On May 11th 1889, a performance of Goldfaden's operetta 'Shulamith' in the 'Pod Sroka' Pub garden marked the birth of the first permanent Jewish theatre in Lwów and the whole of Poland. The essay discusses the circumstances of the company's emergence and the first years of its activity, along with the reactions it generated in the Jewish and Polish circles. The article presents Jacob Ber Gimpel's artistic career, with special emphasis on his many-year experience on the Polish stage and his efforts to gain the concession issued by the k.u.k. Governor's Office. The discussion of the first seasons of 1889-1889 and 1890-1891 includes the problems of the theatre's organisation, venues (in the 'Pod Sroka' hall and garden, and the permanent place of residence in the former Zygmunt Moser Bell Foundry building), as well as artistic matters of the repertoire, actors, acting style, stage setting and chorus participation. Thanks to Bertha Kalich's memoirs, which were previously unknown in Poland, and in confrontation with the opinions of publicist Ignacy Suesser and Polish journalists, it has been possible to describe the world of Jewish actors in Lwów and its prominent figures. To fully understand the importance of the 1890-1891 events, it is essential to view them in the historical context of lively and fierce disputes concerning the literature and theatre in Yiddish, the language favoured by uneducated masses but opposed by orthodox Jews and those who supported the idea of assimilation of Jews in Poland. Reactions of the Polish press to the fact that Gimpel advertised his enterprise as 'Polish-Jewish theatre' are also part of this context. In spite of numerous obstacles the theatre survived the first season thanks to the determination of its founder and popularity among the uneducated Jewish audiences that visited the theatre in great numbers reacting with enthusiasm to what was happening onstage and demanding plays that would be sentimental, simple and spectacular. In the following years, these demands caused a steady decline of the theatre's artistic level.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.