. It is Stanislavsky and Wachtangoff who were the fathers of the theatrical spirit of the Habima. “The Dybbuk” in Wachtangoff’s regime was played in Moscow three hundred times in succession. In 1925 the Habima produced “The Golem,” by the American Yiddish dramatist, Leivick; “Jacob’s Dream,” by the German Jewish poet, Ber Hoffmann, and “The Deluge” by Berger.
“In the United States we expect to learn a great deal. We are anxious to see life in America and to become acquainted with the life of those immigrants who came from all parts of the world to be transformed into useful citizens, healthy and worthy men and women. We expect a great deal from the American enterprising spirit and of the American theatre technique. When our engagement in the United States is over, we intend to go to Palestine and other countries in the Near East. Our ideal is to build a home for the Habima”, Mr. Zemach declared.
The Habima is under the management of a committee consisting of Ephrathi-Tchetchik, B. Tchemerinski, A. Maskin, A. Frutkin and Ben Chaim. All the members receive the same salary. Members who have children receive separate allottments for each child.
The Habima will start its engagement at the Mansfield Theatre next Monday, December 13th, with “The Dybbuk.”
Their first public appearance will be at a reception in the form of a concert given by the Zionist Council of Greater New York on Sunday evening, December 12th, at Mecca Temple, where the ensemble of the Habima will appear. The program includes classic dances, vocal selections and dramatic recitals from their well known repertoire.
Among the leaders of the Zionist movement who will be present at the reception are Dr. Chaim Weizmann, President of the World Zionist Organization, Dr. Stephen S. Wise, Hon. Nathan Straus, Judge Julian W. Mack, Louis Lipsky, President of the Zionist Organization of America, Miss Susan Brandeis, Hon. Carl Sherman and Dr. A. J. Rongy.
Many Jewish organizations not affiliated with the Zionist movement have decided to participate in this welcome to the Habima.
The “New Palestine” official organ of the Zionist Organization of America, will issue a special number this Friday, December 10th, dedicated to the first visit of the Habima to the United States. It will include the opinions of the foremost dramatic critics and writers on the Habima.