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The Jackpot on stage again!

The Jewish Theatre in Warsaw is preparing a new premiere. A lack of its own stage (the theatre has been hosted by the Garrison Headquarters Club) and the forced relocation from its historic site in Grzybowski Square to Senatorska St. have not disrupted the theatre's artistic activity. The last preparations to The Jackpot premiere, which is scheduled for 10 March 2017, are underway. The staging is based on Sholem Aleichem's play of the same title, edited by Marta Guśniowska. The Warsaw audience had a chance to take a peek into the new version of The Jackpot during last June's performative reading in the Jewish Theatre as part of Mike Urbaniak's project "Home recipes".


A ballpoint pen drawing, Michał Szwejlich as Szymele Sorokier in the "200,000" ("The Big Win") play, Jakub Rotbaum, 1951.   

The play was directed by Tomasz Szczepanek. In an interview published at the theatre's website, the director said openly that he had not been fond of the original. Only Marta Guśniowska's work, and in particular her modernisation of the play, triggered his positive reaction. The director assured that The Big Win had preserved its style of a folk comedy musical in which the protagonist, Szymele Sorokier, unexpectedly wins a lottery jackpot. And then everything changes... However, we are not going to disclose the details. You need to go to the theatre to find out.


The 1951 text of the "200,000" ("The Big Win") play in Yiddish, edited by Jakub Rotbaum. Stamps by the censor's office visible on the copy.    

It should be reminded that the original text of The Jackpot was written over 100 years ago in Yiddish by Sholem Aleichem (real name Sholem Rabinovich), one of the greatest representatives of Yiddish literature. The original is not homogeneous, it has plenty of crossings out, annotations, notes on the margins. Clearly, the author was not sure himself which version was better. Despite this, the play quickly became popular and was even termed the author's best comedy. The Jackpot has been staged many times in Jewish theatres in Poland and abroad. It was also staged several times in post-war Poland.


The 1951 programme of "The Big Win". The programme was printed in Polish and Yiddish.   

A Lower-Silesian music and theatre band, which performed in Dzierżoniów and Legnica, was the first to use Sholem Aleichem's text after 1945. It featured artists with pre-war stage experience: Ruth Taru-Kowalska, Michał Szwejlich and Symche Natan. Soon after, in March 1947, Mojżesz Lipman decided to use Sholem Aleichem's work. The play was staged on the permanent stage of the Jewish theatre in Łódź at 2 Jaracza St. 


The 1972 programme of "The Big Win".   

In 1951, Sholem Aleichem's play was edited by Jakub Rotbaum, who later staged it under the changed name of "200,000" in the State Jewish Theatre under Director Ida Kamińska. Rotbaum was already an experienced director at that time. He knew pre-war stagings of the play. In his show, he used a musical score composed for the staging back in the 1930s by prominent composer Henoch Kon, who among others created music to Michał Waszyński's Dybbuk. Rotbaum's staging proved very popular, and its creator remained for a few decades "The Jackpot man". After nearly 20 years since the premiere and after turbulent changes of the late 1960s that involved the emigration of Ida Kamińska with a part of the artistic team, in 1972 Szymon Szurmiej invited Rotbaum to stage The Jackpot on stage in Grzybowski Sq. Jakub Rotbaum staged The Jackpot the next and so far the last time at the State Jewish Theatre in 1985.

Let us hope that the 2017 staging will be as successful as in the case of its predecessors.


  • the theatre's press materials
  • Teatralna Jerozolima. Przeszłość i teraźniejszość, A. Kuligowska-Korzeniewska (ed.), Warsaw, 2006.
  • Weitzner J., Scholem Aleichem in the Theater, Northwood, 1994.

We would like to thank the Artistic Archive of the Ester Rachel Kamińska and Ida Kamińska Jewish Theatre for access to the archival materials.