Bughouse Square Podcast with Eve Ewing has launched, check out the first episode and subscribe now! Read the Story

00 / 00

Interview with Ida Kaminska

BROADCAST: Apr. 13, 1966 | DURATION: 00:50:30

Synopsis

Actor Ida Kaminska discusses her role in the film "The Shop on Main Street."

Transcript

Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.

OK

Studs Terkel I'm honored to have as guest today I think one of the great ladies of theater Madame Ida Kaminska. You will soon be seeing her and agreeing of course when you see the film "The Shop on Main Street," a most remarkable picture. A Czech picture dealing with Naziism taking over a Czech town. Madame Kaminska's here with her cousin who is a distinguished actress we're delighted to have living in Chicago, Dina Halpern. And Madame Kaminska is also the director of the Yiddish State Theatre in Poland we'll hear about this. Perhaps her life and also her art in this film and Dina--

Dina Halpern Yes.

Studs Terkel Can interpret if need be. If you speak Jewish Yiddish Madame Kaminska, it's okay. Whatever English you speak we'll understand one another.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish] Studs.

Studs Terkel Polish is quite all right.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel This film will be opening at the Carnegie Theater at the Loop Theater,

Male Speaker 1 Friday April 22nd.

Studs Terkel Friday April 22nd. It's called "The Shop on Main Street" and perhaps you could ask Madame Kaminska about the role she plays. She and a remarkable actor named Jozef Kroner are the two key figures. You are a Jewish storekeeper a little lady who is deaf--

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel I'll ask you about this. Rozalie. And she runs the shop.

Ida Kaminska Yes

Studs Terkel In a town that is now being Nazified.

Ida Kaminska Right.

Studs Terkel And these are good people living there decent people friends and a man who is a non-Jew Czech is made the Aryan--

Ida Kaminska Slovak.

Studs Terkel Slovak. Is made the Aryan control of your shop. What can we say? The conception of this woman Rozalie. Your thoughts about this film.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Yeah, this is int- I gathered part of this [laughter].

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel I know about the [unintelligible] there is you but Dina you say--

Dina Halpern Madame Kaminska tells you that of course as it was already written in the English critic but her personal interpretation and feeling about her part was mainly that it shouldn't become a separate thing that Rozalia Lautmann whom she plays, the leading part should not be just a Jewish elderly woman who is deaf and just conducts a little grocery. No but it should become a part of the whole atmosphere of that town. She was used to to the goodness of the people in that town. She never knew about persecution. They were wonderful friends and all of a sudden something that she cannot understand happened. That means that her deafness was a part of her not because she couldn't understand actually the evil that was going on in the world.

Studs Terkel She could not understand something that is abnormal.

Dina Halpern Abnormal.

Ida Kaminska Abnormal.

Studs Terkel Only the normal. Now in this interpretation this role, Rozalia, this old elderly Jewish lady. When this man comes in the part Jozef Kroner plays so beautifully.

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel When this man comes in and says to you, you read his lips.

Dina Halpern Yes.

Ida Kaminska Yes, I read it.

Studs Terkel But you only can understand what is normal. So therefore you are thinking he's an assistant.

Ida Kaminska [If it is?] abnormal I can't understand. But not me is it. Oh [Yiddish] [laughter].

Studs Terkel That's alright.

Ida Kaminska My English is very bad. My English is very bad. [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Would you like me to [unintelligible]--

Studs Terkel I dug most of it but go ahead.

Dina Halpern Tono played by Mr. Kroner-

Studs Terkel Kroner.

Dina Halpern Is a simple wonderful person when he comes into Madame Lautmann's little store he speaks about every day event, like how are you? Is your rheumatism bothering you?

Studs Terkel This is what she sees through his lips, and his eyes.

Dina Halpern Through his lips, yes.

Studs Terkel The normal thing.

Dina Halpern The normal thing. Then all of a sudden it begins to dawn on him what is his position. Actually he was being sent to that store to be her helper her assistant. So--

Studs Terkel She thinks

Dina Halpern She thinks so. She thinks so.

