Kalich, Bertha

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KALICH, BERTHA (1875–1939), U.S. actress born in Poland. She was the first outstanding Yiddish actress to win recognition on the English-speaking stage. Bertha Kalich trained for opera in Lemberg and later appeared in the Bucharest National Theater. Offered a leading role in La Dame Blanche at the Romanian Imperial Theater in 1894, she learned Romanian in three months and received an ovation for her performance.

She reached New York in 1895 and appeared in Yiddish repertory which included Ibsen's Doll's House and Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata. Her performance in Sardou's Fedora in English in 1905 led to a contract with Harrison Grey Fiske, who engaged her to appear in Maeterlinck's Monna Vanna. She remained under his management until 1910, and then acted for Lee Shubert in Sappho (1912) and Rachel (1913), and repeated in English some of her Yiddish successes, such as The Riddle Woman (1918) and Magda (1926).

[David S. Lifson]