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The Celia Adler Story....
her life in the Yiddish theatre.... and more

 

The English translation was produced by Jacob Tickman,  and it was further edited by Dr. Steven Lasky. Celia's autobiography was translated from the original Yiddish version, which was first published in 1959 in two volumes.

You can read the original Yiddish language version by clicking on the image on the left.

left: the original cover page to both volumes of "The Celia Adler Story."

Volume 2 


HEARTACHE AND SUCCESS

 

 


Maurice Schwartz and I in Libin's "The Man and his Shadow,"
the play with which we began the new epoch in the Irving Place Theatre.

 

The 1912-1913 season began with important news for the Yiddish theatrical world. Adler, Kessler, and Thomashevsky had decided that, instead of competing and tearing each other to pieces, they would found a trust and help one another. The rationale was that when they were all together and wouldn't have to compete with one another, it wouldn't be necessary to have a separate theatre for each star.

The first thing to do was to limit the number of large theatres to two, Kessler's Second Avenue and Adler-Thomashevsky's National. The stars moved into the two large theatres. The Thalia Theatre remained empty and the People's Theatre was leased for English performances. That was economy in one respect, and in another, the new plan freed the star from playing in New York, and made him able to travel in the provinces and do better business for the trust than if he had remained in a separate theatre in New York.

Besides, the managers hoped that, together, they would be able to raise their heads against the actors' union and dictate their conditions to it.

And actually before the trust was a few months old, a strike broke out in their theatres. The trust existed for one season, and the after-effect lasted almost another season.

The new theatre, called "Adler-Thomashevsky’s National Theatre," opened September 14, 1912 during the season I am describing. Adler and Thomashevsky were the directors and Max R. Wilner and Joseph Edelstein, the general managers. A holiday performance was given at the festive opening. Individual acts were performed so that each star could distinguish himself. Jacob Adler appeared in his famous role of Shylock; David Kessler as "Schloimke the Charlatan"; Thomashevsky selected for his appearance one act from "Blind Love," with me in the female lead.

Bessie Thomashevsky did not play that season, so that I played all the leading roles in Thomashevsky's dramatic repertory during the week. I didn't know that this caused several actresses in the troupe to be considerably displeased. It was indeed a great opportunity for a young actress to play such outstanding roles and to receive tremendous compliments from the press. That would have been wonderful for me. But I didn't understand that Bessie's not being in the theatre and my substituting in her roles would cost me so many tears and heartaches....It could be that if I hadn't been "the absent-minded angel," I might perhaps not have seized upon all those leading roles with so much gusto.

I had the occasion to hear an actress, who had already played secondary female roles for may years, complain practically in these words: "All these years I've been in the theatre and waited for the opportunity to play a leading role, so now along comes such a shrimp not yet dry behind the ears in the theatre, and they hand her leading roles to play."

I could understand that feeling of jealousy; even her envy was not such as to irk and worry me. It was rather a question of her own bitter fate, a kind of resentment over not having achieved her ambition. That was human.... I even sympathized with her.

There was another actress in the troupe who was consumed with jealousy over my getting Bessie Thomashevsky's roles. But she didn't complain; It was beneath her dignity to recognize me as a rival. She felt much more important both in her position in Thomashevsky's theatre and in the Yiddish theatrical world in general. All female actresses smiled at and flattered her in every theatre she played. Everyone was afraid she could harm someone she took a dislike to because her husband was tied up with the owners of the theatres. Bessie's not being in the theatre excited her appetite, so she decided that it was she who should have taken Bessie's place in Thomashevsky's theatre.

That's also understandable. It is human nature to want to climb higher, to attain the highest rung on the ladder of success. But when should this be true? When one seeks to attain this by honest means, with talent, with expertise, with hard work. I don't want to judge whether her talent entitled her to the height to which she aspired. But I do know one thing: no means was too low or hateful for her. Her unclean ambition took every drop of human feeling out of her. She was ready to squash everybody who stood in her way. She decided to get hers at any price. She stopped at no weapon. She had a poisonous tongue, a sick brain, and a frightful talent for dirty gossip... l couldn't compete with such devices.

I was generally not a backstage fighter, although I was always ready for an open fight on the stage where everybody could see and judge—but she was not interested in that. So I was helpless against her. Night after night, whether or not she performed in the play, she came to the theatre and sat down in our communal dressing room, even though she had her own dressing room. But no one would have heard what she had to tell in her separate dressing room....

I feel it necessary to draw your attention to the fact that I had no special privileges in the theatre. I perhaps merited my own dressing room as an actress in leading roles, but I didn't have one. I don't mean to complain of my fate over this, but those who know something of the theatre will see at once that my position in the theatre is not a privileged one.

So it seems she would come into our dressing room and loosen her poisonous tongue. Without mentioning my name, she told all the actresses sitting there about a young actress who was making a mockery of the entire theatrical profession. She was spending night and day in the newspaper editorial offices and became palsy-walsy with everyone writing about the theatre. She was very generous....so she got good reviews for herself that way. No wonder they took up for her in the newspapers. The star she was playing with also didn't give her top roles for nothing....

You can't put into a book everything she said; it wouldn't be printable. I found out later that her poisonous diatribes didn't stop in the dressing room only. She smeared my name this way in the entire theatrical profession, made it so low that I indeed didn't know how disreputable I had become.

I discovered it by accident. My three Adler sisters—Nyunia, Julia, and Stella—came to a performance in which she played. They sat down in the first loge and, when she came on the stage, they began to laugh out loud; Nyunia, who was the leader, was louder than the others. After a few such laughing jags, the concerned actress sent for the stage manager to tell them either to stop their mocking or leave the theatre. He didn't know the Adler girls.

Julia excused herself to him saying that Nyunia had told a joke and they couldn't control themselves. He implored them: "Don't do it any more; your laughter is upsetting her terribly."

Nyunia answered him: "You can tell her to swallow a little of her own poison, so she won 't be so upset." He gave them a curious look and disappeared.

It was on a Sunday night—I wasn't playing in the operetta, so I came to the theatre to get my salary. They told me in the office that my sisters were carrying on considerably in the loge. So I went over to them and found them laughing out loud. I asked them, wondering: "What are you doing?"

Nyunia looked at me and told me quietly: "Do you know how she's been carrying on, talking about you? We are a self-appointed committee to get even with her for you—let her worry some, too."

Presently, she again came on the stage. Nyunia suddenly stood up, gestured with her hand, and Julia and Stella did likewise—we all left the loge. We went to Stark's cafe, and Nyunia first opened up there:

"I know you all right! You've been a schlemiel, (a sad sack) and will remain a schlemiel. In your place, I would long ago have closed her unclean mouth. But you—you can cry. Well, we've at least cooled our hearts today a little."

She also told me that she intended to have a little talk with our brothers about this matter. "They should inform her that you have someone who can take your part."

I recall how moved I was by the feeling that they were ready to do battle for me. But I was scared and I hoped that Nyunia would forget the entire matter....

The scene with my sisters in the loge of the theatre took place at a later time. But meanwhile, the actress did not stop torturing me in the dressing room and kept on telling more and more nasty stories about that certain young actress.

I couldn't react in any way but suffocated in my tears. Only from time to time, when I could no longer control myself, did I run out to have a good cry.

Thus, I once heard while on my way to the dressing room that our wardrobe mistress—Mrs. Schwartz was her name—had said to the ambitious actress:

"You are going to drive that girl to 'Tchechotke.'" (consumption)

The other one laughed poisonously: "Don't be foolish... Tchechotke is not enough for her.... I'll drive her to a young death...."
 

That season in the dressing room caused my days and nights to bite deep into all the members of my body. It was entirely possible that that actress would bring about what she wanted. Heaven forbid I should have thought of a young death; but I did think about quitting the theatre. The atmosphere practically suffocated me. I didn't hear one friendly word from any of my colleagues. I had no one to talk things over with, no one to complain to.

But once, after a performance, it so happened that Mme. Weintraub and I were the last ones left in the dressing room. When we were ready to leave, she stopped me, took a good look around to see if anyone was listening, and said to me warmheartedly:

"I know Celia, that she's dirtying you for nothing. I know how you suffer, poor dear. I sympathize with you. My heart hurts for you. But I don't dare court enmity with her. She can interfere with my livelihood, my career. So please forgive me if I act like a stranger to you. And if I don't greet you in the street, you shouldn't hold it against me."

I stood staring at her, and my brain didn't conceive wherein lay the vicious power of that cunning actress. It had a terrible effect on me. But something in my subconscious told me I mustn't leave the theatre. I had to remain on the field of battle even though I was in a helpless state.

But I did have a victory, a victory that transformed the storm into a whirlwind. My victory consisted on this:

They were going to play Libin's "Someone Else's Children." As you will recall, in that play, Bessie Thomashevsky played the leading role and I, her younger sister, the second women's role in the play. Since Bessie was not in the theatre that season, someone had to substitute in her role. Thomashevsky had given the role to that actress; I was left with my role. After the first rehearsal, Thomashevsky took the role away from her and gave it to me. At the same time he told me:

"I didn't want to change both important roles in the play. But I can't help myself. You'll have to play the leading role, and if your role of the sister happens to come out weaker, the play won't suffer so much."

I took the role without a word. You couldn't argue with Thomashevsky where stage discipline was concerned. He was very strict in this respect and had his way and his own approach. Thus, for example, everyone knew that you had to be punctual in his theatre; you had to come to rehearsal on time. He didn't yell or, heaven forbid, tell someone off; but I witnessed more than one such a scene as this:

We were all onstage. The rehearsal was scheduled for eleven o'clock. Only one man or woman is missing. At last the tardy one arrived. It was only five or six minutes after eleven. Thomashevsky sat holding the open script and waiting.

As soon as the guilty one came onstage, Thomashevsky gave him a look, closed the script, stood up, said: "Rehearsal will be tomorrow morning at eleven." And left the stage without a word.

That's why I knew that when he gave me the role I was to take it without comment.... So I paid for this victory with quite a lot of tears and heartache. That week, her tongue was a piece of poison in the dressing room. She virtually fried in her own enjoyment juice telling the nasty stories about "that young actress."