Studs Terkel Because that's normal.

Dina Halpern This is normal.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Dina Halpern Yeah that's right. And her attitude immediately becomes like to her son, a mother with a son. But when the horrible things begin to take over then she absolutely is lost. She's lost. She doesn't know what--

Studs Terkel She couldn't understand the words, I mean when we said Aryan controller has no meaning,

Ida Kaminska Absolutely no meaning.

Studs Terkel Has never been part of her life.

Ida Kaminska Right. [Arizato?] he say's I am your [arizato?]. And the first time she asks, she says nie rozumiem, I don't understand.

Dina Halpern hat means, I don't understand.

Ida Kaminska And then she repeats many times [nie rozumiem?] I don't understand. And the last time she says [laughter]

Studs Terkel No no your reading, your English is magnificent. Magnifique! I'll slip another language in. That's all I know of it but go ahead.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Yes, yes, ha!

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern When they have to send him away,

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Being sent away to the camps.

Dina Halpern [On that plane?]

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Do you remember, Studs you saw the movie.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Dina Halpern There is a scene when she looks through the window from her little shop and she sees a whole group of Jewish people. The rabbi of the town, children, her her neighbors, friends with whom she lived for so many many years in that little town and they are all gathered together you know with a cordon--

Studs Terkel Yes.

Dina Halpern Of soldiers surround, and she can't understand. So all of a sudden she thinks, Well maybe are, there are pogroms again. Pogroms that took place--

Studs Terkel She remembers long before.

Dina Halpern Before, long--

Studs Terkel Yes.

Dina Halpern Long long before [in the?] Tsarist times I remember. And then again she's lost she doesn't know. What is that? This is the only explanation that she can think of.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Tono tries to explain to her what it all means. All the struggle that he had within himself to give her to understand what's going on. After all he has to protect his own skin because if he will protect her he's lost. But still he is a wonderful human being and he doesn't want actually to hurt her.

Studs Terkel Now we come to this, I'm sorry.

Dina Halpern And as, excuse me, and as he tries her last you know crying out that she nie rozumiem, I don't understand. Not only is she doesn't hear, she doesn't understand the everyday things but she doesn't understand even the the symbolic--

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Dina Halpern Thing of it. She doesn't understand the world.

Studs Terkel Everything is becoming now so surrealistic.

Dina Halpern Right.

Studs Terkel Beyond the realism. Now we come to Tono this man.

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel The relationship of this man to you. Here is a man a good man a Czech who lives in this town was your friend.

Ida Kaminska A normal man.

Studs Terkel But something happens to him that makes him. You are quoted in the "New York Times" in a marvelous interview you were saying something happens here a certain circumstance--

Ida Kaminska Mmmhmm.

Studs Terkel In this case Nazification yet it can spread. We know this is something that is beyond an event in which good people became beasts--

Ida Kaminska Became beasts.

Studs Terkel Because it was easy.

Ida Kaminska Easy, yes.

Studs Terkel And here is a good man basically. Something happened to this good man didn't it?

Ida Kaminska Yes. [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern May I?

Studs Terkel Please. Although I understood a [pittance?].

Dina Halpern As a rule, people of that town are good people and they are not such good people. Of course there are always more bad people unfortunately than good people but in a situation like that when the good people are forced to lend a hand to evil to do wrong they can't help themselves. They against their own nature become tools in the hands of the evil doers. So if the Nazis told them to take away the things from the Jewish population of that town they can't help themselves. And they take it and all of a sudden overnight they become rich with all the things that they took from the from their Jewish neighbors and to the bad are inspired by. Because as Madame Kaminska said in that film, and naturally as the truth is about such things it's easy to become evil when you have help when you are inspired by evil, you know.

