Wednesday, 6 April 2016


BEN-TSIEN VAGNER (BEN-ZION WAGNER) (1889-February 23, 1930)
           He was born in Żyrardów, Warsaw district, Poland, to a father who worked as a mechanic on sewing machines.  He studied in religious elementary school and secular subjects privately.  In 1907 he traveled around as a propagandist for the Zionist Socialist Party.  In 1909 he joined the troupe of Nozhik and Latovitsh, and from that point he performed in Yiddish theater in various regions of Russia, including the Urals and Siberia (1915), and in the first Yiddish state theater under Bertonov’s direction in Odessa (1919).  Over the years 1922-1930, he performed in Poland and Belgium.  He debuted in print in 1909 with a poem in Teater-velt (Theater world) in Warsaw.  In 1919 he wrote “Tog lider” (Poems for the day) in the Odessa daily newspaper Komunistishe shtime (Communist voice), edited by Shakhne Epshteyn; In 1922 he published in the Parisian periodicals Dos idishe lebn (Jewish life) and Parizer bleter (Parisian leaves); in 1925 he edited in Belgium the weekly Dos idishe vort (The Yiddish word), of which six issues appeared, and he later became a regular contributor to Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper) in Antwerp, for which he wrote features and theatrical criticism under the pen name “Benye Plapler” (Benny the Chatterbox).  Vagner also penned the dramas: Di froy in keytn (The woman in chains), staged in 1919 in Odessa at the Jewish Theater (Evreiskii teater); Shloyme hameylekh der tsveyter (King Solomon II), staged in 1915 by Yankev Zilbert in Brussels and Antwerp; Der vilner goen (The Gaon of Vilna), staged by Volf Zilberberg in 1927 in London; and Erotomanye (Erotomania).  He translated the plays: Ven der tayvl lakht (When the devil laughs), Der galekh rasputin (Rasputin the priest), and Vera mirtseva (Vera Mirtseva)—from Russian; Karbones fun zind (Victims of sin) and Dos favoritn-meydl (The favorite girl)—from Flemish.  He dramatized Leonid Andreev’s Di zibn gehangene (The seven who were hanged [original: Rasskaz o semi poveshennykh]), staged in 1923 by Akselrod in Paris, and Sholem Asch’s Kidesh hashem (Martyrdom), staged in 1920 in Antwerp by Blumental.  He died in Brussels.

Sources: Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; Di idishe tsaytung (Antwerp) (February 28, 1930).
Yankev Kohen

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