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Acting

Molly Picon

A drunk’s dare to a five-year-old on a trolley car initiated the career of Molly Picon, the petite darling of the Yiddish musical theater.

Adah Isaacs Menken

Internationally famous for her starring role in the equestrian melodrama Mazeppa, in which she was stripped on stage to a flesh-colored body stocking, lashed to the back of the “wild horse of Tartary,” and sent flying on a narrow ramp above the theater, Adah Isaacs Menken consistently defied social mores.

Judith Malina

Personifying the 1960s countercultural challenge to traditionalism, self-proclaimed anarchist and pacifist Judith Malina once likened herself to a biblical prophet, railing at but never dissociating herself from her people. Founder, with Julian Beck, of the experimental Living Theatre, she aimed at dissolving the separation between actor and character, cast and audience, art and politics.

Judy Holliday

Born on June 21, 1921, at Lying In Hospital in Manhattan, the only child of Helen Gollomb and Abe Tuvim, Judy Holliday was the only child in a family of childless uncles and aunts, particularly on her mother’s side. Her parents, who met at the Rand School in New York, married on June 17, 1917, and often frequented the Café Royale, a meeting place on New York’s Lower East Side for people in the Yiddish theater. After they separated when Holliday was about six, she was brought up by her mother’s extended family, although later she reestablished relations with her father. President of the American Federation of Musicians from 1929 to 1937, a member of the American Zionist Strategy Council in 1944, and executive director of the Jewish National Fund of America from 1951 to 1958, Abe Tuvim, who died of cancer at sixty-four, was also a journalist for the Jewish-language press. Judy’s mother, whose parents emigrated from Russia—her father had made epaulets for the czar and died shortly after arriving in this country—grew up under the tutelage of a strong socialist mother and amid several brothers. After separating from her husband, Helen Tuvim gave piano lessons during the hard times of the Depression.

Goldie Hawn

Goldie Hawn was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, on November 21, 1945, to Laura (Stienhoff) Hawn, a dance school owner and jewelry wholesaler, and Edward Rutledge Hawn, a professional musician. Hawn was raised Jewish although, she notes, “not in a strictly religious atmosphere,” and describes a happy home life. She began dancing at age three, and danced in the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo’s Nutcracker chorus at age ten. Hawn recalls being asked to dance on point for a friend’s bar mitzva. The music started, and she slipped and fell—twice. Succeeding on her third attempt, “I realized I was probably the little girl who was going to make it.”

Elsa Zylberstein

Appearing in more than three films a year, Zylberstein is certainly one of the most sought-after young French actors. Throughout, Elsa Zylberstein has also enjoyed a successful career in the theater, appearing in plays by Pirandello and Anouilh as well as in adaptations of successful American playwrights.

Miriam Zohar

In 1986 Miriam Zohar was awarded the Israel Prize for her noteworthy achievements as an outstanding actor. The prize committee based its choice on Zohar’s excellent performance in dozens of plays, both classical and modern.

Shelley Winters

Shelley Winters’s acting career ranged from a fairy in a local pageant at age four to the eccentric Grandma Harris on television’s Roseanne. She performed in over one hundred movies, fifty stage plays and countless television programs, and won two Academy Awards and an Emmy.

Helene Weigel

Known in particular for her maternal roles in such Bertolt Brecht plays as The Mother and Mother Courage, Helene Weigel was also a respected matriarch off the stage as director of the Berliner Ensemble theater in East Germany.

Dora Wasserman

Dora Wasserman’s love of Yiddish theater accompanied her from the Soviet Union where she was born in 1919, to Montreal, Canada where she lived from 1950 until her death on December 15, 2003.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Acting." (Viewed on July 25, 2017) <https://jwa.org/topics/acting>.

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