Studs Terkel And also Madame Kaminska what makes this film to me so overwhelming, as Dina Halpern--

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel You, your cousin was just saying and what you just said that, a man could be basically a good man--

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel A decent man but is the individual he says, What can I do overwhelmed by an evil trend

Ida Kaminska Yes, you're right. Yes.

Studs Terkel and that as happened to this town. So it makes it more than a film. I mean terrible though the agony was of six million Jews and of Naziism over and beyond it becomes universal in its impact.

Ida Kaminska Yes. This very true, this, of course.

Dina Halpern Yes.

Studs Terkel The acceptance.

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel How you- the film, this was made in Czechoslovakia.

Ida Kaminska In Czechoslovakia.

Studs Terkel With Kadar--

Ida Kaminska With Kadar and Klos.

Studs Terkel You said something I think I gathered this, correct me if I'm wrong [Dina?]. Beginning, it's not just being one little Jewish woman. She was an individual because not a generality. There's specific--

Ida Kaminska Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel There's a great strange kind of humor in this too, I'll ask you about that.

Ida Kaminska Yeah, mmmhmmm.

Studs Terkel But this individual however it was beyond this individual suddenly becoming a universal figure though she was specific

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel In her little idiosyncrasies and he was too.

Ida Kaminska [Polish, quietly]

Studs Terkel What were you saying, or your granddaughter was.

Ida Kaminska Polish, [my said me?].

Studs Terkel So we about four languages going here. That's great!

Dina Halpern That's right. Polish as well.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish, in conversation with DH]

Dina Halpern It's true, she explained to Madame Kaminska the words which you said.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Which leads--

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel No.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Not an individual but over and beyond--

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel As an archetypal figure representing all.

Dina Halpern Of course.

Studs Terkel And so the there's a scene there's some- let's talk about the human. Well the first- this cataclysmic scene, this fantastic scene when Tono wants to save you.

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel And at the same time suddenly he realizes, and you got this fantastic chase--

Ida Kaminska Mmmhmm.

Studs Terkel In the store.

Dina Halpern Ah yes, around the table. Remember?

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel It's comic and crazy and tragic all three. There's a wild there's also a humor in your lack of understanding, isn't there? The humor in tragedy.

Ida Kaminska It is tragedy yes. The film is named the tragic comedy. Have you seen?

Dina Halpern Yes, it is a tragic comedy, yeah.

Studs Terkel A tragic comedy. I noticed by the way it's superfluous to mention the the comments of the film. Brendan Gill of the "New Yorker" typically are saying it just deals with death and transfiguration. He says it's a it's a film that is exceptional in that it has all the- seemingly simple and it is, it's so simple.

Ida Kaminska Yes, so simple [yes? yet?]. It is so simple.

Studs Terkel Which makes it a great work of art.

Dina Halpern Yes.

Studs Terkel I suppose

Dina Halpern Studs, my own feeling when I saw the movie. I was amazed how a human soul a human being in face of cataclysms and danger and evil can bring himself up to the highest heights. But at the same time fall down to the to the lowest depths. It's absolutely fantastic the human frailty and the human greatness of a human being how this comes through in that picture in that movie. The direction is--

Studs Terkel I suppose the direction of Mr. Kadar on his--

Ida Kaminska [Maginificent?]. Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel And his colleague. But also you're working with Kroner must have been very exciting. You and he together.

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel Ida Kaminska, Madame Kaminska and Jozef Kroner--

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel Who I take it is a distinguished Slovak--

Dina Halpern It was a wonderful couple.

Studs Terkel Actor. This--

Ida Kaminska Yeah?

There was humor there. This man if we could just deal with him for a moment. Rozalia.

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel This man who was sort of in his own stubborn way knew it was wrong.

Dina Halpern Yes.

Studs Terkel His brother-in-law was the Nazi leader.

Dina Halpern Yes. [IK heard quietly in Yiddish]

Studs Terkel There's this wild drunk family scene--

Ida Kaminska Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel That's fantastic. He doesn't want to be part of this.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Mmmhmm.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern You understood that.