Certainly, when I now think of those times, I keep wondering to myself why her nasty remarks had such an effect on me. I surely knew that in her poisonous gossip there wasn't a word of truth, that she was doing it just to worry me.

Perhaps this sounds like I'm taking special pains to appear before you as a helpless little dupe. But I shall underscore here as hard as I can that having been in a profession for several out of a total of twenty years that had the reputation of undisputed observance of unspotted family moves, I was quite as naive and guiltless as every decent young daughter in those years.... That's why her remarks burnt my ears and cut into my heart.

I have mentioned before that Thomashevsky, more than all the other stars, had a certain sentimental approach to children of the theatre who sought a career on the stage. Thus he had a special warm attitude toward me. When he once saw that my eyes were tearful as I was playing on the stage—the role didn't call for it—he called me into his dressing room after the performance, asked me the cause of my tearful eyes. Instead of giving an answer, I broke out into a hysterical fit of weeping. Being scared, he tried to quiet me practically with fatherly devotion, continuing to ask the same question—what happened?

When I had at last quieted myself, I told him:

"You know nothing of what I endure in our dressing room at each performance. The actress with the poisonous tongue is cutting my life short. She comes into our dressing room, squats down, and tells the nastiest things about 'a certain young actress.' She doesn't mention my name—but I and all the others know whom she's talking about, She tells much vile and low stories about me that my face burns.... In our dressing room a deadly silence prevails. No one dares say a word. So her nasty remarks become even worse. I have to put on makeup two or three times over again for each of my roles because the tears that flow without stopping wash away my makeup."

"I didn't consider you such a fool, Celia. Her remarks should not affect you so. You should laugh in her face!"

"I sure wish I could...."

"If that's the case," he said, "you have to endure the suffering." And I did suffer. She didn't stop the entire season.

The actors' strike broke out around that time. The trust I've mentioned began to permit itself to do things and carry on activities that the leaders of the union could not abide. The union activists tried to explain to the three stars about the falseness of their actions. But they didn't succeed, and a strike was declared at both theatres.

The stars were adamant. They were sure they could break the strike. So they closed the National Theatre, and the stars with their wives and children all played together at Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre. My father then reminded himself that he still had another daughter who could come in handy now. He convinced me that I should play with them: "They want to tear us to pieces, these scoundrels, such rascals.... "

Although I already had a union card, I must admit I understood very little of the meaning of a union. I neither had any concept of the great achievement of the organized workers, nor did I understand the duties that an individual union member has to his union. Just as I stood aside from and never had any inkling of theatre politics, so I also didn't value my belonging to the Jewish Actors' Union. And when my father asked me to play with him, I felt that it was almost my duty to do so. It didn't even occur to me that I was committing a wrong against my union member colleagues.

Both public opinion and the Jewish public, as well as the holding out on the part of the actors' union, forced the stars to capitulate. After a few weeks of torture and the loss of a considerable sum of money, they agreed to all the demands of the union put to them. It was then that I first found out that my playing with them was not proper behavior by a union member. The name for it was "scab."

I was severely reprimanded at a union meeting—understandably, I wasn't present at it—and it verged on my being stricken from the rolls. The actors Sigmund Weintraub and Samuel Schneier had a talk with me. They both understood that my foolish behavior was not because of malevolence toward the actors' union, and they also felt that a large part of the guilt lay in my mixed-up family life. They both had a hearty talk with me, made me understand how uncooperatively I had acted. I immediately began to see how right they were and was quite ashamed to look them in the face.

They advised me to attend the special meeting when the matter would be taken up and where I should make a declaration, excuse myself, and they would help me. I took their advice.

Before they gave me the chance to talk, an actor got up and made a proposal that Celia Adler be punished with three hundred dollars for her scabbing, that she be stricken from the Jewish Actors' Union, and that she never again be allowed to play Yiddish theatre in America.

Samuel Schneier took the floor, saying that such a proposal practically meant sentencing someone "to being shot for three years and hanged for four years."

They called on me. I declared very straightforwardly: "Believe me, I didn't have the slightest inkling that I was harming the union by my behavior. For the first time in my life my father turned to me in a fatherly fashion, talked to me like a father to his daughter, and asked me to help him. I couldn't refuse him. I felt it was my duty as a daughter to obey him. I have no other statement. I can only beg you to forgive me. I assure you I've learned a great deal from this."

I concluded to a storm of applause. I also noticed that many of them wiped tears from their eyes.

Understandably, they forgave me. Bina Abramowitz was the first to come over to me and say: "Celia, dear, you're not only a good actress, but you're also very bright."

Something happened after that strike to spoil the lives of the stars, and Adler left the trust in mid-season and began to play in the Dewey Theatre on Fourteenth Street.

After these sad stories of mine, I shall tell you of a joyful and comical episode, even though it contains a tragic chapter from our Jewish history in Russia and at the same time does not throw a lovely light on the leaders of our theatre in America.

It was in the period of the Mendel Beilis trial, when that trial was still going on in Kiev, Russia. So one of our admitted writers of sensational melodramas got the idea of making a play out of the tragic blood canard. The play was grabbed up by one of our stars, and it became a fantastically great box office hit. So the rest of the stars became jealous and quickly concocted pot-boilers on this theme; and the tragically guiltless Mendel Beilis looked down from the posters of all three main theatres—Kessler's  Second Avenue Theatre, Thomashevsky's National Theatre, and Adler's Dewey Theatre.

Since the trial was still in progress, all the theatres did not know how to end the play. But they all freed him at last. The naive public ran with curiosity to the theatres to see the freed Mendel Beilis; so that instead of being punished for making a cheap sensation of a tragic chapter in Jewish history, our cunning theatre managers were rewarded with full box office takes.

But this isn't what concerns me. In his production of Mendel Beilis, Thomashevsky, of course, played Mendel, and I, his daughter. The last act ended in all the theatres with the scene in court when he's freed. I, his daughter, had nothing to do in that long act until the end when he's declared free; I fall on his neck, my father's that is, and the curtain descends.

After the play had been on for several weeks, I began to get weary sitting out the whole last act and listening to the bombastic sermons in order to be one of the many who embraced Mendel Beilis when he was freed. So I got Thomashevsky to agree that I could leave before the last act from time to time.

Once, while passing Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre on my way home, I got the urge to see Kessler as Mendel Beilis in the last act. When I got backstage, the court scene was in progress. It occurred to me to perpetrate this joke: I stole onto the open stage, sat down among the extras who filled up the benches in the court. At the end of the act when Kessler-Beilis was freed, I ran ahead of Fannie Lubritsky, who played his daughter, and fell on Kessler's neck, not letting Fannie get to him. He pried open his big eyes, kissed me heartily, and the curtain fell. When bowing, he held me with one hand and Fannie with the other; and we laughed heartily and enjoyed my jest....

That season was long-drawn-out for me but the end came at last. I was quite in seventh heaven when Thomashevsky proposed that I go with him on a tour over Europe.

My mother and Lillie played in the Pavilion Theatre in London that season with Joseph Kessler. Since the tour with Thomashevsky was to begin in London, I arranged with him that I play only those few weeks in London, but that I would not go on his continuing tour to Galicia, Poland, and Russia. I simply wanted to take a rest and spend the time with my family in London. Thomashevsky acquiesced. I, of course, immediately informed my mother that I was going to visit her while on a performance tour with Thomashevsky. I was surprised by her answer that this was no longer news to her; Joseph Kessler, then the director of the London Pavilion Theatre and who was carrying on negotiations with Thomashevsky, had told her the good news a day or two before. I looked forward to meeting my mother and Lillie with great joy and delight.

With me, however, things don't go smoothly. Thomashevsky was used to traveling in luxury, no less than first class; so several days later he brought me the news that he had reserved a luxurious room for me, too, first-class, I almost began to shiver:

"Please, Mr. Thomashevsky, I can't take that. After all, I've been so much maligned this season that the thought of traveling with you in first-class will spoil the enjoyment of the whole trip for me. Do me a favor and reserve a place for me, second-class. "

He looked at me curiously and said:

"You're foolish, Celia. But if that's what you want, I'll do it."

When I now think of that trip, I must admit he was right. My wanting to protect myself from gossip didn't help me a bit. Nobody knew I was not traveling first-class aboard ship with Thomashevsky. But they talked anyway. When Thomashevsky once introduced me to the captain and took me around showing me the luxury of first-class, I was sorry I had refused it.

The several summer months in London were a great holiday for me. My appearances with Thomashevsky in "Blind Love" and "Someone Else's Children," as well as in "Justice," were a colossal success. I was filled to the brim with esteem.

The few weeks passed. Thomashevsky left. First then I had a chance to concern myself with my family, and here also I was destined to have much joy. First of all I noticed that my sister Lillie, whom I hardly ever saw play as an adult, had truly become a splendid soubrette and a very fine actress.

Something new was added to this. That season, a young actor, whom Morris Moskowitz had brought a season earlier from Lemberg, Galicia, was playing at the Pavilion theatre

I did not have the chance to see him play. But I did indeed see that he was madly in love with my sister. I was very pleased when I heard him call her "my little treasure." As the big sister, I was delighted in the little pair of young lovers. The whole Yiddish theatrical world in London already knew that they were an engaged couple.

I'm sorry I can't tell you about the great talent that was hidden in the rather small, rather thin little Galician fellow with the blue eyes and charming smile. You're no doubt surmising yourself that this was Ludwig Satz, my brother-in-law, who later was to become so famous as a character comedian.

Before I left London that summer, I left England a gift, my tonsils and adenoids. There's a curious story attached to that. I'm going to leave it to you to decide if it comes under the heading of foolishness.

For several days I had suffered terribly in my throat and nose, until the doctors decided that I'd have to be operated on. Well, it's superfluous to tell you that my mother and her London friends saw to it that I was in good hands. But I am by nature a crybaby; above all, I can't stand pain. May you never be subjected to it; such an operation gives you several very unpleasant days.

I recall that I was lying in a comfortable private room on the hospital. It was late at night, my pains were torturing me, and  I was certain there was no more unfortunate person on the face of the earth. The pains didn't let me fall asleep. Every fifteen minutes I heard a very pleasant sound from a clock coming through my window. I felt I couldn't stand it any longer. I called the nurse and told her I couldn't endure my pains. "Give me something to help me along." Just then the clock struck the quarter-hour.

