Jacob P. Adler then went off into
the province. On the way he happened upon Boris Thomashefsky,
who at that time had become a full-time actor. For the entire time,
he had played in the province, mostly in Chicago. At that time
Chicago was the city of refugees, where there were the actors
who had become crowded out of New York. They traveled to
Chicago, but their hearts were in New York. At the first
opportunity they grabbed their bags and bundles, and they came
running to New York.
When Adler met with Boris
Thomashefsky in Chicago, they created a business and played on
Passover in Poole's Theatre.
The racing, the capturing of the
actors one by one, the jumping from one theatre to another, and
the frequent changing of the plays -- this had a bad effect on the
audience. People simply did not trust them, because the actor,
who was announced in one theatre, suddenly saw his image in
another theatre, that he was playing there. Every month,
immigration became greater and greater. The earnings of the
actors became much better. The number of theatre attendees
increased, and the previously small theatres were already too
small. There was a demand for larger theatres, because New York
already then had possessed a great number of Yiddish theatregoers.
The manager Heine then turned back
to the large Thalia Theatre. He paid ten thousand dollars per
year more for rent. Heine signed a contract for twenty-two
thousand dollars a year -- this was such a sum that until then was unheard of among Yiddish actors.
A quiet revolution occurred among
the Yiddish actors: the actors, who were popular in the first
years, used all their strength to hold on tight. Other
actors with less talent and ambition were silent to the
question, but the public was the judge. The screams of "Bravo!"
indicated who was who. And there did indeed appear to be "new
stars," who initially occupied an unimportant place on the
stage but later swam up from above.
The small theatres became too
small for the large audiences.
Sigmund Mogulesco then took over
the large Windsor Theatre (where one now finds the Manhattan
Bridge). Already in New York there were two large Yiddish
theatres: the Thalia and the Windsor.
THE DEYTSHMERISH EPOCH IN THE
The concept of that time was that
a simple, spoken Yiddish was spoken only by a tailor, a
shoemaker, a seller, a craftsman, or a servant girl. A doctor, a
teacher, an optician -- they already were accustomed to speaking
German. Not only on the Yiddish stage, but also in the press,
they used to write half-German: "Das medchen," instead of
"this girl." One could hardly imagine on the Yiddish stage that
someone who was wearing a clean suit and who was still talking
with a nose handkerchief in his pocket would speak a simple
As the play deliverers, the
writers, really knew German; like Joseph Lateiner, Professor
Horowitz, they indeed took their subjects from German plays,
even from German operas and operettas -- they wrote
The Yiddish actors used to carry
around a German newspaper in their pocket. Even those who did
not know any German used to have a German newspaper with them
in their pockets. They were very proud of their German.
Joseph Lateiner took his plays
from German. He took "David's geige" and made from it "Dovid's
fidele (David's Violin)," or the opera, "Di
nakhtvandlerin (The Night Wanderer)" -- he made from it "Di
farblonjete neshome (The Lost Soul)"; from the Roumanian
comedy, "Vladutsye mame (Mother Vladusa?)," he created, "Shmuel
Shmelkes"; later Abraham Goldfaden created "Shmendrik"
Lateiner also wrote, "Di likht
fun yerushalayim (The Light of Jerusalem)," and Abraham
Goldfaden, with more talent and also more theatrical, created
his immortal work, "Shulamis."
Professor Horowitz, who did not
know German, also was a student (moreover, he also
possessed a large library), and he wrote mostly historical plays,
also tsayt-bilders. His historical plays were: "Jacob
and Esau," "Yetzias mitzrayim (Exodus From Egypt)," "Tisa
Eslar," "Shlomo hamelekh (King Solomon)," "Ben
hador" (which ran for two years). Professor Horowitz's
tsayt-bilders were: "Dreyfus," "Der ladzhen-president
(The Lodge President)," "Khurbn keshenev (The Destruction
of Kishinev)," "Dr. Herzl," and so on.
The Yiddish actors had no
relationship to the playwrights because they knew that the
greater part of their play was not original, and they knew that
there was a great deal of competition going on between the
When a new, unknown playwright
turned to the actors and wanted to read a new play for them,
they ridiculed the poor writer. All sorts of ugly methods were
devised to ridicule the new playwright. They used to call the
new playwright by the beautiful name, "Yold." When a reading of
a new play was ordered, people were told that "tomorrow a new 'yold'
will come to read a play." As was already said, all kinds of
toys and tricks were invented how to make fun of this new
writer, who had no other name among the actors than "Yold."
They used to put makeup on the
poor writer, dress him with a beard and set away the writer on
the stage all by himself. The actors sat in the orchestra and in
the boxes. The actors used to shout out all at once: "Higher!
Higher!" -- and the poor writer tore up his throat ... Sometimes
it used to be dark on the stage, and the actors used to rub
swabs. Some used to smear the writer with the swabs on his face
until his face became filled with black spots ... They used to,
as usual, laugh -- and many of the naive writers thought they
were laughing at the comic scenes of their play ...
There is no need to blame the
actors entirely, because the greater part of the composers were
"kranks," and they could not be dismissed.
The Yiddish stage then stood
entirely on Lateiner's and Horowitz's "literature." They wore
leotards with naked thighs, long robes with Rococo costumes and with
swords, and people talked deytshmerish.
This was the saddest situation and
chaos of the Yiddish theatre. It was at this chaotic time that
the reformer of the Yiddish stage arrived -- Jacob Gordin.