Studs Terkel [IK still speaking] Go ahead and you [translate?] Let me see if I, let me see if I got this right. He was an uneducated man.

Dina Halpern Right.

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel A peasant figure at the same time--

Dina Halpern But he's simple.

Studs Terkel He knew something was wrong.

Dina Halpern Yes.

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel He's a decent man.

Dina Halpern Yes.

Studs Terkel Something was wrong but everyone else does it.

Dina Halpern Does it, that's right. So he may do it too, yes.

Studs Terkel So he'll go along.

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Dina Halpern Right. You understood it.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern You've heard of that store.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Hmm?

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern [laughing] Shop.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Hmm.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish] doesn't and I think if is a lane of the

Studs Terkel Lonesome.

Dina Halpern [Right?]

Dina Halpern [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern He becomes a part of her, you know.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern He's very thankful to her for that [unintelligible].

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Because she cooked for him.

Dina Halpern [IK still speaking] She cooks for him--

Studs Terkel And he became sort of her son. Now this is a strange thing. Something now we have a conflict in him.

Dina Halpern Yes.

Studs Terkel He has a double conflict. Your own, the lack of understanding of an abnormal--

Dina Halpern Situation.

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel [Abnormality?]--

Dina Halpern Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel In man that overcomes his humanity. At the same time he has his conflict of basically a decent guy who sees--

Ida Kaminska Very true.

Studs Terkel A [gentle woman?] who could be as mother--

Dina Halpern Yes

Ida Kaminska Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel were she of another ethnic group. And all of a sudden he's overcome by the others and his own the need to save his own skin.

Dina Halpern Yes.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern [Vakvaldik?], he's--

Male Speaker 1 He's violated.

Dina Halpern He's violated.

Studs Terkel He's violated.

Male Speaker 1 [unintelligible] Sense of decency--

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Should he be sacrificed--

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern That's right, or should he sacrifice?

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Now we come to the great point of rationalizing. Now he begins to rationalize. After all she is an older woman.

Ida Kaminska She is.

Studs Terkel And after all he's a young man,

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel With much to live. So why not then betray her?

Dina Halpern Go along with the count.

Studs Terkel And go along?

Ida Kaminska [If want?] [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Go along with the guard.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Go ahead.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern [IK speaking in background]If somebody has to [be a?]

Dina Halpern Yes of course, someone has to die--

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Maybe the old lady.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Killing himself.

Dina Halpern Yes.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish] terium so out of

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel Now comes- go ahead Dina.

Dina Halpern Nothing will happen to you after all you a la- an old lady. Nothing will happen to you. He tries you know, to--

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern To convince himself that say he's not doing so such bad things after all.

Studs Terkel So now we--

Dina Halpern That's what makes that movie so great. That conflict in a human soul that goes on.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern When he tries you know to throw her in that corner and she dies at that moment she dies such a senseless death. Like so many millions of people in the world died senselessly

Studs Terkel And die.

Dina Halpern And die sen- yes.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern That's right. His overwhelming feeling was goodness but when he cannot go with goodness but everything is against his wonderful human nature he has no other way out--

Studs Terkel Alternative.

Dina Halpern But to co- that's right alternative but to commit suicide, which is a logical--

Studs Terkel [Here?] the end of you- in a sense even though it's Tono, this one semi-literate man, this pretty good carpenter, maybe. This one--

Ida Kaminska Yes

Studs Terkel He has to finally hang himself

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel Because humanity is hanged in this sense.

Ida Kaminska Yes [mumbles quietly]

Dina Halpern Very very true Studs.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking of Madame Kaminska, Dina, I know often you've spoken of her. What you brought to this role. Now we come to you. Obviously this is no accident. This magnificent portrayal of yours as Rozalia. You Madame Kaminska you brought something to this role.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Naturally.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Madame Kaminska says when she received the script and she read the script--

Studs Terkel This was when she was in Warsaw with her theater?