I pointed with my finger in the direction of the window and told her in a very confidential and mystic tone of voice, "If I still have the pains when the clock strikes again, I'm going to throw myself out the window."

She got a little scared and sat down on the bed at my feet and began to message the soles of my feet with her smooth, tender hands. I never heard that clock strike any more that night; it seems I fell asleep. When I woke the next morning, I had no more pain. I hadn't thrown myself out the window.

I wish to point out here that before I left London, I got a letter from Thomashevsky in which he wrote that a certain young lady would get in touch with me—her name, Fanny Zusmer. She was a very fine prima donna and had an extraordinarily wonderful voice. She would come with me to New York.

Thomashevsky also wrote that he was bringing to America with him the composer of "Hear, O Israel," the famous Russian dramatist Ossip Dymow—also a young actor-singer from the defunct Hirshbein troupe—Lazar Freed.

It was no easy matter for me to take leave of my family in London. It was very difficult for me to leave them for New York by myself. I would be playing there in the same theatre where I had lived through so much during the previous season and had so much worry and heartache. I knew that that so-called actress was no longer in the theatre, but who knew what awaited me?

Envy and jealousy, as I see it, were always important elements in the theatrical life of all the nations. We Jews are not lagging in this respect, heaven forbid. That actress was not the only one in our Yiddish theatre who was so mastered by envy and begrudging. So who knew what the new season held ready for me?

Already on the third day aboard ship, I missed my family very much because, just as it happened with me in the London hospital, so it also appeared to be happening to me here. I couldn't go on living. You already know from my previous descriptions what kind of an efficient traveler I am. That time it seemed to me the ocean was worse than ever before, so that at the end of the third day, I could scarcely stand on my feet.

But seasickness does not let go; it demands its due. But I had nothing more to give.... So I barely got up from my deck chair and torturously dragged myself to the ship's railing hoping someone would push me over. I leaned over and practically remained hanging without any strength. Just then a priest passed by. Seeing me hanging over the railing, he asked me in a very friendly tone of voice: "Can I help you, Miss?''

He grasped me, virtually carried me over to a deck chair, sat down with me, calmed me a little, and left. He returned in a few minutes with a dish of soup and fed me like a little child. It wasn't too easy for him—I didn't let him—but little by little, I began to feel that the flowing warmth was easing things for me a little.

After that he kept an eye on me, watched me, fed me several times a day on the deck. So, as you can see, I didn't throw myself over the railing. Thus I'm eternally grateful to the good priest. He at least eased that trip of mine.

Thank heaven I came safely to New York. Our theatre was getting ready for a new season. They had announced the great guests from Europe—two prima donnas: the already mentioned Fanny Zusmer, and also "the pride of Russia's Jewish prima donnas, the charming, wonderful singer, Esther Nereslavskaya. Three actors—the one and only character-artist, Mr. Berman; the greatest Russian realistic actor Mr. Liebert; and the young, handsome, romantic singer and player of romantic roles—Lazar Freed. And last. but not least—giving credit where credit is due—the pride of the Russian—Yiddish modern drama, Mr. Ossip Dymow."

All those screaming advertisements, so to speak, were sent by Thomashevsky, who was still in Europe. According to the newspapers, the theatre was not primarily concerned with the new guests. This is how the theatrical writer of the Forward put it:

"Who will push them out? Edelstein and Adler vs. Wilner, or Wilner vs. Edelstein and Adler. A new season is beginning. New actors are coming from Europe. But the theatre is not preoccupied with that. The concern centers around the question of Adler, Wilner, Edelstein. Wilner wants to be top boss, and so does Edelstein. If Wilner succeeds, he will boss both theatres, the Second Avenue and the National. Kessler will play in one of them; Adler-Thomashevsky in the other. If Edelstein succeeds, he will separate from Wilner and will have the National Theatre.

"Kessler is of a mind with Wilner; Adler with Edelstein. It all depends on Thomashevsky. Whatever he says, goes. Everything waits for Thomashevsky's arrival from Europe. Meanwhile all are quarreling. Adler has gone to court to demand that the trust dissolve, that he be released from it. It has become apparent that a Jewish theatrical trust cannot succeed.

''Edelstein has received a letter from Thomashevsky that worries him greatly. He wrote that he's returning with ten persons. Four are actors. And he wants him to send him a thousand dollars. So Edelstein was irked— There he was in Europe where he created a furor, and now he doesn't have enough money to come back with. It didn't help him any; he had to send the dough."
 

Evidently, my premonition about the new season when I left London didn't deceive me. When the theatre opened at the beginning of September, only repertory was played for three weeks in a row. Thomashevsky arrived just a few days prior to the opening of the theatre. He ascertained from Europe with which plays from his repertory the theatre was to open. Several plays were performed during the first week in which I knew my way around.

But I was not advertised in those plays.... I wasn't called on to appear. Mary Epstein, Thomashevsky's sister, played my roles that week. There's no doubt that Mary Epstein was a splendid actress. But she surely did not fit the roles of the repertory on account of her figure. With Thomashevsky, all this was up to his brother-in-law, Mary Epstein's husband. So I was more astonished than worried about not playing my roles.

Suddenly my name was very prominently announced the second week—equally with Boris Thomashevsky—even though the same plays were being put on as during the first week. So I was still puzzled and didn't understand.

All of a sudden Mr. Epstein came to me backstage and told me that I was to be present the following morning at the Second Avenue Theatre at a reading-rehearsal of a new play for which Kessler wanted me. I looked at him in amazement:

"What do you mean, I'm to play at the Second Avenue Theatre?"

"Well, you're not playing in the new operetta here, anyway."

"But to play there on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and run back here dragging my makeup and all kinds of packages for the mid-week performances—that's a hard job, Mr. Epstein."

"I don't mean at all for you to come here to play in the middle of the week. I've already arranged for someone to play your roles, and you won't even have to come for your salary! I'm going to send it to you every Sunday to the Second Avenue Theatre."

The story still didn't make sense to me. But I had to believe that Epstein was doing this with Thomashevsky's knowledge—how could it be otherwise? So I reasoned—perhaps this was an aftermath of the theatrical trust—since Kessler needed a leading lady for his play, Thomashevsky was lending me to him.

Libin read his new play, ''Day and Night," at the reading-rehearsal. I got the leading women's role. So I attributed this also to the curious situation that I was suddenly going to play in Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre. I thought that Libin was perhaps remembering my successes in his "Blind Love," "Someone Else's Children" and "Justice." So he probably persuaded Kessler to get me for the new role.

Thus, I was indeed content to play a leading role with David Kessler. I was even more content that I was completely free in the middle of the week, even though this awakened in my foolish little head the suspicion that things were not all they were cracked up to be. How come the National Theatre was letting me walk around doing nothing all week?

In addition to that something else was torturing me. A great many of my roles in Thomashevsky's repertory consisted of very young girls and even little girls—now all these roles were being played by Mary Epstein, the imposing grande dame of the Yiddish theatre—how could Thomashevsky allow that? Also the fact that Epstein asked me not to come to the theatre for my salary—he sent it to me to the Second Avenue Theatre....All this ran around confusedly in my head and awakened an unexplainable suspicion that there was something going on here not according to Hoyle.

We're all going to get wiser later on. Meanwhile, I enjoyed and was proud of my playing with David Kessler.

Incidentally, it is fitting that I here point out to you an episode that wonderfully characterized Kessler's behavior to the theatre and to actors. It actually took place at the rehearsals of Libin's "Day and Night." The actor Samuel Schneier, who regretfully has torn away from us right in the middle of his developing career, played an important role in that play.

Schneier was a very talented actor, with a serious attitude to the theatre. In the few short years he played in New York, he made himself a considerable name with the press and with the theatrical profession in general. He played for many years with Kessler, who valued him very highly. At those rehearsals, Kessler very often showed dissatisfaction with the way Schneier tried out his role. He stopped him at certain scenes and had words with him almost at every rehearsal. Schneier listened to him very patiently every time and made the greatest effort to bring out what he thought Kessler wanted... because, as you already know, it was very difficult for Kessler to explain right off to an actor what he wanted.

I noticed at the rehearsals that every day Schneier gave a different interpretation of the scenes with which Kessler was not satisfied. But Kessler still continued to berate him angrily. Schneier couldn't control himself any more. He became very excited and yelled out:

"Why do you pick on me? You are remonstrating only with me. Nothing I do pleases you. All my efforts to satisfy you haven't helped me one bit. How much longer am I to be tortured? All the others please you? He, for instance, satisfies you? You haven't had a thing to say to him—haven't said a word to him."

Kessler looked very mildly at Schneier and immediately answered him:

"And suppose I tell him, suppose I call him to account, will it help me any? From you I can get what I want—don't you understand that?...."

Libin's play, "Day and Night," was considerably successful. I got my share of songs of praise from the press and not a few compliments from Kessler himself. But I recall clearly that I somehow felt like being at a strange wedding. I wasn't engaged there—I didn't consider it my theatre. Somehow I frequently had the feeling as it is expressed in the well-known little song , "I came alone and uninvited." It's true that I didn't come alone.... But perhaps it was even worse to have been borrowed....

So I'll very happy to show you the cartoon which the famous painter and cartoonist Saul Raskin made of my role in that play. This caricature perhaps best characterizes my feelings about the whole matter. Really now, what and who was I, that they could send me around wherever they pleased? The entire occurrence seemed to me to be a big caricature of me in both theatres.


Belonging to the two theatres, so to speak, I suddenly began to feel that I didn't belong to either. The run of Libin's play would soon be over, and my service at the Second Avenue Theatre would end. And the National Theatre in which I was engaged, became a stranger to me altogether.

That theatre very strongly advertised, in a very sensational manner, the coming production of Ossip Dymow's "The Eternal Wanderer." When Thomashevsky spoke to me at the beginning of the season about Dymow's play, he excited me very much over the wonderful role I'd have in it—Sonitschka—a fourteen-year-old little girl; it was as if made to order for me: "I'm sure, Celia, that you'll be a sensation in the role.... And then I heard that rehearsals had been scheduled and I had been forgotten.

