With the role from the
"Jewish Sappho," the young Kalich appeared and
immediately persuaded the large New York Yiddish
theatregoers that she possessed an extraordinary,
great dramatic talent.
Keni Lipzin, the
dramatic actress, also arrived to the theatre
through her singing, but in a different way than Berta Kalich. Jacob
Adler and the comic Abraham Fishkind separated
from Goldfaden's troupe in Russia, with the purpose
of putting together their own company -- at that
time there was the greatest difficulty to find women
for the theatre. They traveled around from city to
city until they found employment in a small town Smila, in
Southern Russia. They stopped in a small inn and
suddenly they heard a young woman's voice singing a
song: "Oy, oy, oy, veh iz mir host mikh farfirt,
a klog tsu dir; "Du kost mikh nit der vert, derfar
hob ikh dir in dr'erd." (Oh, oh, oh, woe is me;
you have deceived me, a complaint to you; you do not
cost me the value, therefore I hope you are in the
This song was sung
once and for all with a lot of heart and longing.
When the singing had ceased, Adler said to Fishkind:
"You heard, she has you in the ground." Fishkind
says: "Maybe she means you?"
Adler jumps in: "Let's
go see this young girl who sings." And they jumped
over a fence and saw a young girl with short hair,
sitting with her head resting on her folded hands.
When she saw these two friendly people, she wanted to
take flight, but Adler caught her.
Adler explained to her
the purpose of their coming here, that is, that they
are directors and are looking for a young girl who
could be an actress.
She immediately liked
the plan. She left Smila with them.
Keni Lipzin had the
same struggle as Jacob Adler, because she also
didn't have a voice for singing, and she had to act
in cheap melodramas. But she immediately
demonstrated dramatic talent -- she then was called
Freulein Sonies. Later her name on stage became Keni
Besides Gordin writing
for her, she played in a play, "Don Abarbanel";
the "Blind Mother" in "Uriel Acosta." She
played the daughter in Shomer's play, "Der
lebediger toyter (The Living Dead?)," or, "A
klap far a klap"; "Zhanete" in the comedy, "Der
falsher melamed (The False Melamed)," a main
role in "Ester fun eyn-gedi (Esther From Ein
Gedi)," and the main role in "Meshugene oys libe
(Crazy in Love)." She also performed in the title
role of "Devora" in Mozental's play.
Jacob Gordin had seen
Keni Lipzin act for the first time in "Rukhl un
leah (Rachel and Leah)," and he became upset
that such a talent, with such a dramatic power,
should disappear into such shund plays.
She married the
publisher of a daily newspaper, Michael Mintz. The
newspaper was called the "Teglikher herald
From the day that
Michael Mintz married Keni Lipzin, until the decline
of the newspaper, there was virtually no other name
that one could see in the newspaper but Keni Lipzin.
They wrote where she went, what she had done, and
what she had eaten. It was heaven, earth and Keni Lipzin.
Mintz was a wise
businessman, and he won Jacob Gordin on to his side.
In his last years Gordin gave away a lot for Keni
The first play that
Jacob Gordin had written for Keni Lipzin was "Medea,"
an adaptation of Grillparzer, then "Mirele Efros,"
or the "Yidishe kenigin lir (Jewish Queen
Lear)," "Di shvue (The Oath)," or, "Ronye
di potshtarke," then Hauptmann's "Furman
Henshel." Gordin's "Yesoyme
(Orphan)" was almost a piece about her own life. "Khasye di
yesoyme (Chasia the Orphan)," about which she
used to say that she, Chasia, was her alone. I told
this to Gordin. But officials said that he met with
the stepmother. "Oy, this was a stepmother!"
Berta Kalich had an
imposing and graceful figure. She used to mention
that from her acting a lot with Jacob Adler, she had a
holiday tenor, and she was able with the tone or her
voice to do what she wanted. She often used to speak
a little dramatically, almost like a classical
Keni Lipzin, small in
growth, had a very delicate appearance, and so
tender and soft were her tenors. She used to speak
naturally, still and quiet, but in a scene where she
then needed to be hysterical, she used to shudder
the theatre with hysteria. Her recitation of psalms
in "Mirele Efros" was very impressive.