Will the battle of the Yiddish theatre be fought out in Philadelphia? Has it fallen to the lot of the Jewish community of this city, so rich in Yiddish theatrical history, to give definite answer to some of the vital problems now agitating the minds of Yiddish theatre owners as well as Yiddish actors?
All indications point that way. That a storm is imminent seems to be generally conceded. Already some behold the gathering clouds. Why Philadelphia should have been chosen for this new experiment has not been revealed by the powers that be in theatredom. In this all seem to be agreed, that a better city could not have been found for size, distance from New York, tradition, etc.
That all this was coming was revealed last week when it became known that within another month there will be opened in this city three legitimate Yiddish theatresâ€”all three manned by experienced theatrical managers; the troupes including some of the leading stars and satellites of the American Yiddish sage.
Now three theatres are an unprecedented event in the annuals of the local Yiddish theatre. Even in years gone by when the Yiddish theatre business was more prosperous and the human resources more extensive there was barely room for two. The records show that in the past many a season was brought to an abortive end because there was no room for two Yiddish play-houses.
Last year the Actors’ Union took a definite stand in the matter by officially recognizing only one theatre and waging a rather persistent war against the other. Both theatres held out to the end of the season but not without tremendous struggle and, the writer is reliably informed, at a considerable loss. This year it seems the Union changed its tacticsâ€”all three will not only be sanctioned, but given every encouragement by the Union. This, it is explained, the Union is compelled to do in order to provide employment for a large number of artists now on its waiting list with the outlook for the rapidly approaching season rather dismal.
Students of the Yiddish theatre maintain that Philadelphia will be used as a sort of theatrical clinical laboratory, as a sort of experiment station for the future of Yiddish theatre in this country. Here during the coming year an effort will be made to establish more or less definitely certain fundamental factsâ€”what Jewish communities can stand a Yiddish trouupe; what will be required; the cost involved; the profits that might be expected, etc.
Estimates obtained by your correspondent from various sources place the Yiddish theatre population of Philadelphia at approximately 30,000. This may be roughly divided into two groupsâ€”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.