Dina Halpern That's right. So she asked the director and the people who made the movie, she said if she can, her deafness, use as a symbolism for the perished Jewish people, and the figure of Rozalia Lautmann should be kind of representative of all the suffering, senseless suffering of her people. If they will agree that she should do that she'll do it. Obviously they agreed

Studs Terkel But this is, this, if we come to this deafness- here is a creative artists Madame Ida Kaminska, her conception of this deafness being the deafness of the world in a sense or the deafness of the Jews--

Dina Halpern [Well?]

Studs Terkel In a way. So you thought of this, and you s- you read the scenario and you knew this was what you had to do?

Ida Kaminska To have [unintelligible], I asked them, if you want it I will play this part. [DH in Yiddish softly in background] [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Yeah, yeah.

[Yiddish]

Studs Terkel The deafness of those that will not hear.

Dina Halpern Right.

Studs Terkel She wanted her deafness to [be?] those who- and so the film then applies not only to a Slovak country, not only to Naziism and the horrors, but it applies indeed to humanity today too now.

Ida Kaminska Of course.

Studs Terkel [Is it not?] Madame Kaminska and your theater. Your whole family even. It's been many years, you come from a family of theater people what, going back how far?

Dina Halpern Oh I would say 100 years. Your your mother.

Ida Kaminska My mother my father.

Dina Halpern Yes.

Studs Terkel Were actors and then there was a, there was a, this was in Poland. This was in Warsaw?

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel And then came, and there was a thea- there was an audi- was there a large audience? It was I take it a Jewish audience.

Dina Halpern Oh, of course.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel [Vat?]

Dina Halpern Yeah [laughing].

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Dina Halpern Madame Kaminska says that first of all Poland pre-war Poland had three and a half million Jews. Warsaw had three hundred and fifty thousand Jews. It was a jury of great intellect culture and riches, cultural riches. The mother of Madame Ida Kaminska, Ester Rachel Kaminska, was the great national actress of Poland of Europe as a matter of fact. The profession and everybody called her Mother Ester Rachel Kaminska. It's even written on the cemetery on her stone and on her grave. Mother Ester Rachel Kaminska. Her father Kaminski was an actor, pioneer actor in Poland because it goes back so many many years.

Studs Terkel Director, writer.

Dina Halpern Director, writer, translator of plays. Of course after that war, after that tragedy, when Madame, when her daughter Ida Kaminska who's sitting right here, when she came back from Russia to the destroyed Russia--

Ida Kaminska Poland.

Dina Halpern In Pol- oh that's right, excuse me, from you headed from Russia to the destroyed Poland. She couldn't understand how not to continue the golden chain of Yiddish culture. And so she start work and until this day she continues.

Studs Terkel So after this Holocaust, now we come to something quite fascinating I think. Poland today and the Yiddish state theater. Now this is after and there's been the decimation of the Jews. What audience do you have, tell us about your theater first there and how it's subsidized. [whispering in Yiddish] There was then I take it, a flourishing culture.

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel [Background voices continue] And then came Naziism and then came the destruction.

Dina Halpern How it is

Studs Terkel And now the audience and your theater.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Dina, I know there's something very fascinating that Madame Kaminska is saying here about the nature of the audience that is even beyond--

Dina Halpern Yes.

Studs Terkel Why don't you sort of--

Dina Halpern Poland has unfortunately very very small number of Jews. But they all come and this is the beauty of it.

Studs Terkel This is in Warsaw?

Dina Halpern In Warsaw.

Ida Kaminska In Warsaw and in other towns in Poland.

Dina Halpern The theater is loved by the--

Studs Terkel In Krakow too.

Ida Kaminska Krakow and [Lodz?]

Dina Halpern The theater is loved by the Yiddish population but also the Polish population comes to the theater. College youth--

Studs Terkel And they have earphones for translation.

Dina Halpern [Unintelligible] earphones just like in the United Nations.

Dina Halpern Yeah.

