Jacob Gordin's plays, however,
gradually crept into the hearts of the actors. This speech was a
simple Yiddish, and mainly the realistic acting worked.
There began a jealousy to his actors who played in Jacob
Gordin's plays. But as here there is only one Jacob Gordin, they
fell into a plan to play plays by greater writers than Jacob
Gordin -- by the classics of the world. And it has taken sulfur
and gribbles on the Yiddish stage with such plays as: "Hamlet,"
"Othello," "Romeo and Juliet," "Richard III," "Julius Caesar,"
"Mary Stuart," "Don Carlos," "William Tell," "Faust," "Shylock,"
"Cleopatra," "Di heimath (The Homeland)," "Di ehre
The aforementioned plays were
translated into a crude Yiddish, such that neither the actors
nor the audience knew what it was. Almost all the classic plays
were failures, except "Hamlet" and "Othello." This was a bitter
disappointment, that it meant that it was going back to ancient
The time for a new writer had
arrived. They were no longer laughed at; on the contrary, they
were thought of as the savior of the Yiddish theatre.
The poet Abraham Michael Sharansky
appeared. His play, "[Rebi amnon der bel] unshu tikf,"
had a great success. And indeed, when they performed Sharansky's
play, "Kol Nidre," it had an even greater success. The public
was refreshed with the two Sharansky plays, because they were
Yiddish, of Jewish life and really with Jewish melodies, written
by the composer [Louis] Friedsell and sung by the genial comic
After this Sharansky wrote plays
of the same sort, such as "Rokhl, oder, Degel makhne yehuda
(Rachel, or, The Flag of the Camp of Judah?)," and, "Oyb
(if)," which however were failures.
The classical plays that had been
created strongly built the star system, because such roles as
Hamlet, Othello, Shylock, and over and over again actors were
given opportunities to act, better said, to scream, because it
was not acting then. They shouted out the long prose.
The poet Morris Rosenfeld also
wrote a play with the name, "Der letster kohen gedol (The
Last High Priest?)," which failed greatly. With this, his career
as a playwright ended.
The three stars: Thomashefsky,
Adler and Kessler, tired of the competition, and they united and
performed in Jacob Gordin's "Di gebrider lurie (The Lurie
Brothers)," and divided the important roles among the three
stars. There was peace and quiet until the curtain was raised,
but on the stage, for the public in their eyes, they applauded
them, one from another. Kessler laughed at Thomashefsky. This
annoyed Thomashefsky and made him nervous. So as Thomashefsky
needed to break a plate, he had already broken such a plate in
anger. Adler, who played the role of a quiet, honorable rabbi,
stood from the whiteness; but he saw that the public was amused
as they broke a plate, he began to break a plate. As usual, it
became a ridiculous production, and with this the combination of
the three stars ended.
Then came the combination of Adler
and Thomashefsky. Adler played only in dramas, and Thomashefsky
in operettas. For Adler, this was what he desired, because it
gave him the possibility not to act in operettas, which were
still the most common commodities.
Kessler year-round remained in the
Thalia Theatre, and it did not take long, and he became one of
the directors there, Shaykevitsh was away from the stage the
whole time, but he was not sitting empty. He wrote a play, the
first play where the comic occupies the upper [rung]." This was
"Haman the Second." The play strongly took off.
In that time the Mrs. Lipzin was
away from the theatre. She was married to a publisher of a daily
newspaper, Michael Mintz. Her situation then became such that
she needed to be dependent on him for theatre. With the
assistance of her husband, she succeeded in playing in only
productions where she guest-starred. She used to hire a theatre
for a week or two and by herself used to perform in several
plays that she herself wanted, not enough to reckon with the
tastes of the managers.
Jacob Gordin was the only writer
who could have created a play for the Lipzin, which should
create a reputation for a great dramatist.
She used to appear from time to
time in Jacob Gordin's dramas. Sometimes she joined a repertoire
of better plays. Her name became connected with the Gordin
dramas, and for Gordin it began the very important epoch of his
The better plays had still not
attracted large audiences. To put on a good play without singing
and dancing meant simply sacrificing to the interests of the
theatre box-office. No money was expected from such a piece, and
such a pleasure was allowed once in a blue moon.
Most of the actors had a desire to
act in a Gordin play, but their requests could not be fulfilled.
Gordin alone. He himself was pushed into the background and was
rarely seen on stage. Just as at that time New York already had
two radical, daily newspapers, and he joined them as a regular
contributor to the "Forward" and there wrote news, articles and
sketches for twelve dollars a week.
THE FOUNDING OF THE
YIDDISH ACTORS' UNION
The business in the Yiddish
theatre had strongly improved, but the situation for the Yiddish
actor became worse and worse. The system of working "on marks"
-- to obtain a percentage of the income -- was not any good.
Firstly, the actor was given an undisclosed account. For
example, one of the managers entered among is expenses three
hundred dollars on a rope for the stage. For three hundred
dollars, the rope can be used for twenty-five years, and again
and again such accounts. Before they began to pay out the
profits, they took out the rent, the expenses, heating, wages
for the workers. This drove the actors to found a union.
In 1899, with the assistance of
the union leader at the time, Joseph Barondess, they found the
Yiddish Actors' Union in America. It is worth dwelling on the
person and personality of Joseph Barondess, or as he used to be
called -- Joseph Baron De-es. Though he was not an actor, the
actors relying on him, poured. His place of speech, his attire,
his gait, and his demeanor made him look like a brother of Jacob
P. Adler or Boris Thomashefsky. He spoke dramatically, like a
Shakespearean actor. He used to lead on the first of may the
Worker's March -- He used to be the first one on a riding hours;
he used to speak strongly, but he used to help with pleasure the
poor and even do a favor. So as he considered himself a silent
actor, he was close to the theatre profession, and he dove in
with life and limb in the founding of the Actors' Union.
On 27 December 1903, the Yiddish
Actors' Union celebrated the fourth anniversary of its
existence, and due to this joyous event, a journal was issued.
Anshel Schorr, who during that
time was the secretary of the Actors' Union, has in a legend
reported what the Yiddish Actors' Union has done in that time,
during its four years of existence.