"Ben Hador" was not
first play. Professor Horowitz already had previously written
a play that was called, "King Hezekiah," and it failed.
Most of those who visited the
Windsor Theatre, where they played "Ben Hador," were Romanian Jews.
It was in this year, when Jews were expelled from Romania, that
a great number of them arrived in New York.
These itinerant wanderers met the
whole company of "Ben Hador" at the performance of "Ben Hador,"
which had played previously in Romania. They played for the Romanian
Jews in Iasi, Botosani, Brailia, Galati and Bucharest. But as the story may
or may not
be, with "Ben Hador," Jewish New York was cooking.
After a storm there came a wind.
In the coming couple of seasons, after "Ben Hador," there blew a
wind in the same Windsor Theatre: whatever they had staged failed.
Professor Horowitz then traveled to
Germany and Austria and brought back a company of male and
female singers and conductors, and they played German operettas,
but better said, grand opera in German.
The great success of Jacob
Gordin's dramas had attracted him, because previously Horowitz was
the successful theatre composer. His historic and daily
happenings, time pieces (tsayt-bilds), brought him a fortune -- the
plays that filled the theatres were: "Dos poylishe
yingl (The Polish Youth)," "Tisa eslar," "Shlomo
HaMelekh (King Solomon)," "Der mabl fun jonston (The
Johnstown Flood)," (tsayt-bild), "Kapitan dreyfus
(Captain Dreyfus)" (tsayt-bild), "Yakov un esau (Jacob
and Esau)," "Der kuzari (The Kuzari)," "Bat kohen,"
"Yefas toyer," "Di tsvey tnoim (The Two
Conditions?)," "Yetsie fun mitsra'im (Exodus From
Egypt)," "Khurbn keshenev (The Destruction of Kishinev),"
(tsayt-bild), but his greatest success was "Ben Hador." What he
wrote and performed after "Ben Hador" did not "flash,"
as it is said in theatrical language. He got caught up in the German
opera -- and this was his ruin.
The enterprise with the opera was
a failure. Thus he lost every cent that he had owned. As a
writer and by himself a director and manager, he made great
fortunes in the Yiddish theatre. He was, however, a sport, a
great waster; He was the first in the Yiddish theatre who toured
with his own carriage, driven by an excellent horse. His
horse-and-carriage was the talk of New York. This carriage alone
had all kinds of colors. His library had cost a fortune. He
lived and loved his money. The failure of the German opera had
broken him. A couple of months later he became ill and lost his
mind. He fell into an amnesia; he forgot who he is and who he
was. In the last months of his life he begged for bread from his fellow-actors. He retired for several years and died
miserable and abandoned on March 4, 1910.
THE ENGLISH THEATRE TOOK FROM
The English theatre then started
Street and something. But in that time it was a great move
to go from the East Side to Broadway, which was called, "The
Great White Way." There are Jews in America from the East Side who have been ridiculed for
decades, who have never been to Broadway. They already had been
dissuaded from the English theatre.
The immigrants of long ago who
used to be taken care of by their American relatives, were led
for the first time to three places: to a Turkish bath, to see
the Brooklyn Bridge, and to the Yiddish theatre.
Most of these immigrants remained
for years, even as Americans.
Not only were less Jews going to
the English theatre. Even theatre people used to rarely go to
the English theatre. Also my first operettas, which were modern,
were advertised as "Rumshinsky's operetta à la Broadway."
The best American actors and
directors, however, often used to come downtown to see Yiddish
theatre. And indeed several large productions on Broadway had
their origins from Yiddish theatre. For example, the
Jewish-American character-comic David Warfield, who already then
was a great star on Broadway, often used to be seen at the Yiddish
theatre, mainly at the musical play, "Dovid's fidele (David's
Violin)." David Warfield staged a play, "The Music Master," from
which he became a millionaire. He used to see what Thomashefsky
was doing, or [Max] Rosenthal, who played the main role of David on
the Yiddish stage.
When Jacob Adler played Tolstoy's
"Der lebediger mes (The Living Corpse)," they virtually
used to come to every production to see the famous American
actor John Barrymore, and indeed a short time later Barrymore performed
the same play on the American stage, almost
like in the Yiddish theatre. Chiefly he played entirely the main
role of Jacob Adler.
Several American directors
from "legitimate" theatre and vaudeville invited Yiddish actors
to play English theatre. The first actor who left the Yiddish
stage and went away to the English stage was Charles Cohan.