Dina Halpern Simultaneously the play is being translated. Madame Kaminska says that the theater produces five plays a year. You know they have to have that Polish audience because there isn't enough of Jewish audience. So as a repertory theater you know with so many productions they have to have the audience and it's wonderful.

Studs Terkel This is a fascinating point. Aside from the Jews who come to- you have some young I imagine many young Polish students, non-Jews--

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel Who come and attend these plays with the earphones.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel And I'm really asking this. Is that true?

Ida Kaminska Yes it is, it is.

Dina Halpern Studs, Madame Kaminska said if so many Jews would come in other--

Dina Halpern Yes.

Dina Halpern In other countries to the theater, [background voices] if they would come they would make very good business. But there is also something else: the theater with the Madame Kaminska is being sent out to many many countries in the world. South America, England, Israel, France, all over the world they are. Australia. The State Theater was all over the world. And the Jewish population it come really--

Studs Terkel Let's come to this matter. I'm, two things interest me very much here.

Dina Halpern [Unintelligible] [theater?]

Studs Terkel The fact that the, you have these young non-Jews who come to--

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel Listen in Poland. Now the theater is subsidized by the Polish government?

Ida Kaminska Yes, [is subsidized?] [It is the state, yes?] [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Mmmhmm.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Mmmhmm.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern There is a tremendous wonderful young audience in the theater at the Yiddish art, in the Yiddish State Theater. Naturally they don't know Yiddish. Even the great amount of Yiddish youth.

Studs Terkel Mmmhmm.

Dina Halpern Why? Because when they were children or when that tragedy was happening--

Studs Terkel These are post-World War II babies?

Dina Halpern That's right. So the parents used to give away their children you know to monasteries through churches you know to save the children. When they came out after the war there was a youth that didn't know the language. So not only the earphones are necessary for the Polish speaking young people--

Studs Terkel But for the other kids too.

Dina Halpern But also for the Jewish--

Studs Terkel But it's interesting about the, I think--

Ida Kaminska [Unintelligible]

Studs Terkel What were you saying there?

Ida Kaminska Yiddish--

Dina Halpern Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel And they learn it too.

Dina Halpern Naturally they--

Studs Terkel I'm thinking too of the Polish government and its sponsorship of this. This is apparently a very powerful aspect of this.

Dina Halpern This is a very powerful thing and a very great thing.

Studs Terkel The repertoire, now, we come to the-- What play? Is classics and-- What are the plays you perform?

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern The theater has a very great repertory. Besides the classics, I can understand [Yiddish] [in Paris?] and our great classics.

Ida Kaminska [Unintelligible]

Dina Halpern All the dramatizations of great novels. The theater had a mission to introduce to the young audiences our glorious Jewish past. So they had a tremendous job to do.

Studs Terkel Do you do also in the plays, classics, say Shakespeare or Moliere? You don't do these.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel You do those too, yes.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Yes.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Yes.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Yes, yes.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]Brecht--

Studs Terkel You do Brecht too?

Dina Halpern Oh yes!

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel "Mother Courage."

Dina Halpern "Mother Courage."

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish] Arthur Miller--

Studs Terkel You do Arthur Miller?

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish] "Incident in [sic] Vichy"--

Studs Terkel "Incident in [sic] Vichy" you do?

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Yes.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish] "All My Sons"--

Studs Terkel "All My Sons."

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Well this is incredible. Then the repertoire is a broad one.

Dina Halpern Yes, yes. Definitely.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel And comedies too--

Ida Kaminska Ya.

Studs Terkel Musical comedies.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Something that's--

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Yes, Madame Kaminska took a play, a very old play and she made a musical out of it. And it's a combination of old and new, and it has--

Studs Terkel Yes.

Dina Halpern A tremendous success as I understand.

Studs Terkel This is interesting- old and new. So there's a question here then of the Kaminska family through Madame Kaminska. Madame Ida Kaminska, carrying on a tradition at the same time the tradition also recognizes the new. And so there's a continual, there's a thread here.

