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Yiddish Theatre

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Lillian Lux (1919-2005) Yiddish Theatre Star, Dead at 86
By Kenneth Jones

Lillian Lux, a star of the Yiddish theatre and matriarch of the Burstein theatre family, died June 10 at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, the family announced.

Ms. Lux was 86. Her many performance credits include productions with her husband Pesach'ke Burstein and twin children Susan and Michael. The latter, as Mike Burstyn, appeared in Broadway's Barnum and Ain't Broadway Grand and will appear soon Off-Broadway in On Second Avenue, the critically acclaimed salute to the bygone era of Yiddish theatre in New York —a world populated by flesh and blood artists like his mother.

According to a spokesman, in 1929 Lillian Lux became a child actress for several seasons in Maurice Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theater. She performed on the Yiddish radio and, at 14, was hired as a chorus girl by the Second Avenue Theater. As a young girl she also shared the stage with Danny Kaye.

In 1938 she joined Pesach'ke Burstein to tour with him in Argentina and Uruguay. The two married during the tour, and had twins in 1945, Michael and Susan, who would soon join their parents on stage. In 1954 they presented one of their best-known productions, A Khasene in Shtetl (A Village Wedding), in Israel where its popularity created a minor furor since officials were trying to discourage the use of Yiddish.

In the 1950s the Bursteins performed in London, Paris, Israel, throughout South America, and in Johannesberg. In 1958 the family joined Maurice Schwartz's company and appeared with him in Shver Tsu Zayn a Yid, Yoshe Kalb, Tevye the Dairyman and Shmates, among others. In the 1960s, after daughter Susan left the family business, Ms. Lux, her husband and son returned to Israel where they dramatized Itsik Manger's Megilla Lider, which would become the longest-running Yiddish show ever staged in Israel. It subsequently premiered on Broadway in 1968 as The Megillah of Itzik Manger, in which Ms. Lux portrayed the doomed Queen Vashti.

Ms. Lux hosted radio programs on WEVD-AM for many years. Her husband died in 1986.

The Burstein family is the subject of Arnon Goldfinger's documentary, "The Komediant." Ms. Lux was awarded lifetime achievement honors by Governor George E. Pataki on May 8, 2002 at Hunter College at a star-studded concert co-hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, the longest-continuously producing Yiddish theatre company in the world.

Source: Copyright © 2005 Playbill, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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  • Lillian Lux (1919-2005)

    Lillian Lux and Pesach'ke Burstein

    Governor Pataki presenting Lifetime Achievement Award in Yiddish Theatre to Lillian Lux 2002

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