It's hard to describe the feeling. I was ashamed somehow. I avoided as much as possible passing by the theatre, as if I were the guilty one, not the theatre. But I still somehow couldn't imagine that Thomashevsky, who on various occasions complimented me on my playing, should completely have forgotten about me. So it constantly nagged at me like a worm. I didn't have a quiet minute. It dug into my thoughts. I couldn't free myself of it even for a minute.

I recall how the thought often crossed my mind that, as a member of the actors' union, I no doubt had certain rights, or the union no doubt had certain obligations to me. It had to take up my cudgels, so to speak. But I chased the thought away as fast as I began to think about it. I knew that I would never and under no circumstances want to be forced on a theatre that didn't want me. I instinctively felt that I could play and accomplish something only in a theatre that wanted me very much. Even though I had a better concept of the activities of a union and what it meant to the individual actor, I still couldn't convince myself that I ought to have my union win an embattled place for me in the theatre, in one way or another.

The moment came: Libin's play "Day and Night" concluded its performances. I became a free person. But my freedom tortured me. I couldn't find a place for myself. I never felt so lonely; my being so alone. Of course I had girl friends; I had my Feige. But they were not the type for whom I could open my heart, for whom I could unravel that very theatrical mix-up into which I, as and actress, was drawn so helplessly.

I didn't lack devotion. My girl friends and certainly Feige were extremely devoted to me. But to talk to them about my deep insult, about the humiliation I felt as an actress—I couldn't do it; and I doubt if they would have understood me. I don't wish my worst enemy to have those cramps that ate into my insides.

I heard that the rehearsals of the "Eternal Wanderer" were going on, and as if just for spite Thomashevsky's words about Sonitschka constantly rang in my ears. And, as if this wasn't enough, I accidentally met warm-hearted Bina Abramowitz walking on Second Avenue. She embraced me:

"Celia, where've you been? You're in our theatre, after all. There is a role in "The Wanderer" which is written as if for you. How that other one, poor thing, agonizes over that role. She doesn't have the artistic power for it." They are torturing her for nothing. She wants to, poor thing, but she can't come through...."

I left that meeting with Mrs. Abramowitz, and I was all broken up. She didn't know at all how her good opinion of me as an actress touched my heart. The role of Sonitschka began to pursue me. Not knowing what the role was, what went on in it, I experienced a terrible resentment at losing the role. La Abramowitz's remarks underscored even more strongly Thomashevsky's remarks about that role and excited my appetite even more to play that self-same Sonitschka. And a bitter resentment, practically an anger, enveloped me against Epstein that he had practically pushed me out of the theatre in such a smooth way and had robbed me of' the chance to play that role which so many thought was practically made to measure for me.

Since I had stopped playing at the Kessler Second Avenue Theatre, I would send a chum of mine every Sunday to the National Theatre for my pay. Thus I recall how disillusioned I was when she gave me the envelope without a word about the theatre. The ten-dollar bills in my envelope didn't satisfy me—because I didn't find any slip from the theatre in it. But I had firmly decided that I wouldn't set foot in the theatre unless they called me. But how does the saying go? It seemed that God himself wouldn't allow it.

That early Monday evening will never leave my memory. It happened between Eighth and Ninth Streets on Second Avenue. I was on my way home, when presently Boris Thomashevsky came out of the famous, prestigious Cafe Monopole. We practically bumped into each other:

"Celia, how are you? Celia, where are you playing?"

"You're asking me that? You engaged me. You're paying me wages."

"Well, why aren't you in the theatre?"

"You're asking me that too?"

Thomashevsky began to feel in my tone of voice that this was no conversation to hold in the street. My eyes burned and were filled with tears at the same time.

"Come with me into the cafe, so we can talk."

We sat down.

"What's going on here? Tell me, Celia, what's happened here? Why did you suddenly disappear into Kessler's theatre?"

"I didn't disappear. Epstein sent me. I thought you knew about it."

"Epstein told me that you left the theatre."

 "You mean to tell me that Epstein farmed me out to Kessler without your knowledge?

"What do you mean farmed out? Why would I do that?"

"Epstein told me that Kessler needed me for a role and, since I wasn't playing in the weekend operetta anyway, I should go and play there. They'd get along without me in the mid-week repertory, and he would send my wages there to the theatre. Is this all news to you?"

He sat dumbfounded. I can't say I noticed that he looked guilty. Rather, his look showed surprise, irritation and resentment. He practically stammered more to himself than to me:

"If he weren't my brother-in-law...."

After a long, hard period of silence:

"Come tomorrow morning at eleven o'clock for rehearsal. No, don't come tomorrow. Come Wednesday at eleven o'clock. The other one is still coming tomorrow. I don't want her to see you. It'll hurt her very much.... I'll have to prepare her for it...."

He hurried away to the theatre.

This is the second of the spiritually elevated moments I have experienced in my career of many years in the Yiddish theatre. I have told you about my first meeting with Schildkraut, about the contrast in feelings when he didn't even want to see me in his house, and then when he begged me to play with him as we were coming on the ferry from Newark.

That's about how I felt as I was leaving the Cafe Monopole. Everyone of steps was a dance. I felt I was flying without wings. I virtually hovered in the heavens.... From time to time, these words ripped out unbidden from my throat: "Sonitschka, I'm going to play Sonitschka!!"

A double thought gathered in my brain. The first: What is this Sonitschka thing all about? Will I also be as enthusiastic about the role as others think? The second thought: Won't there be any change until Wednesday? I do indeed understand that theatrical politics can turn day into night in a split second....

The two days were long-drawn-out for me. When I came to the theatre Wednesday at eleven o'clock, I instinctively avoided the special entrance to the stage and got in through the lobby. When I opened the door to the theatre, and took a look at the stage, I saw the entire troupe and Thomashevsky on the side with the young actress who was rehearsing Sonitschka. I quickly closed the door and remained standing in the lobby, not knowing what to do. In a few minutes she came out weeping. When she saw me, she fell all over me in a hysterical fit of weeping.

I felt with her in my heart; I cried with her. She sobbed:

"Celia, dear, I love the role so much, but I know I lack a great deal to be able to properly create the role. I'm sure you're going to be wonderful. I wish you a lot of success."

We kissed heartily. I told her:

"Believe me, my dear, I haven't wanted to hurt you. I'm not guilty. You know that, dear...."

The door of the theatre opened, and the stage manager called out:

"Celia, Mr. Thomashevsky is waiting for you....."

Let him wait! I've waited too. They can wait for me also.

I said a warm farewell to the young actress, and I slowly ascended the stage with a feeling of great triumph.

Thomashevsky brought the role over for me. Heaven forbid that he hold it against me for keeping them waiting.... The rehearsal began....

When I held the role of Sonitschka for the first time in my hands, a role that drew me and excited me so much, I completely forgot the foolish mix-up, the behind-the-stage politics that tortured me for so many long days and weeks and nearly drove me to despair. My theatrical instinct drove away from my thoughts all the justified arguments and grievances that had gathered in my heart and brain about that occurrence.

I began to feel that I was going through a difficult examination all over again. I would have to show everything that everyone, including Thomashevsky and perhaps Ossip Dymow himself, had expected of me. I felt I had to exceed their expectations, because now they would look upon me with more critical eyes.

My experience as an actress apprised me of the fact that this was not a very salutary state of affairs for me. All the actors had already been rehearsing their roles for approximately three weeks; I didn't even know the play's plot.

So that you'll understand wherein the unfavorable aspect of my situation existed, I must introduce you to the routine of rehearsing a play. At the first few rehearsals, after the reading-rehearsal, when all the actors have become acquainted with the plot, everyone sits with their roles in their hands and they read the roles from their books. Such sitting rehearsals go on for three-four days in succession. It is understood that during these few days the actors have to learn their roles at home. And rehearsals with position-taking begin—entrances and exits—what is called the "business" or "mise-en- scenes" in the theatre.

At the first sitting rehearsals, it is the director's job to look for the accentuated stresses and expressions in each actor's role. Now the director is concerned with the progress of the play, with the positions of each actor's movements, the sitting down and standing up, the crossing of the stage, and the overall concept the director has created for himself as to how the play must be enacted. After the first few sitting rehearsals, the strict director requires the actors to hold the roles less and less in their hands, so that he can control the movements of each actor.

When I came to that rehearsal, nobody held any role in his hand anymore. Nearly everyone already knew his role sufficiently well so that with the help of the prompter, he no longer needed the booklet. Everyone's position, everyone's place on the stage had already been decided upon. The scenes were already blocked out. The rehearsals were practically performances already; of course, without costumes or makeup. I had missed all that. So I asked Thomashevsky at the very beginning to let me hold my role in my hand, read my cues from my booklet, until I became somewhat knowledgeable of the play's plot. Understandably, Thomashevsky acquiesced.

I need not tell you with what diligence I seized upon the study of my role that night. Next morning, when I came to rehearsal, I was no longer so tied to the booklet. But I only spoke and did not enact my words, even though certain scenes already drew me to enactment.

I was particularly intrigued by the scenes in which I had to say goodbye to the table and the oven. I wanted to enact them. But I felt I had not yet sufficiently digested them. I didn't want critical eyes to see my playing before I felt completely ready to show them.

I valued very highly the consideration that both Thomashevsky and Dymow showed me as I was preparing my role. They didn't hurry me; they didn't make demands upon me. During the first few rehearsals, when the words of my role began to emerge for real from the fourteen-year-old Sonitschka, I began to feel that both of them had complete confidence in me—a certain feeling that they could rely on me.

So I wish to indicate to you here an impression I received immediately while attending my very first rehearsal of "The Wanderer." I had never felt such an atmosphere in my previous seasons with Thomashevsky and certainly not at the two side-street theatres in Chicago and Philadelphia as I did at that rehearsal. I was used to having actors at rehearsals carry on conversations and tell one another stories that generally did not favor either the theatrical stage or the actors themselves. I didn't hear that at these rehearsals. It seemed to me that the presence of the three Europeans—Dymow, Ben Ami and Freed—somehow quietly breathed as serious an atmosphere of intelligence and artistic depth into the rehearsals.