Dina Halpern Yes, right.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern It's not only reportory of traditional plays, but also they are continuing with modern plays that is being played in the world.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking as Madame Kaminska's speaking of this theater, of which she is the director, you are?

Ida Kaminska Yes, the artistic director.

Studs Terkel The artistic director of this theater--

Ida Kaminska And leading lady of the theater.

Studs Terkel And leading lady you brought, obviously, your life has always been as an actress hasn't it?

Ida Kaminska Mmm, yeah.

Studs Terkel You are a young woman now still quite a young woman--

Ida Kaminska Oh!

Studs Terkel In spirit certainly!

Ida Kaminska Naturally!

Studs Terkel But ever since you were a small girl you were acting--

Ida Kaminska Oh yes.

Studs Terkel [With?] your family. [Quiet aside in Yiddish from DH?] You've been acting all the time.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Since you were five.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern When they were here, Madame Kaminska's brother Josef Kaminski is the first concertmaster of the Israeli symphony. And do you remember Studs, when the Israeli symphony came to the, to our concert hall? And Serge Koussevitzky conducted and Bernstein conducted them? Josef Kaminski was the first concertmaster.

Studs Terkel And your daughters-- in a way, your daughter ac-- I suppose it's safe to say is it not Dina without romanticize that the Kaminska family to the Yiddish theater is pretty much the Barrymores work in the English theater.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish? Unintelligible]

Dina Halpern A dynasty theater.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel It's, it's a dynasty [isn't it?]

Dina Halpern Haha, dynasty, I say dynasty! [varying pronunciation]

Dina Halpern [Yiddish] [dynasty?]

Studs Terkel Well dynasty is good too. Well Dina, yes.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern He's in the arts. He's not an actor but he's in the arts, definitely.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel But all these Madame Kaminska you brought with you into this role. By the way you've been in films before.

Ida Kaminska [No?] [Yiddish] Before the war, before the war

Dina Halpern Before the war she in the movies, yes.

Studs Terkel Now of course America oh quite certainly will know your work and your artistry and all this came with you. Perhaps, I'm thinking about this film how logical it is, logical, that you play this role Rozalia Lautmann--

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel In this film in view of your life as an artist and as a person, your life. That you came fully equipped for this role.

Dina Halpern And how!

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Ah!

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Madame Kaminska says that naturally though she's still young but she plays all the parts and all the parts usually are very similar one to another. As far as Rozalia Lautmann is concerned in the movie "The Shop on Main Street," it's an entirely different old woman, entirely different. And many critics, many people told us so, and she's absolutely delighted to hear that because her intentions--

Ida Kaminska It was very difficult.

Dina Halpern I understand the were such--

Studs Terkel Very difficult, yes.

Ida Kaminska --Difficult.

Dina Halpern That it should be different.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Dina Halpern And it is different. It is.

Studs Terkel I suppose the element of, in the making of this film, this was made in Czechoslovakia?

Ida Kaminska Yes.

Studs Terkel In the making of this film I suppose improvisation figured here too; thoughts as you came with a character in your mind [women's voices in background] but in the doing it, working with Kroner and Kadar.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Yeah, so this--

Dina Halpern You understand it beautifully, Studs.

Studs Terkel [Unintelligible]

Dina Halpern Beautifully!

Studs Terkel I must say that the film, I realize you have, Madame Kaminska's in for a day, [laughter] and last night, this is Wednesday, no this is Thursday. This broadcast, last night the Peace Center had this preview which it gave at the Highland Park theater, but at the Loop theater--

Male Speaker 1 On April 22nd.

Studs Terkel April 22nd.

Male Speaker 1 And remember that it's nominated for the Academy Award and if Madame Kaminska, she will be in Hollywood on the 18th, and I hope that she gets up there to receive the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film. But of course--

Studs Terkel Well if she doesn't get that then we will--We'll give it her which is more important!

