For David Kessler the worst for him
was in the horrible deytshmerish period, where every actor spoke
this so-called "German." On the stage, kings, princes, ministers and
others were vulgar. The stage was filled with paper crowns
and wooden swords.
As Kessler had a beautiful, ringing
voice, he used to play the lover-singer, who was always in love with
a princess, or with a poor "madchen (girl)." He
used to have to wear a tricot and go outside with the people outside. Then
he used to argue with his actor-colleagues: "For an entire day I'm a
human being, dressed like a human being, or as a human being, and
when it comes to theatre at night, I imagine myself as a duck, a
Looking in the mirror, he used to say:
"If I would go out into the street dressed like that, people would
chase after me like crazy. They would throw me out in an instant, but
on stage I was applauded."
The happiest period of David Kessler's
life was -- the Jacob Gordin period. Then Kessler felt like a fish
in water. The dream that he had for years became realized. He indeed
created and grew, along with Jacob Gordin.
THOMASHEFSKY, THE GOOD-OWNER ("POMETCHIK")
I received an invitation card from
Boris Thomashefsky, that I should be his guest at his summer
residence. His manager, Louie Goldberg, was waiting for me and we
left. We went with several literary people, social activists and
others. I asked Louie Goldberg, whether there will be enough places
at Thomashefsky's for everyone who is traveling with us. He said:
"If there were fifty more people, there would always be room to
sleep and food and drink."
The train stopped at the small
"Hunter" station. A long automobile was waiting for us. The
automobile looked like an entire operetta, with all kinds of colors.
A small, well-dressed chauffeur was waiting for us. We rode up the
mountain until we stopped at the estate gate, on which were large
letters in the shape of a half-moon: "Boris Thomashefsky."
On the right side of the gate there
stood a summer theatre, with an open stage. We were able to see that nothing had played in that theatre for a long time. Everything
seemed as if it had been abandoned. The sets from the last
production were still hung. It was a palace of a historical play. In the palace,
that is, on the stage, an animal had been turned around, indeed a "living
cow," with a sad face, like someone who was lost, neglected in the
Louie Goldstein explained to me in
short, that this pleasure, or the "craziness" to play Yiddish
theatre in the summer in the country , together with the building of the
theatre, costs Thomashefsky twenty-thousand dollars.
I have many times read in Russian
literature about "pometchiks" (gut-baziters), about
their servants and the comforts in their "estate," but I myself had
never seen it.
The automobile waited at a garage, in
which there stood a large, yet quite beautiful adorned "kaliaske,"
a magnificent wagon. The chauffeur gave greatness to the
still-beautiful, noble wagon and said: "When will someone take this
piece of crap out of here?"
Thomashefsky came to meet us. I saw
this for myself, the pometchik, the good-owner. I wanted to believe
that such an important person should have seen the former blessed
soprano of Cantor Nissan Belzer and latter cigar-maker. We passed by huts,
small and larger. I asked: "Who lives in these huts?" Boris
Thomashefsky answered: "My guests, whom I laughed at."
I understood that my question was
naively foolish, because the entire image belonged to Thomashefsky.
We were going to a veranda, where there was already waiting the
beautiful prima donna, Regina Zuckerberg. A small dog named "Nicky"
jumped onto Thomashefsky's lap. Thomashefsky caressed him and called
out: "Nicky, my boy." And across from them lay "Jack," a
tall, lean, with long, grooved ears, with a hint of a dignified
Every move he made was accompanied by Jack: his whole
soul and his watery eyes were fixed on his master.
I could not stand the audacity and
security shown by this little puppy Jack, with whom one has once
played the same way. I did not take my eyes off Jack. Because of his
canine-aristocratic appearance, he made the whole estate look like
the imaginations of the native Russian pometchiks.
I asked Thomashefsky: "How did the dog
come to you?" Thomashefsky answered: "Do you mean Jack? He has been
with me for twelve years. An English actor gave him to me as a
Jack gave himself a standing ovation
and stretched even longer than he was when he heard his name
pronounced. And when Thomashefsky said "Jack is all right," Jack
shook his head that he understood his master.
Regina Zuckerberg responded:
"Jack indeed is all right, but for the
last five years you have completely neglected him. For the dog, it
is a tragedy, unlike a human being; Jack is a hunting dog of the
better sort. He lives to go on a hunt, and not lie by a Yiddish
actor. It used to be that Boris used to give in the first time and
play with him and look at him with delight. And Jack did not let any
of the dogs around here. When a dog once wandered here, it was
woe to its years. He used to bite and tear at him. Five years ago a
car overtook him, and since then he has lost all his courage, and he
is satisfied that one looks at him and one mentions his name. The
most interesting thing is that the aristocratic dog never used to go
into the kitchen -- it did not suit him. Now he lies in the kitchen,
smiles and is submissive to everyone; He feels poor, that he no
longer plays a dog's first role."
"So it is, my dear; one can't always
play first roles."
"Yes," -- Mrs. Zuckerberg said --
the dog and, by contrast, the actor, about whom you, managers and
directors, have such an opinion."
"Dinner is ready" -- someone shouted.
Everybody was satisfied from the good
meal, that they had finished eating, because the very strong, fresh
cold air had taken aback every one of us, and at the same time tore
up the appetite.
We passed corridors and passed many
rooms, until we entered a large dining-room, where there was a
richly served long, wide table. A large chair, a father's chair, for
Thomashefsky, and round table chairs for some twenty people; It
looked like a banquet.
Men and women came from all sides
through the doors, several English actors, social activists -- every
place was taken.
Thomashefsky noticed my wonderings,
and he said: "It does not mean, Herr Rumshinsky, that this all for
you; it is this way almost every day. But when you will bring new
music to our operetta, 'Dos tsebrokhene fidele (The Broken
Violin),' first then I will be the right kniak." [Editor's
note: This play opened at Thomashefsky's National Theatre in
November 1916, so most likely this visit to his estate was probably
After eating we tried to go back onto
the veranda, but there was a cold, drizzle of rain. Thus we were in
a large room, where there burnt a beautiful stove with wood. On the
wide table stood a large, Russian samovar with boiled tea.
Thomashefsky went up slowly on the steps, which led to his bedroom
and cabinet. He went downstairs even more slowly with two bound
booklets, one thick, and the other one thin, and turning to me, he
said: "This thick booklet is the play, and the other is for you.
Here you will find the lyrics for the operetta, 'The Broken Violin.'
After every scene was read, he would
say, "Here the Jews will applaud," and after a musical number that I
had not written, he only spoke the words, "With that they will storm
with applause." I thought from that: How can he be so sure?
The next day I created the music to
his words: "Ikh breng eykh a grus fun der heym (I Bring
You Greetings From Home)." He took out a large, golden fountain pen
and said: "This is a gift for your sweet song, 'I Bring You Greetings
From Home." Baym gezegenen zikh, he said to me:
"Don't forget that I am giving you a
large orchestra of some twenty musicians, and an extra ballet. I am
sure that it will storm New York."
Jack, the dog, with whom I became
friends in a short time, shook his fine hindquarters, as if he was
saying: "It will be good."