I was very impressed by Lazar Freed's suavity... by his quiet, velvet tones that, it seemed to me, emerged as if from an organ....

I only had seven days of rehearsal to make ready my difficult, complicated role of the tender, poetically inclined dreamy Sonitschka, so that, even at the last rehearsal, I held back and didn't fully enact my scenes.

The serious actor generally is never sure that he is completely finished with his role. In all my years I never had confidence in actors who spoke with deliberateness, with conviction, about their finality of interpretation of this or that role. The upright, truly talented actor will never speak that conviction. He isn't even sure in his thoughts that he has brought out everything the role calls for. It seems to me that it's almost impossible for an actor to know everything he wants from a role, even at the very final rehearsal. Only at the premiere, with the nervousness attendant upon the actor as he appears before the audience, his anxiety adds what he needs to create and effectuate the person he is playing.

Thus I've been surprised more than once that friends praised me after a premiere for what I did in certain scenes. I myself hadn't the slightest idea that I did that. Thus I recall, for instance, the following scene after the premiere of Peretz Hirshbein's "The Idle Inn" in the new Yiddish theatre some six years later.

In the third act, Itzik, the horse-thief, had stolen me, "Meite," from under the marriage canopy, and had carried me off to the forest. We enacted a strong, passionate, exciting scene in which I tore off my marriage gown and threw myself in his arms—and Itzik buried his face in my open breast. I witnessed the fact that, when someone expressed his admiration for Itzik's natural full-bloodedness in that scene, Ben Ami opened his eyes wide: "Did I really do that?"

Such actions are committed by actors, driven by their artistic intuition to give life to the role they are creating. I have noticed this very often on the part of the great Rudolph Schildkraut and other actors of that rank.

It is almost impossible for an actor night after night, weeks and months in succession, to experience all the tragic and dramatic moments he has to evince in his role. An actor can achieve this during the first five, six, eight performances. Then, if he possesses the artistic "emotional memory," the feelings of those experiences engrave themselves in him and, being talented, he copies himself in his enactment of them at those first performances. The attendance, the warm response from the audience help him to achieve the very heights of his role at those first performances. Here and there, an actor will, in the course of the play's performances, add and complete certain strokes. But his role is created through his intuition at these first performances.

It is fitting to mention here how remarkable it is that the audience attending the above-mentioned performances of "The Idle Inn" felt the genuineness of the passionate youth so strongly that you couldn't hear in the theatre any indication of cynical insinuation such scenes bring on in the theatre. I contend that that was greatly to the credit of both the actor and the audience.

Before I come to the premiere of Ossip Dymow's "The Eternal Wanderer,"  I must also mention one other thing. I've already paused before over Thomashevsky's dual personality as an actor. At the rehearsals of "The Eternal Wanderer," Thomashevsky achieved in both the prologue, where he is the eternal wanderer, and later as Mordecai Berman, the highest naturalism brought out the most human tones in the play. We all admired him.

But I remember that after that, at the performances, I couldn't believe my own ears that it was him I heard speaking. Perhaps many of you recall the prologue from "The Wanderer." Thomashevsky was the old man; I was "the young life." Both of us stood on a kind of high mountain, and I said with a very tender, thin voice: "Grandfather, dear, hot tears are falling from your eyes. You are crying, brave and far-sighted old man." And he was to answer me quietly and warm-heartedly as he did at the rehearsals: "People lived here, there was a big cemetery, and a little hill of stones was left from that life....These are their great tears turned into stone...."

Now imagine that at my quiet, tender words: "Grandfather, dear, hot tears are falling from your eyes." Thomashevsky, instead of giving his natural answer that virtually got into your heart, suddenly spoke the following answer in German in the loudest tone of voice and in his famous "tra-ta-ta-ta" style of delivery: "Ya, von meinen Augen Fliessen trerne..." in German dialect.

I practically trembled. Neither he himself, nor any of his closest friends, could ever explain why Thomashevsky committed those follies against his own, natural, great talent.

The play, and the production of "The Eternal Wanderer," created an unusually strong sensation. Our press spoke up with enthusiasm. It's worth seeing how the two top newspapers in New York received it.

Abe Cahan wrote in "The Forward" on Tuesday, December 13, 1913: "A watchmaker sits at his workbench, with his spyglass in his eye, tools in hand, and looks at and takes apart the various watches people bring to him to mend. Mostly they are only plain "onions"—big ones. Crude, awkward characters. Once in a while someone brings in a good, delicate little watch with expensive, delicate little wheels. Then, when they give the watchmaker his usual tools, he shakes his head and says: -No, this is an entirely different thing. You need entirely different tools for it.' And he pulls out a drawer where he keeps smaller, more delicate, more precious little pliers, little chisels, little hammers.

"That's the situation the writer of this article feels himself in trying to discuss Ossip Dymow's play, "The Eternal Wanderer." It's been a long, long time that we've experienced in the Yiddish theatre what we experienced at the performance of this play....With all its faults—and it has very important results—this drama is one of the two or three test things we've ever had on the Yiddish stage at any time."

Louis Miller, the editor of "The Truth," gave the following headline to his critique of the play: "A wandering ray in a dark cloud—Ossip Dymow's 'The Eternal Wanderer' on the Yiddish stage.

"It's better to lose to an intelligent person than to win from a fool; better to be able to berate a good boy than praise a bad one."

"But Ossip Dymow's 'The Eternal Wanderer' is no fool and no play. Just as it has everything that's good, so it also has its faults; all that's wise, it has its foolishness.... Dymow's drama, that was played last night in Thomashevsky's theatre, is a new page if not a new chapter in the history of our troubled Yiddish stage in America. Once upon a time, way, way back, when the drama was in swaddling clothes and criticism was in diapers—in those good old times of long ago, they would have so torn into Dymow's drama that no stone would have remained standing on another stone.... It's a great picture of Jewish exile in Russia. It's as deep as the Exile. It's black and cold like the Exile. And best of all, truth to tell, it is also like the Jewish Exile. The problem of Dymow's eternal wanderer—that's the Jew who doesn't know where he'll spend the day or night; the Jew, whom his child asks when the Exile will end; and the father answers that he asked his father the same thing; and he can still give the same excuse—a sigh, a tear, an oath.... That 's Dymow's drama."

I believe the above two excerpts give you a sufficient indication of the impression the play and its production made at that time. I wish to bring you also some citations of what they said about my playing.

Abe Cahan said: "Celia Adler created a marvelously alive type as Sonia, the fourteen-year-old little girl. She often overdid it. But it was the overdoing of an artist who overemphasizes a living stroke, not of one who plays without the strength fantasy. She fully confirms with this role that she was born with the power of fantasy and with the instincts of an artist."

Louis Miller wrote: "The laurels of the evening among the actors naturally belong to Celia Adler, and she should receive them. She has earned them with her talent, with the effort she made to immerse herself in the role, saturate herself with the soul of the saintly foolish, daydreaming, practical, diminutive Sonitschka , She has deserved them for her love of her work, for her attentiveness to duty. She deserves the honors of the evening. After Celia Adler, comes the new, rising star of the stage, Jacob Ben Ami, in the role of Moishele. If you want to believe a prediction, if you want to judge from one role, his future on the stage is also great. Celia Adler on one side, Ben Ami on the other side. Also Lazar Freed in the role of Saul. These are the three young stars on our stage. And it's good that an accident brought them together in one piece that is itself by 'a young one.'"

Thus I could bring you more and more complimentary opinions and songs of praise of my playing in that role. But I think that's enough. Perhaps others might think—too many. So I wouldn't want to have to justify myself....

But I wish to assert here that I've intentionally spent much time on the occurrences that led to "The Eternal Wanderer"; also on the rehearsals and on the reaction of the critics, for two reasons: First, I consider my playing in "The Wanderer" to have been an important step on the ladder of my career; the recognition of the most prestigious people in the newspaper world raised me up to a high position in the Yiddish theatrical world. Not having the status of a star, not being the owner of one's own theatre, I raised myself up by my own strength to that important position.

Second, I am constrained to underscore with my success even more boldly the disappointment that awaited me at the end of that season.

We'll wait a little with that disappointment. I still have to touch here on Thomashevsky's production of Ossip Dymow's second play that season, "The Borrowed Groom." I played a youngster in that one also—perhaps ten or twelve years old. It's a known fact in the theatrical profession that actors stay away from playing two similar roles in succession.

It's true that no matter how great he is, every actor has certain mannerisms—personal movements and behavior which repeat themselves against his will, especially when he gets to playing similar roles. That's why I was a little scared when I heard that I would have to play a little girl in "The Borrowed Groom" also.

However, when the play was read and I heard the role, I perceived it would be possible to avoid every similarity. Of course I was in the happy situation that, in a child, the difference in its age of four years could alter tremendously the role's entire behavior and expression.

I thus can't complain that my successive playing of two roles of two adolescents in plays by the same author harmed my success in any way. So I'm again going to bring you excerpts from criticisms:

B. Gorin wrote: "Among the players one must mention especially Celia Adler who enacted the complicated role of the child. Celia Adler is a great power on the Yiddish stage. She's a star that came to us unexpectedly from heaven and shines with her mm lights. We practically forgot many times that we were dealing here with an actress, that's how natural she was in her playing."

Abe Cahan wrote: "Celia Adler showed herself to better advantage than all the actors and actresses who played in the piece. She has a role without words in the play—she practically has nothing to saw or do—but the stage is full of her. Her performance of a little girl that steals into the kitchen from the living room is truly a surprise to all attending the theatre; she plays the role in a natural, lively, and truly childlike fashion...."

Well, as you see, I didn't embarrass myself in that role either, and the theatre, heaven forbid, most definitely could not advance any arguments against me.

I cannot let go of Dymow's two huge successes that season—"The Eternal Wanderer" and "The Borrowed Groom," before I narrate for you a happening that involved me and Boris Thomashevsky. It extended from "The Eternal Wanderer" until late into "The Borrowed Groom." The story begins before a performance of "The Eternal Wanderer."

