to a second, and the press had
something to write about from this.
The stars, Adler and Thomashefsky,
also did not remain silent. At each performance of "The King,"
they made their certain speeches.
Adler used to say unfailingly: A
certain actor, meaning Thomashefsky, also plays the role of a
king. But the king came from "A Yeshiva Bokhur (A Yeshiva Boy)"
and "Prince Elchasnador" (Thomashefsky's role from his old
Thomashefsky used to give his own
speech: The king in that theatre came from "A Wild Man" and an
"Odessa Beggar" (roles from Adler's repertoire).
When they used to meet in a
restaurant after playing the same night, they used to kiss each
other's feet and eat a steak together, or sweetbread with a
flask of Romanian wine.
At the end of 1907 Thomashefsky in
the People's Theatre produced Abraham Goldfaden's last play,
"Ben Ami." This play had previously been bought by Adler. But he
had no desire to play it. Finally Thomashefsky produced the
play, "Ben Ami," but he staged it not according to Goldfaden's
request. Goldfaden felt that "Ben Ami" was his last play, and he
wanted that it should be a pure drama, without music, and
Thomashefsky staged the play against the wishes of Goldfaden, as
a great operetta with music, dances and marches. Goldfaden found
no great joy from his last play. He was still destined to be at
the first performance. The play, "Ben Ami," failed. They were
already going to take it off the stage. But suddenly Goldfaden
became ill, and in several days he forever closed his eyes.
Abraham Goldfaden passed away on January 9, 1908. The author of
the play, "Ben Ami," died, but with his death his
Ami," was given life, and it became a colossal success.
In the performance of "Ben Ami,"
there was a large Zion march. The entire chorus with the actors
used to march with Zionist flags, with Thomashefsky at its head.
Thomashefsky used to turn toward the public, and they would
stand up at the time of the Zion march.
He gave a command to the ushers of
the theatre, that whomever from the public doesn't want to
stand, they should be led out of the theatre.
Once Thomashefsky's mother, a
difficult, old woman, sat in a box and did not stand up during
the march. Thomashefsky said from the stage to an usher:
"Everybody in the box should stand up!"
When the usher delivered
Thomashefsky's order, she said to the usher:
"Tell my zindele, Boris'ke,
that he never obeyed me, and I will not obey him either. I am
going home, I forgive him."
From then on she no longer came to
JACOB GORDIN'S LAST DAYS
For many years, Jacob Gordin
dominated the better Yiddish theatres. It was a time when Jacob
Gordin's new play was like a holiday in literary circles. His
most successful plays were "The Jewish King Lear," "The Russian
Jew in America," "Mirele Efros," "The Oath," "Kreutzer Sonata,"
"The Orphan," "The True Power," "The Unknown," "The Worthless,"
and "Without a Home."
The last drama of Jacob Gordin was
called "Dementia America" ("Der mishegoss fun amerike").
The play had previously been bought by David Kessler, who later
regretted it. Afterward Thomashefsky undertook to produce
the play. The play did not take off. Gordin was already ill at
the time of writing the play, and the failure of the play did
not help his health.
Jacob Adler said to me: "Come, we
will go pay a sick call to Jacob Gordin. They say that he is a
sick patient." When we arrived at his house, where he lived in
Brooklyn, the doors were already open, everyone had been
admitted. We were shown his room, where he was lying. There were
two large eyes, a thin face, and a horrible, black beard. Adler
locked the door with both hands and slammed it hard.
Gordin didn't like it at all, he
cringed. I saw him signal with a finger to get closer. Let Adler
go, Gordin showed me that I should go. He gave me a signal to
turn my ears closer to him, and he asked me in his thin voice:
"What's going on in the Yiddish theatre?" I felt that one needed
to tell him whatever would give him a smile, so I said: "The
Thalia Theatre is playing 'The Jewish Heart' almost the entire
season. Thomashefsky is already acting for a couple of months in
"The Jewish Soul," and I am now writing music for a play, 'A
Jewish Child' ... "
Gordin said: "When I get healthy,
I want to write a play, "Der yidisher magen vos ken dos alts
fartrogen (The Jewish Stomach That Can Tolerate All of
This)." Unfortunately he never recovered. He had suffered from a
On June 13, 1909, he passed away.
There came to America a songbird
from Lemberg in the form of Regina Zuckerberg. She first
performed in America in the People's Theatre as Yehudis in
Goldfaden's biblical operetta, "Yehudis un olofernus (Judith and
Regina Zuckerberg could rightly be
called a "Yefas toyer." Her bright face with true Jewish, large
blue eyes, like cherries, with a tactile figure. Besides all the
virtues, she had a sweet soprano voice.
Her theatre career had gone
through as much as her two landslayt (countrymen), Regina
Prager and Bertha Kalich. She sang in a Lemberg temple with the
musical Cantor Halperin, and then in Gimpel's Yiddish theatre.
Right from her first appearance as Yehudis, they were fascinated
by her appearance. Women were always cold to her. A great
jealousy was felt. Therefore she captured men's heart, and
indeed the heart of Boris Thomashefsky.
Bessie Thomashefsky, who herself
was a great beauty (in her younger years she competed with the
American beautiful female actor Lillian Roselle), had felt a great competition
from Regina Zuckerberg, even though Bessie
herself was a lot older.
The proud Bessie left Boris and
played in guest-productions in various theatres in New York and
in the province.
At the time when Bessie
Thomashefsky left Boris Thomashefsky, Sara Adler took over a
theatre in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Novelty Theatre and engaged
Rudolph Schildkraut. They produced Tolstoy's "Kreutzer Sonata."
It was very strongly accepted. It played for fifteen weeks to
packed houses. After becoming weak, the businesses went from bad
to worse. Mrs. Adler invited Bessie Thomashefsky to several
guest productions. She played a couple of weeks from her
repertoire plays to great business, and indeed immediately
produced "Chantshe in America" by Z. Kornblit. It was
very timely, because then it was cooking with "women's rights"
in the time of "suffragettes." American theatres also staged
several of the suffragette plays, one of them had a great
success on the American stage. It was called "Di never houms (The Never
Homes)." It is called "Zi, velche zaynen keynmol nito in der
heym (She, Who is Never at Home.)" "Chantshe in
America" continued to have large houses. They came from every part of New
York. For Bessie Thomashefsky personally, it was a great
victory. The first play that she played without Boris
Thomashefsky's direction and production.
In "Chantshe in America" the
entire company played [the play opened on December 31, 1912 --
ed.], besides Sara Adler and Rudolph Schildkraut. But
their earnings went up as before.
I noticed that Rudolph Schildkraut
was angry with me and not friendly to me as always. I asked him
why he was angry with me, and he said to me, "Why didn't you
give the role of Chantshe's father to me? I can sing and dance,
just like the actor [Hyman] Meisel" (Meisel played Chantshe's
father]. And he said further: "And as for the duet with Mrs.
[Sally] Schorr, 'A husband, A wife,' I wish I knew it well, even
un-studied" ... and then Rudolph Schildkraut stopped speaking
and sang and danced for me all the singing numbers from
"Chantshe in America."
After he calmed down and ended his
singing and dancing, I said to him: "Only now am I happy that
you are not playing Chantshe's father ...."
"What then, I am not able?" he
"You play too well," I said, "and
the press will create for me a black end for making the famous
Rudolph Schildkraut a clown ..."