Thomashefsky (rt.), and his father Pinchas Thomashefsky
YIDDISH PLAY OF AMERICAN LIFE
Pinchas Thomashefsky, the father
of Boris Thomashefsky, who arrived with the audience, brought with
him his two daughters, and together with this son Boris and with some dilettantes from the shop,
he founded a company.
Pinchas Thomashefsky, on his own,
wrote a play with the name, "Di inkvizitsye (The
Inquisition)." Boris Thomashefsky. in his later years, told
comically things about his father's playing of theatre. First,
he did not stay true to the text. He used to say something
different every night, and as much as he wanted, when Boris
Thomashefsky reached out to him with a remark, he used to shout
on stage in front of the audience: "You, smarkel, do you dare?
Have respect for your father!"
The Thomashefsky family company
did not exist for long, and at that time, that is in 1883, there
came to New York a new company with Mr. and Mrs. Silverman, Mr. and
Mrs. Chaimovich (later Sara Adler), Karp, Mr. and Mrs. Borodkin,
and Wechtel. Together with the company there also came the
playwright Joseph Lateiner.
Joseph Lateiner, who later became
a very successful playwright, came to America with the
aforementioned company as a prompter. The prompter in those
years was the "utshoni yevrey," that is, the scholar, the
educated one of the company.
Joseph Lateiner wrote his first
play in America, "Esther and Haman," later, "Joseph and His
Brothers." Then he created a work that had to do with a country
where the Jewish immigrants had sought a home, a play about
American-Jewish life, and the play indeed was called,
"Emigration to America."
So as the immigration to America
became very great, a demand from the public had begun for new
plays and new actors.
In Russia, in 1883, Yiddish
theatre was banned, and business in Romania also was not
birdlike, and entire companies began to come to America.
Among the new arriving actors was
Sigmund Mogulesco. The name Sigmund Mogulesco already at that
time was heard far and wide. The new company with
Mogulesco then played two operettas that were translated from the
German, the "Blu bard (Bluebeard)," and "Perikole
(La Perichole)" by Offenbach, and the "Kokete damen
(Coquettish Ladies)" by Shomer-Shaykevitch. The two
foreign-translated operettas were failures. That's why the
"Coquettish Ladies" was so pleasing.
In the "Coquettish Ladies,"
Sigmund Mogulesco made an impression. He won over the American
public, and since then his name rang over the entirety of
In the company there was found
several actors, such as Sigmund Feinman, [Leon] Blank, Mr. and
Mrs. Abramowitz, [Morris] Finkel, and Anita Finkel, but the
greatest success was made by the genial comic, Sigmund
Two Chicago tailors, Dravdovich
and Rosengarten, were jealous of the New York Jews, that they
had a Yiddish theatre, and they sent for someone with the name of Mandelkern,
who in later years had worked his way up and became a great
impresario, and he indeed brought to America great
opera singers and concert artists, among them Jascha Heifetz.
The Chicago tailors sent
Mandelkern to London to bring back Jacob P. Adler, who had
played there. It's worth mentioning the first announcement that
came out about Jacob P. Adler's production. It was published
with the Yiddish alphabet, but in deytshmerish, approximately
"We are convinced that the world's
famous actor and artist, who America has yet to see, comes to
America with his troupe, to show the New York public that
from now on there will exist only one of the proper Yiddish
Under the ad was written, "The New
Yiddish Theatre Society."
The plays that Adler performed in
Chicago were from the old repertoire from Russia, where they
often played "Uriel Acosta," "Doctor Almasada," and the "Meshugene
oys libe (Crazy in Love)." Adler, with his company, played in
Chicago until after Passover, then the company declared a strike
on Adler (there was no union then), and the company disbanded,
and Adler with Keni Lipzin went off to New York.
Mrs. Lipzin was immediately
engaged in the "Roumanian Opera House." Her first
the New York public was "Devora (Deborah)." In that time
in America there was already found Professor Horowitz. His
first play was "Tisa Eslar." This was a play in
which they performed with a translation. This play did not end in one
night, and the public had to come a second evening to see the
ending. After "Tisa Eslar " Professor Horowitz wrote "Shlomo
Hamelekh (King Solomon)," which had a very great success.
The competition between the two
theatres, which then existed between the "Roumanian Opera House"
and the "Oriental Theatre," was very great. But the public did
not suffer at all, just the opposite. The repertoire became
larger and more important, for example, when they performed,
"King Solomon," by Horowitz, the second theatre staged Lateiner's
"Mishpat shlomo." One theatre performed "Don yosef
abarbanel," and the second theatre staged "Don itzhak
abarbanel." The result that came out of the competition was
that both theatres were exhausted, and the actors were in great
The actors often used to be
supported by the surrounding patrioten (fans), who the
actors had called "The Jews," with a meal and several dollars in
their pocket, even with cigarettes.
In 1887 Abraham Goldfaden, the
father of Yiddish theatre, came to New York with Spivakovski,
who was a Russian actor, and he was also a very good, serious Yiddish actor.
Abraham Goldfaden received
a very cold reception from the actors in America. The actors who
had played with him in the old country had remembered him as a
very bad, human being. They used to call him an outspoken
tyrant. In short, they did not want him, and the authors had
seen a great competition. In New York he did not play. He put
together a company and traveled across the province -- It did
not go very well for him in the province either, and he returned
to New York. In New York he began to issue a weekend newspaper
with the name: "Di ilustrirte tsaytung (The Illustrated
Newspaper)." The newspaper did not last the year, and he left
the golden land disappointed and bitter.
The races and the competition
theatres affected the bad business. The managers strongly
exploited the actors, especially the lesser actors. The actors,
therefore, decided to found a union. The founders of the union
were: Gold, Nakhamkes, Schwartz (not Maurice Schwartz), Kurazh,
Sam Adler and still others. They soon attracted the greater
actors. As it turns out, the founders had a weak appeal about
unionism, because in the union they also had taken in the
theatre directors, who were taken into the union with the sole
purpose of striking the union, and indeed, soon the union fell
At that time, Jacob P. Adler for
the second time came to America from London. He came at the
invitation of the theatre directors, Heine and Mogulesco. His
first appearance for the second time in New York was in "Der
odeser betler (The Odessa Beggar)," the play that throughout
the years was one of his successes, but this time it was a big
failure, and he wanted to drive the diesel and say goodbye to
New York. But in the second week Adler staged a second piece
from his repertoire, "Moshe'le soldat (Moshe the
Soldier)," and this piece had a tremendous success. Through the play,
Adler became recognized by the public for being a
great artist, and all the directors took a liking to him.
The director Heine was a great
admirer of Jacob P. Adler, and Jacob P. Adler a very great
admirer of Heine's wife, Sonia, who later became the wife of
Jacob P. Adler -- the great actress Sara Adler.