Theater

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Sylvia Blagman Syms

Sylvia Syms’s dynamic saloon performances were characterized by an intimate storytelling style and a grainy contralto voice combined with honesty, a “been-there” aura, and a genuine love of the connection with her audience. She was touted as one of the best contributors to her genre by such noteworthy peers as Cy Coleman, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and Duke Ellington.

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand is more than another consumer-culture icon. She is a diva, a superstar, a sensation. Since the 1960s, she has won more varied awards (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, special Tony, Golden Globe, CableACE, Peabody) than anyone else in show business, and has sold over sixty-eight million records, more records than any other female singer.

Anna Sokolow

Anna Sokolow is a dancer and choreographer whose hundreds of dance works, plays, operas and festivals have reflected the social, political and human conflicts of her time.

Sylvia Sidney

Feisty and opinionated, Sylvia Sidney in her prime was quite the opposite of the waiflike, even pathetic, victim of social oppression she played in Hollywood’s Depression Era films.

Irene Mayer Selznick

Irene Mayer Selznick writes in her memoir, A Private View (1983), that Act I of her life was spent under the shadow of her father, the film executive Louis B. Mayer; Act II was marriage to David O. Selznick, producer of Gone With the Wind; and Act III consisted of her role as herself and her career as a Broadway producer.

Joan Rivers

In revues, nightclub acts, and concert halls, and to a vast new audience via television in the 1970s and 1980s, Joan Rivers popularized and perfected a genre of comedy that challenged reigning social conventions.

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.

Adele Gutman Nathan

Adele Gutman Nathan, professionally active until the last two years of her life, transmitted American culture and her long-standing interest in technology, especially railroads, to a general public through theater, film, pageants, articles, and books.

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.

Lillian Hellman

Lillian Hellman was born on June 20, 1905, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her parents, Max and Julia (Newhouse) Hellman, were both German-American Jews. Her mother’s family was wealthy and later became the models (though stripped of Jewish identity) for Hellman’s most famous creations, the Hubbards, in her two plays The Little Foxes and Another Part of the Forest. Max Hellman’s sisters Hannah and Jenny were similarly the basis for the central characters in one of Hellman’s last plays, Toys in the Attic.

Melissa Hayden

Melissa Hayden was born Mildred Herman, April 23, 1923, in Toronto, Canada. Neither of her parents, Kate Weinberg and Jacob Herman, who had immigrated from the region surrounding Kiev in Russia, had any artistic talents. Her father operated a successful wholesale fruit and vegetable business. Her sister Leola was eight years her senior; her sister Annette was three years younger. Hayden started her ballet training fairly late, at age fifteen, with Boris Volkoff, an influential Toronto teacher. After five years of study with Volkoff, for which, when she was out of high school, she paid by working as a bookkeeper, she decided it was necessary to continue her training in New York.

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.

Ruth Ziv-Ayal

Ruth Ziv-Ayal (Sprung), a director and choreographer, is one of the most significant figures in Israeli movement theater. She was the first to choreograph in this style, beginning in the first half of the 1970s.

Rina Yerushalmi

Theater director and choreographer Rina Yerushalmi, one of Israel’s leading artists, is the founder and artistic director of the experimental Itim Theater Ensemble (founded 1989).

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.

Wendy Wasserstein

In 1989, with her play The Heidi Chronicles, she won a Pulitzer Prize and became the first woman to receive the Tony Award for Best Play.

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.

Zoe Wanamaker

Zoe Wanamaker, the recipient of numerous awards for both her stage and television work, is known to millions of cinemagoers worldwide for her role as Madam Hooch in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001).

Salka Viertel

In 1908 Salka joined the Viennese company Neue Wiener Bühne as a principal actress.

Julie Taymor

Julie Taymor's years of work in theater, opera, film and television and her frequent use of masks and puppets, as well as Asian forms, won her a 1997 Tony Award for The Lion King—the first "Directing" Tony given to a woman in the fifty-year history of the Awards.

Yemima Tchernovitz-Avidar

Yemima Tchernovitz-Avidar was a passionate educator and author of Hebrew literature. Her creative works became classics of modern Hebrew children’s literature, and she has been awarded numerous accolades for her contributions to Jewish literature.
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