It occurred after the matinee performance of a Saturday or Sunday. As usual I went to my Feige to eat at home. I used to stretch out on my couch in my room and rest for about an hour after my meal. I did the same thing that time—took something to read and began to doze off. Feige had to go somewhere. It's possible she thought I had left for the theatre while she was busy in the kitchen. I deduce this from the fact that she bolted the door with the special bolting lock which she used only when she left the house herself.

The unusual quietness transformed my dozing into an appetizing sleep. I awoke, and the clock that stood near my couch told me the terrible news that it was already twenty minutes after eight. I jumped up in despair. The curtain has to rise promptly at eight-thirty on "The Wanderer" and Thomashevsky and I were the first people on the stage in the prologue. It would seem that I had to get to the National Theatre from Eighteenth Street, put on makeup, dress myself—and for all this I barely had ten minutes.

I rushed to the door but I couldn't possibly open the peculiar lock which consisted of a kind of iron bar that occupied the entire breadth of the door. In my excitement I could in no way whatever budge the lock. Meanwhile the minutes ran. We lived on the third floor. Our windows led to the backyard. I didn't have much time to think. I only knew I had to get out of the house.

So I got out through the window, onto the fire escape, and hastily began to run down on the dizzying, narrow little steps.

Thank heaven nothing happened to me as I ran. But about fifteen minutes had elapsed by the time I got out on the street and reached Second Avenue. No street car was visible and, as if for spite, there was no taxi either.

In my despair, I stood practically in the middle of the road with my arms spread out hoping an automobile would notice me and stop. I succeeded. In haste and despair I begged the driver to drive me over to the National Theatre: "The performance there cannot begin without me. I was to be the first on the stage, I was tardy. I am Celia Adler."

My pleading and my excitement worked. The man let me get into his car and we proceeded to the theatre. After riding a few streets, I noticed that passing opposite us was Thomashevsky s big limousine driven by his son Harry. I guessed he was driving around looking for me.

When I breathlessly opened the door leading to the stage, Thomashevsky was standing in his whole costume, dressed for the prologue, with his long, white beard with the crooked, long wander-cane. When he saw me, he didn't say a word, but only asked with his hands and eyes:

"What's this?..."

I didn't wait for his words and, not stopping, I said:

"Don't ask me anything now."

And I ran to the dressing room. I heard yelling from all sides of the stage:

"She's here! She's already here! We can begin...."

The wardrobe mistress came to meet me with the long tunic which I wore in the prologue, helped me loose my long hair, and I was ready to go on the stage with Thomashevsky.

I couldn't say anything after the prologue either because I had to change dress and put on make up for the role of Sonitschka.

It was not until after the first act that I had the chance to tell Thomashevsky what had happened to me. I must admit that I dramatized considerably my running on the fire escape.

Evidently Thomashevsky understood that I didn't deserve to be reprimanded over this. He never had a thing to say against my theatrical discipline. I was always punctual in everything. But nevertheless I did notice from the expression in his eyes that he doubted the veracity of my story somewhat.

I quickly forgot the incident and felt sure that Thomashevsky had also forgotten it.

"The Borrowed Groom," which was produced several weeks later, also began with a prologue. I, as a little girl, lay asleep and I was dreaming that the half-mad Yoshke Musikant, the play's hero, was approaching me. Yoshke (Thomashevsky in that scene) rose as if from the earth carrying a violin in his hand, A green "spot" fell on him, and he called me very mysteriously and secretly over to him, with his finger, saying: "Come to me, little Olitcka, come to me."

And I, being scared, asked him: "Where shall I go with you....?"

And Thomashevsky (Yoshke) answered with equal language: "Come with me on the fire escape...."!!!

In the middle of that season, the Yiddish stage lost one of its most luminous stars. Brought to his eternal rest on February 6, 1914, was the brilliant and truly immortal Sigmund Mogulesco. Mogulesco had for decades made Jewish hearts happy with his charm and comicality, called forth laughter and brought great enjoyment to hundreds of thousands of Jewish theatre-goers. His name was frequently spoken in Jewish homes. People were delighted with his wit; they sang his little songs.

Mogulesco's talent went beyond the confines of the Yiddish stage. He definitely has to occupy a place among the world's greatest talents. I seriously doubt if any theatre in the world could boast such a seminal talent as Sigmund Mogulesco was. No wonder that, at his funeral, in addition to sighs and tears, plain people could be heard to say: "No more Mogulesco! There will never be another like him!"

At the last moments of his life, Mogulesco begged his friend Z. Schwartz, the undertaker: "I want everything to be beautiful at my funeral; you know that I've always loved beauty in my life."

Schwartz fulfilled Mogulesco's wish. In terms of organized and impressive procession, it was the most beautiful and most impressive that East Side Jews had ever seen. The real mourners were those who founded and created the Yiddish theatre with Mogulesco. Accompanying the hearse on both sides were: Jacob Adler, David Kessler, Boris Thomashevsky, Joseph Edelstein, and Lazar Zuckerman.

And remarkably enough no one among the eulogizers moved me as much as only the appearance of Lazar Zuckerman, the old comedian, who had been Mogulesco's friend in his youth and who had sung with him for Cantor Nissan Belzer. In his day, Zuckerman played a big role, but I believe that not many present-day Jews in America remember him. He was the most tragic figure at Mogulesco's funeral. It was so hard to tear him away from the casket.... He pleaded with everyone: "Let me be near Zelik'l, my friends.... How much longer will I see him?.... I never imagined I would go to his funeral."

I can't keep back the disappointment any longer. You've read the excerpts  from the most renowned theatrical critics in regard to my playing and my success in the two above-mentioned plays. I had every right to expect that, long before the season ended, the management would grant me the best terms and a considerable raise in salary. Instead of that I didn't even get a proposal for the following season.

I have no answer for that season. I must accept the answer given me by the good, warm-hearted actress Bina Abramowitz. That was on a Sunday night, after the last performance of the season. I left the theatre with a heavy heart. I was rushing, walking hastily away from the theatre in which I had my great successes.

I overtook Bina Abramowitz also without an engagement. Here's what she told me: "Serves you right, Celia, this will be a good lesson to you. A young actress must not play so well that she would be praised above everyone else above the stars. That is why you're not engaged. Real talent cannot but succeed in the end."

I doubted that her wish that real talent must triumph would ever eventuate. There were about seven or eight theatres in New York. No one needed me. I was idle for the second season.

It could be that if I had followed that vicious-tongued actress of the previous season and at least opened a door to an editorial room, my destiny that season might perhaps have been different.

But I've never sought protection in the course of my career.

The year 1915 practically didn't exist for me as an actress. It was as if my career had been interrupted. Thus I perhaps ought to tell and narrate much what can happen in the Yiddish theatre, but I shall not do it for two reasons. It really added nothing to my career, but I believe that it also [takes] nothing away from it. It's not pleasant to describe chagrin and heartache, especially some four-and-a-half decades later, when no one can benefit from it.

If at least there were now a theatre of some consequence, or if such a theatre was in the offing, it would then be worthwhile to range broadly over the whole matter—perhaps other, new young forces would benefit from it. It's better to keep quiet about the whole thing. Thus I must satisfy myself with only one excerpt from one of the theatrical pages of the 1914-1915 pre-season; it says the following:

"Obviously magic and talent playa small role in Yiddish theatrical politics. Celia Adler herself is really magical; she is really one of the few, truly significant talents on our poor Yiddish stage—in roles of little young wives; she is unique in grown-up girls—and it could be that in the latter especially she seldom has an equal, and yet as of now, Celia Adler finds herself without an offer to carry on. All—among them a considerable number incompetents—have already been snatched up, but Celia Adler has been left behind. So you will ask, how come? And the excuse: politics.... Meanwhile, Celia Adler remains without a post and, what is surely much worse, the Yiddish theatre remains without Celia Adler. But let us hope that it won't lead up to such awkward foolishness. The Jewish public will simply not want to be robbed of the performance it got in Sonitschka in 'The Eternal Wanderer,' and in Olitchka in 'The Borrowed Groom'."

It may perhaps be worth nothing here something Ossip Dymow, the author of the two mentioned plays, told me only recently what the real concern was that season. He was standing in the theatre with a considerable group of theatre buffs, writers, and actors at a performance of his "The Borrowed Groom," and everyone was marveling at the child Olitchka, and they began to speculate who the parents were of the little player of children's roles who was enacting the role. When Dymow told them it was a daughter of Dina Feinman and Jacob Adler, they opened wide their mouths and ears: "It's already been about twenty years that they've been divorced—you mean to say...."

Dymow continued: "Don't start imagining things because heaven knows what you'll come up with. I'm telling you it's their daughter, their only daughter, the only one of her kind. That's our Celia Adler."

They hadn't recognized me. I was very flattered indeed when I heard this from the very much beloved, the truly warm-hearted man, the completely devoted theatre buff, highly talented dramatist and director, and good, good friend of actors with whom he has an affinity.

It would seem, however, that the theatrical writer of the above-mentioned item was fooled in his hope that the Yiddish theatre would not commit such foolishness. Perhaps the Jewish public did not wish to be robbed of such playing as that of Sonitischka and Olitchka. But they didn't tell it to anybody.... The theatre managers did know or didn't wish to know about it.... Thus a year is missing in my career.

But that year was not lost in my life. Thus, I'll give you an excerpt from the same theatrical page from the same writer that will tell you what I mean. He wrote there in speaking of my mother, Dina Feinman:

"When you speak of Mrs. Feinman, you mustn't leave out her magical and in-every-way beloved Celia, a daughter of Jacob Adler. It's particularly appropriate to talk about her because you should know that Celia goes to her wedding tomorrow. The wedding will be at the New Reading Hotel in Atlantic City, and the groom is, well, can you guess? Oh , no you won 't guess it even if you had ten heads. He is none other than the young little Litvak whom Thomashevsky brought over from Russia last year, who so magnificently portrayed Saul in "The Eternal Wanderer," sings our folksongs in such a beautifully warm-hearted way—you're already surmising it to be the likable and affection-deserving Lazar Freed. It goes without saying that everyone who has ever seen the young Celia or heard the likable Freed wishes them both hearty good luck."

And so I feel that both my four years of marriage with Freed and, even more, our dear and beloved son, Dr. Selwyn Freed, deserve my telling something more of our romance and marriage.