Male Speaker 1 Can you imagine the 52 million people seeing her up there?

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Male Speaker 1 This vibrant woman.

Studs Terkel I still think it's more important, that's good, but I think they're seeing the film--

Male Speaker 1 Yes.

Studs Terkel With her in this role was the important thing.

Male Speaker 1 But I must tell you, when she arrived at the reception the other night, the most exciting thing happened when she walked into the room. She had just come in from Frankfurt, New York--

Studs Terkel This is John Butkawicz speaking.

Male Speaker 1 It was 3:30 in the morning her time. She walked into the room and here was a star. This was a marvelous experience, a beautiful experience.

Studs Terkel I shun, forgive me, from the word star. I prefer to use you as artist. [laughter]

Male Speaker 1 Artist [and?] star, alright. [Unintelligible]

Studs Terkel So Madame Kaminska, any any further thoughts that you have concern the role, theater, yourself? Any further thoughts?

Ida Kaminska [Too quiet to make out]

Studs Terkel That, anything we haven't talked about that, [women's voices in background] some aspect, or Dina would you suggest--

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Did you understand?

Studs Terkel I think I got most of it but I want you to be sure Dina. She's talking about art--

Dina Halpern Madame Kaminska as a matter of fact, when it comes to theater, when it comes to parts, the roles, she cannot make plans beforehand. When the time comes to deal with it then she's completely in it. She takes over and she is with heart and soul and all of her being in the thing because she has so much work in her theater and conducting a theater, this is not a easy thing. So therefore she cannot make plans beforehand when it comes for a play, but when the play comes, when she gets it in her hands then she's in it and then she can do things and as she go al-- as she goes along in her work, the plans and suggestions and ideas come.

Studs Terkel [Unintelligible] I want to see some day before we leave now, Madame Kaminska, remind the audience again of the film. You did Rozalia Lautmann. Someday I'd love to see you do a Yiddish Mother Courage.

Ida Kaminska Oh well, Mother Courage.

Studs Terkel That would be fantastic!

Dina Halpern She already does Mother Courage in Yiddish naturally. [Kaminska's voice in background]

Studs Terkel You've done that? [women's voices in background] That would be an incredible, I think incredible experience for an audience. Her interpretation of Mother Courage.

Dina Halpern Yes, I would love to see that too.

Studs Terkel [Kaminska's voice in background] Considering the language and the background would be a fantastic--

Ida Kaminska [Unintelligible] Mother Courage.

Studs Terkel Experience. I thought of it as she was talking, you know.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Studs Terkel Oh you did play Mother Courage?

Dina Halpern Yes, certainly!

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern She directed it and then she played it.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish] well but Zach who stole this vase and venue shlepping Rukun

Studs Terkel When you're pulling the wagon.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern At the [end?] of the play.

Studs Terkel Yes, at the end of the play.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern [laughter] Did you understand that?

Studs Terkel I got that. When she pulled that wagon [laughter continues], how tough it is to pull the wagon of Yiddish theater [laughter]. Or you might say how tough it is to pull the wagon of life, too--

Ida Kaminska Of life.

Studs Terkel In a sense. And this perhaps is the subtext you might say of this film, "The Shop on Main Street" that will open at the refurbished Loop Theater. That's Friday April 22nd and not too often do I speak of a film this particular vein, but I think when the audience sees it they'll understand why. And Madame Kaminska, thank you very much indeed. What an honor to have you as our guest. Thank you.

Ida Kaminska [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern Interviewing.

Ida Kaminska Interviewing. [Yiddish]

Dina Halpern May I translate? Because it's very important what you she said for you, Studs. She had many interviews in her life but the way you conduct you, that interview with her gave her a lot of joy and a lot of pleasure. But it's very important, isn't it?

Studs Terkel Thank you very much. Good luck. Thank you Dina, Dina Halpern.

Dina Halpern Thank you Studs [T?].

Studs Terkel Madame Ida Kaminska.