AVROM TAYTLBOYM (TAYTELBOYM) (March 1, 1889-October 16, 1947)
He was born in Warsaw, Poland, into a poor family which ran a soup kitchen in a courtyard off Muranów Street. Until age sixteen he studied in religious primary school, with a rebbe in a small Hassidic synagogue, on his own in a synagogue study chamber, and secular knowledge by himself. He worked in a Jewish bookshop, where he became acquainted with Yiddish publishing houses and publishers, and later in the office of the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Hatsfira (The times) in 1904; there he had the opportunity to meet famous Jewish writers who engendered great curiosity in this future actor and writer. In 1905-1906 he was carried away for a short time by the revolution, but this was not to be his path in life. In 1906 he was singing in the chorus of “Hazemir” (The nightingale) in Warsaw, in 1907 became a prompter in the troupe of “Sam Adler across America,” in 1908 began to act in theater with the Kroyze-Spavakovski troupe, and in 1909 was in the Brodshteyn troupe. Later, he would act with other troupes, traveling with them through Russia, and later he departed for Paris, London, Buenos Aires, and then back to Paris where he also became involved in film. During WWI he played with Moskovitsh in London, performing in English as well in such works as Richard Cumberland’s play The Jew. In 1918 he moved to the Soviet Union to become the director of a drama studio of the Perets Society in Moscow and later the director of the Yiddish dramatic society in Minsk. From there he moved on to Vilna where (under the influence of An-sky and A. Vayter) he worked with the Yiddish state theater under the Bolsheviks in 1919 and with the Vilna Troupe (later that year the Poles entered the city). In 1919 he moved to New York and worked with Maurice Schwartz (at the Irving Place Theater) for two seasons. He subsequently was director of the Palace Theater in Chicago. In 1920 he staged (in Hebrew) Yitskhok Katsenelson’s Tarshish (Topaz), Herzl’s Dos naye geto (The new ghetto), and Perets Hirshbeyn’s Dem shmids tekhter (The smith’s daughters). He was a guest performer, 1928-1929, in Poland, where he was a great sensation with his staging of Eugene O’Neill’s drama Di tayve unter di elms-beymer (Desire under the Elms) in his own translation from English, published in Di yidishe velt (The Jewish world) (Warsaw) 5-7 (1928). He visited Israel in 1932, and then returned to New York and acted with Maurice Schwartz in his Art Theater. In 1947, the last year of his life, he took part in the production of Shaylok un zayn tokhter (Shylock and his daughter) in Schwartz’s theater. Together with Yankev Mestl, he also founded the theater studio that was later to become Artef.
People in the theatrical world dubbed Taytlboym “the literary actor.” He was simultaneously an actor and a writer. He published a great number of theatrical and current events articles, treatments, and reviews in a variety of Yiddish publications throughout the world, such as: Di yidishe velt and Arbeter-fraynd (Friend of labor) in London; Di naye velt (The new world) in Vilna (1919); Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Teater (Theater), and Yidish teater (Yiddish theater) in Warsaw; Kultur (Culture) in Chicago; Di feder (The pen), Forverts (Forward), Der tog (The day), Frayhayt (Freedom), Der hamer (The hammer), Naye velt (New world), Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter), Oyfkum (Arise), and Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor)—in New York; among other serials. He translated, mainly over the course of the 1920s, the dramas: August Strindberg’s Der foter (The father [original: Fadren]); Casimir Delavigne, Ludvig der elfter (Ludwig XI); Henri Bernstein’s Shimshen (Samson); Paul Lindau’s Prokurer halers (Prosecutor Hallers [original: Le procureur Hallers]); Nemirovich-Danchenko’s Der prayz fun lebn (The price of life); Arthur Schnitzler, Di letste maske (The last mask [original: Letzte Maske]); and Su Dongpo’s Di bagegenish baym brunem (The meeting at the well) from English; among others. In 1929 “Yatskovskis biblyotek” (Yatshkovski’s library) brought out his Teatralya (Theatricality), preface by Dr. Yankev Shatski, 274 pp.; this volume included characterizations of major personalities—A. R. Kaminski, Jacob Adler, Dovid Kessler, Sam Adler, Avrom Goldfaden, Borekh Aronson, Max Reinhardt, and Yevgeny Vakhtangov—and a series of theoretical pieces about theater, such as: naturalism and conventionalism in theater, constructivism, theatricality, theater history, and the like. This book was a novelty in Yiddish literature, both for its contents as well as for the innovative style in which it was written. In 1935 the publishing house of Y. Biderman in New York published his book Fun mayne vanderungen (From my travels), with an afterword by Yankev Mestl, 279 pp.—it was a collection of various impressions of art work and artists, theater plays and dramatists. He published in the quarterly Bodn (Terrain), edited by N. B. Minkov (New York) 2.2 and 3.1-2 (1935-1936) two chapters of Rashel (Rachel), a biography of the great French Jewish actress; it also appeared separately as an offprint in New York. In the same periodical (issue 2.4), his translations (from English) of poetry by the Japanese poets Nagasawa Yu, Itō Shinji, and others appeared. His volume Vilyam shekspir (William Shakespeare), 320 pp., was published in New York by IKUF (Jewish Cultural Association) in 1946; it was a detailed biography of the great British dramatist, which was the first effort of this sort in Yiddish literature. The last work of his which he would not live to see in print was Varshever heyf, mentshn un gesheenishn (Warsaw courtyards, people and events) appeared in 1947 in Buenos Aires, published by the Central Association of Polish Jews in Argentina (204 pp.). This was an autobiographical story, full of living depictions of people and events which he endured in his childhood and youth in the courtyards of Warsaw on Muranów and Twarda, Graniczna and Gensze, Panska and Ceglana, and other streets in Warsaw.
Taytlboym was an innovative and interesting personality, both in Yiddish theater and in the literature on and around the theater. In his last years he tried to leave the theater altogether, but he was unable to do so. He performed in “light” (non-artistic) theater—although he suffered for it greatly—because without the theater proper he could not exist. He died in New York. He was also called Sholem and Sam Taytlboym.
Sources: Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934), including a detailed bibliography; Dr. Y. Shatski, preface to Taytlboym’s book, Teatralya (Theatricality) (Warsaw-New York, 1929), pp.-4; Y. Mestl, in Teater-arkhiv (YIVO, Vilna and New York) (1930), pp. 495-97; Mestl, afterword to Taytlboym, Fun mayne vanderungen (From my travels) (New york, 1935), pp. 272-79; Mestl, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (October 18, 1947); Avrom Reyzen, in Tsukunft (New York) (July 1930); P. Vernik, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (February 24, 1935); M. Beklman, in Bodn (New York) (Spring 1935), pp. 85-88; B. Rivkin, in Shikago (Chicago) (September-October 1935); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (October 23, 1935); Y. Y. Sigal, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (November 11, 1946); obituary notice in Forverts (New York) (October 17, 1947); Kh. Ehrenraykh, in Forverts (October 24, 1947); M. Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (October 27, 1947); N. M., in Yidishe kultur (New York) (October 1947); G. Aronson, in Tsukunft (March 1951); V. Gliksman, in Yivo-bleter (New York) (1956), pp. 289-98.