I think you already know me enough to know that I'm not one of those self-confident people who can easily decide things, especially when such an important step as marriage is concerned. At that time me my mother was far away, in South America, all the way in Buenos Aires, where she was playing. My younger sister, Lillie, who was already married to Ludwig Satz, was in Europe. And so I think of that time and I try to figure out how I dared to make such an important decision practically on my own responsibility. Feige, my beloved and devoted Feige, was the only one who helped me resolve my difficult problem.

The problem consisted not only of my loneliness but—and I hope the theatrical profession will forgive me—the backstage behavior of a great part of those with whom I had to live day-in, day-out, was not to my liking. Life for me backstage was unpleasant and labored.

I've also mentioned earlier that the three Europeans evinced an altogether different form of behavior, a different pattern of action. The mildest and politest among them was Lazar Freed. He was also the one who concerned himself a great deal over me. His European cavalierism, his gallant bowing, his kissing my hand impressed me and excited my young girlhood.

Despite the bad name that so-called actress' poisonous words had made for me, I still remained the dreamily romantic girl. And so I very often felt elevated in my frequent walks with Freed, when he accompanied me to Eighteenth Street on my way home from the theatre. In our talks, he very often let me know how flattered and happy he felt that I, Celia Adler, was so friendly to him, so warmly disposed toward him. His words were generally to my liking, both for his pleasant voice that virtually gilded my ears and his dreamy hopes for a better Yiddish theatre which had to come about. Until then I had never found such a sincere attitude toward the theatre as Lazar Freed manifested.

I often wonder why it didn't occur to me to look for practicality in my getting married. My experience on the stage had already taught me how necessary it was for an actress on the Yiddish stage to have someone who was recognized in the theatre. Freed surely never had the potential strength ever to raise himself up to such a position in the Yiddish theatre.

The thought began to take root in my mind that I would be able to have a happy life with him. There would be beauty, urbanity, tenderness, and heartfelt devotion in our life together. I often invited him to my house for a meal. I recall how greatly concerned my darling Feige was that he should get the impression that I was a woman of valor besides being an actress. When he was smacking his lips over her meals, she would sort of inadvertently say to him that it was I who had cooked and baked everything. When I asked her with my eyes: "Really now?" She waved it away with her hand as if to say: "It's O.K. I know what I'm doing..."

At last he dared; and on one of our walks he brought on a serious conversation about love and marriage, about an ideal home, with a sort of guilty, helpless smile. I shall never forget his eyes while he was carrying on the conversation and aimed at what he wanted to say. His approach and heartfelt truth that streamed from each of his words said so much, promised so much. I truly began to realize that what I had imagined in my youthful, girlish dreams—to have someone to look up to and admire—that he was the personification of it.

I felt so good, I felt such a pleasant warmth to have him near me. I was certain that he would call forth from me those deep feelings of love for which I so yearned. His sweet, gentle personality would evoke it from me. His eyes filled up with heavenly joy when I gave him my answer. Perhaps for the first time in my life I didn't hesitate in my decision....

I wrote my mother about my decision to marry the young actor Lazar Freed, and that he wanted to have the wedding that summer. When my mother got the letter, she quickly concluded her guest appearances in Buenos Aires and sent me a telegram about when she would arrive in New York. At the same time, I wrote my sister Lillie about my plans, hoping that they too could come in time, so that I would have my nearest and dearest at the wedding. When mother arrived, she helped us decide where and when the wedding would take place.

But fate had it that Lillie and Ludwig could not be at my wedding, just as I hadn't been able to be at their wedding. They got married in London, right in the middle of the season when we began "The Wanderer." When I wrote them about my wedding, they were in Lemberg as guests of Ludwig's parents, where their first child Zirele was born. Talk was already in the air about war. Being born an Austrian, he already had difficulty [crossing] over the borders. Their trip was delayed two whole weeks. Coming to my wedding from the Adler family were my father, my sister Julia, and my brother Abe.

Thus it seems we were happily wed, although our luck didn't serve us very well.

My earnings, which were constantly bigger than his were missing for us that year. We found a modest residence on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg.

My outlay and Lazar's for the wedding, for the furnishing of our residence and for a piano, which was an important adjunct in both our lives, practically completely emptied my bank book, which I had accumulated during my successful years, (if you'll excuse the expression.) So a not-very-luxurious winter awaited us.

Our not very big residence was filled considerably the first few weeks with the laughter and even not too infrequently with the crying of a small, sweet child. Lillie and Ludwig and their Zirele, in coming to America, had to live with us the first few weeks. So, heaven forbid; it was not too comfortable. Both young pairs, the baby and Feige, who managed the house, made it a little difficult for us in our little house. Though we had to live on counted-out pennies, we didn't lack the necessities, heaven forbid, especially since our life was filled with joy and laughter. I used all my talents to play with the glorious, delectable Zirele.

Celia Adler

Lazar Freed


With our Zelik'l

 


Me with my Zelik'l

 


Lazar with Zelik'l

 


My Various Characters in the Course of My Career


 

"The Forgotten Mother"

"A Flag is Born"

"God, Man and Devil"

     

"The Treasure" — by David Pinski

"With the Stream" — Sholem Asch

"Stempenyu" — Sholem Aleichem

Perhaps nobody knows that when Ludwig Satz came to America he was fanatically religious. So I was the first victim of his fanaticism. We had decided of a Friday night to go see a Yiddish performance on the avenue in New York. Satz didn't want to travel at all on Saturday. The weather was very mild. So we all decided to take a stroll on the Williamsburg Bridge all the way to New York and back. I have to tell you that, as a young wife, I was in my first months of pregnancy. Thus the long walk robbed me meanwhile of my future motherhood.

When I got over it, my more experienced sister and Ludwig Satz himself—not to speak of Lazar—reprimanded me severely why I had kept my pregnancy secret. They never would have let me take such a walk.

After my wedding, my mother insisted that Adler engage my husband, his son-in-law, Lazar Freed, in his People's Theatre. It wasn't hard for my mother "to sell" Adler on such a fine actor and singer. Freed didn't get a big salary. When my bank book got empty, Freed turned to Joseph Edelstein, the manager, for an advance on his salary to be able to survive the summer. After that, when they deducted the sum each week on account of his advance, Lazar brought home and handed me the huge pay of fourteen dollars a week. Thus, perhaps that walk on the Williamsburg Bridge had done me a real favor. Even in those years it was difficult to accomplish a confinement on fourteen dollars a week.

My mother also strongly sought to prevail upon Anshel Schorr in Philadelphia, where she was playing, that he engage her son-in-law Ludwig Satz. She had a tougher time of it than "to sell" Adler on Freed. Very few people here knew Satz. Only because he couldn't refuse my mother, Anshel engaged Satz for twenty-five dollars a week to play whatever came along, but with one proviso: when the theatre needed her, Lillie Satz would also have to play. And all this for the same twenty-five dollar stipend.

I shall have much to tell about what Ludwig Satz had to endure on the way to recognition in the Yiddish theatre in America. But meanwhile let us return to our home that suddenly became so spacious. I missed terribly the sweet, delightful Zirele and my sister and brother-in-law. I needn't tell you how difficult it was for us to get along on the stingy few dollars that Freed brought in. We were helped a little by the accidental earnings that fell into my lap (do you recall the famous matinee performance of "Blind Love" for which I got fifty dollars?) Also coming to our aid was the Gary Society. It was a municipal organization that took care that minors should not be exploited excessively. "Minor" meant under sixteen years of age. This used to interfere a great deal in the plays of the Yiddish theatre—plays in which children had to perform.

The Gary Society came to our assistance during that financially strained winter of ours. "The Living Orphans" was the greatest success that season in Adler's People's Theatre. It was a tremendous melodrama by Isidore Solotorefsky that caught on very strongly and ran practically the greatest part of the season.

My sister Stella played one of the children's roles in the play. The Gary Society didn't permit under any circumstances that minors play on Sunday afternoons and evenings. So my brother Abe proposed how they could save themselves from the Gary Society on Sunday: "Celia, although she's a married woman, is more childlike in growth and appearance than Stella as a child. Let her play the role on Sunday."

Edelstein called me, asked me to play the role for two performances on Sunday. He paid me all of fifteen dollars; I was very dissatisfied with this. I decided to let them know that I wouldn't play for less than twenty-five dollars. My mother was in New York for several days. When I told her what I would do, she strongly dissuaded me:

"These few dollars for these several weeks will not make you rich—it doesn't pay to create hostility."

I've often wondered about, and was at the same time grateful to my mother that, she never used her influence with theatre managers and stars for them to engage me. She had within her that pride and that firm consciousness that I, her daughter, had shown up well enough with reference to the theatre not to need any influential protection. Her healthy mind dictated to her that to intercede for a recognized actress made her smaller and insulted her. So I'm eternally thankful to her, and not a little proud that my mother had such a healthy, logical approach to this matter.

Evidently, I also took considerably after my mother in this matter of pride.

My Sundays in my father's People's Theatre again brought me very close to my sister Nyunia. She also was already married to Joseph Shoengold, was already the mother of two children, Pearl and Liolitchka. So we often all four of us went from the theatre—Shoengold, Nyunia, Lazar, and I—to eat together, sometimes in a restaurant, sometimes at her house. They would also come to our house from time to time.

Thus I recall a very curious and comical incident, although I experienced a very painful moment over it.

It actually happened at a concert in "The Forward" Hall that season. The evening was held for a worthwhile cause, and one of the arrangers made bold to ask me to help them make their concert more successful—I should appear for them. I told him I had never done it before.

"That's exactly why we want you—you're going to be our star attraction."

The fellow who urged me was indeed capable. He quickly painted his publicity approach:

"The great and famous Celia Adler will appear at our concert for the first time in her career."

Somehow I couldn't refuse him, but I indicated to him that I didn't know what to do in such an occasion. True, I played theatre, but I had no program for a concert.

That, he said, was hardly important: "I will bring you a strongly dramatic poem by our great workers' poet, Morris Rosenfeld— 'The Seduced One.' That's as if made to order for you. I tell you, Miss Adler, you'll be sensational."

At last I agreed. He brought me the thing and I studied hard to learn it by heart. I pitied "The Seduced" very much, poor thing, and put all my strength into portraying the pain and hurt of the seduced one.... Presently, here was the lucky evening. I knew they would hold me for the very last as the star attraction. When I came into "The Forward" Hall around nine o'clock, the evening was already in progress. Someone was speaking. When I pushed through the crowd and went over to the corner at the side of the stage that, so to speak, served as a waiting room for the artists, I was surprised to find my sister Nyunia and Ossip Dymow there. Understandably we embraced. Neither she nor I had the slightest inkling that we were both going to appear there.

This was really my first meeting with this kind of crowd and with the arrangers of such evenings. I sat enthralled by the whole matter, even by the speeches. Suddenly, someone came over and said: "You are going on shortly, Miss Frances Adler."

And right away I heard the chairman announce: "I have the great honor to introduce to you the famous artist and actress, Frances Adler."

And I heard Nyunia's voice saying: "I'm going to recite for you one of the pearls of the great poet, Morris Rosenfeld, 'The Seduced One.'"

I remained sitting as if paralyzed, my mind even began to burn. What should I do now? This was the only thing I knew, I began to look for a side exit—perhaps run away—but meanwhile I heard Nyunia beginning the lines I had learned with so much effort. She began with bitterness and a strangled throat: "Remember how you swore your love for me"—and then into tears: "The apple tree broke into greenery amid the corn—the bird calmly looked from the branches, and everything all around lay in quietude." And very dramatically, with a fearful outcry. Who could know your intention then?"

The audience sat dumbfounded. The hall was virtually drowned in sobs and tears: "Remember that night? Oh, you must remember , I begged you with pity...." And suddenly she broke out violently: "Oh, don't pluck me out; you will trample me later." And again in tears: "Oh, let me be; find me an upright man, a lover among the machines—I'm a shop girl; what choice do I have—I was born poor; I shall remain poor."

The audience dissolved in tears and, when at last she concluded very dramatically, completely spent—"How can I, an outcast and locked in loneliness, ask for my master's son as my groom?" The audience stormed. They clapped their hands and banged their feet, giving her merited recognition.

She left the stage happy, threw me a quick so-long, and happily disappeared with Ossip Dymow.

I sat with battered emotions, not being able to decide what to do next. I felt that, if the boards opened up under me, I would gladly have disappeared.

Thus I sat beaten and in despair, as if all my ships had sunk. The only thing I had prepared for that day's concert, my first concert, my sister, Nyunia, had snatched away from me without knowing , The one who had invited me to the concert no doubt had kept his word. And here was my whole reputation at stake....

My head constantly banged as if with a hammer: What should I do? Should I ask the chairman to leave me out, not to introduce me? Give him a false excuse and in that way get out of my difficult situation? Or should I go before the audience and tell it the truth? In both cases I saw the ruination of the bit of a name I had created in such a hard way and with so much effort. How would I look people in the eye—be so helpless, be so lost? I felt that only a miracle could save me in this instance.

But instead of a miracle I suddenly heard the chairman's words: "Celia Adler" and a warm applause in the hall. I understood that they had introduced me. It seemed that that was it. I had to go.

I just don't know how I got up and went to the stage. I only remember that thoughts wandered around lost in my head that that was the way a condemned person no doubt went to the gallows. I got onstage. The hearty reception by the audience as if electrified me and as if yanked me out of my dumbfoundedness. My brain began to work on how to find a way to salvation—and the miracle occurred.

It could be that I ought to have deep within me a religious feeling to be able to give thanks in a certain way for many such miracles that have happened to me in my life. Perhaps such a feeling exists in my consciousness. It so happened that only lately, barely two years ago, I met face to face with a difficult situation which frightened my son considerably.

It was after the death of my second husband, Jacob Cone. Our life together had lasted twenty-five years. He died the day of our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary jubilee. For twenty-five years he had carried the whole responsibility for my being, for my life, for my playing, for my existence. I only had to execute what he had prepared for me. I didn't have to worry, didn't have to think, didn't have to look for something to do. He attended to everything, even household things, which are ordinarily left to a woman—that too he provided for me. So you can understand that, after twenty-five years of such a life, when you are suddenly left alone, it's as though the seat had been removed from under you, or the wall you were leaning against had suddenly collapsed. I was literally lost.

My Zelik'l knew that and was very much worried over my helplessness in losing my way. He consulted with a friend of his youth, Abraham Ben-Avi, a great psychiatrist and doctor of philosophy, the son of the notable and beloved actress my chum and colleague, Anna Appel. He told him about my dilemma, related to him as much as possible my twenty-five-year life with my husband, how fantastically helpless I felt. And Dr. Ben-Avi told him the following:

Don't worry about your mother. Besides her great talent as an actress, she has an inborn capacity to be able masterfully to get out of difficult situations, to find just the right way of how to help herself. She may not perhaps be able to give others advice because, just as does her great talent, this also comes to her intuitively, perhaps not previously thought out. Don't worry about your mother. Just as she has reached her high place in her career in the Yiddish theatre with her own strength, practically without anyone's assistance, or quite the reverse, against all difficulties and stones put in her path, so she will also find her way out of this difficult situation in life. Don't worry about your mother."

Thus this comes to my mind when I now speak of that difficult situation on the stage of "The Forward" Hall. I've said that the miracle happened. The miracle consisted in the fact that the spontaneous, warm reaction and the ovation with which the audience received me had as if suddenly untangled the tangle in my mind, and I announced with assurance and with a strong voice:

"We all have just now received with enthusiasm the dramatic way in which my sister Frances has recited for you Morris Rosenfeld's great rendition, 'The Seduced One." But every creation, no matter how great and artistic it may be, can be ridiculed—can be put on as satire. I think it's very interesting and certainly amusing to hear one right after the other, two different approaches of one and the same thing. Well, here it is, my version of 'The Seduced One' by Morris Rosenfeld."

And I now spontaneously recited the same thing I had studied, in such a strongly dramatic way, in a very pixyish, bitterly satirical, and lightly jesting way. In a sort of tempting tone of voice, with a mocking look in my eyes, and nodding my head in a knowledgeable way I began: "Do you remember how you promised me love?"

The hall immediately broke out in laughter.

That's all I needed. I felt they had grasped the satire I had put into the serious poem: "Oh, who then knew your intention?"—I said it in such a way that the audience laughed heartily. And when it came to the lines that I had spoken with significance and previously with conscientiousness, "Do you remember that night? Oh , you must remember it....,"and the lines that followed that I spoke with exaggerated gestures and pleading: "I pleaded pitifully with you; oh, don't pluck me; you'll trample me later"—the audience virtually laughed with tears and convulsion.

And when I concluded with a very mocking look at him in his corner, as if I wanted to repulse him from me, saying very playfully: "How can I, an outcast and locked in loneliness, ask for my master's son for my groom?" the audience laughed hysterically and rewarded me with such resounding applause as lasted for many long minutes. I bowed and bowed again to the audience—I was saved. I hadn't shamed my name. But at the same time I decided that I wouldn't let them talk me into participating in concerts until I had a repertory of at least half-a-dozen numbers.
 

A theatrical season began for me during the summer of that season, when most people in the acting profession got away to the mountains or to the sea for a rest. Freed was suffering from a dry cough and doctors advised us that he should spend time in the mountains, resting, having a lot of sun, drinking milk, and generally taking care of himself. So because of that, I joyfully accepted my mother's proposal. She and Maurice Schwartz, as partners, had leased the roof garden atop the National Theatre and opened a theatrical season during the summer. Thus, I became Maurice Schwartz's leading lady.

We had already begun our constant battles that continued far, far into the years of his Art Theatre, but it helped me to earn enough to support Freed in the mountains, as the doctors had advised us. My mother, being a partner in the roof garden, also wanted Ludwig Satz to be engaged. He also needed a few dollars. But Schwartz didn't want him; the excuse was that he still wasn't in the union. My mother didn't want to carry on a battle; it didn't pay for the short summer season. But he was employed as my mother's representation in the box office. With his flair for humor, Satz immediately called himself the "business manager," ridiculing his new profession....

I cannot say I had much pleasure playing on the roof garden. Both the heat and my colleague, Schwartz, tortured me considerably.

The only good thing left me by that season was a visit by Anshel Schorr at a performance. It was not so much his presence that made me happy, as that he proposed I become the leading lady in his Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia. He was also going to engage Lazar Freed. He proposed very good terms for me; he also proposed a very fine salary for Freed. Although I wasn't enthusiastic over leaving New York, both the terms and the recognized status of the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, which had the reputation of a theatrical city in general, made me feel that being a leading lady in such a theatre was not only an honor for me but was a considerable thrust in my career.

While still playing at the roof garden, my mother stole away to Philadelphia and got a residence there for all of us. When she brought me the news, I somehow felt a burden had fallen off my head. I was indeed happy to await a new season, again knowing ahead of time where I was going and what awaited me. I was also very much pleased that, after a considerable number of years, I would again be together with my small but beloved family. Thus, I had something to wait for, to look forward to, after the hard, empty season.

Understandably, I informed Freed of everything. He was very happy that he would be away from noisy, tough New York. So I survived the summer season on the roof garden, thank heaven, and began to concern myself with transferring to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.


My anticipation concerning the season in Philadelphia didn't let me down. The troupe was a very friendly one. Being together with my little, beloved family was also very much to my liking. Thus, this was really my first season in America when I didn't have to complain of heartache.

My mother and I were the top players throughout the season—the stars of the troupe, so to speak. Even the assignment of the roles according to plays and personnel also pleased me very much.

I needn't tell you that there never was the slightest drop of envy between my mother and me, heaven forbid. It very often happened that my mother played the secondary role to my top role. And this also never brought a shadow of envy.

I underscore this because in the theatre in general, it isn't news that one's closest and one's own should bear envy of one another. The Yiddish theatre is indeed no exception. Even if I have to say it myself, I want to underscore that we certainly were an exception.

Thus, that season we performed countless plays, both of the old Yiddish repertory and new plays. I don't want to burden you with complaints about the hard work. If you're contented, you can easily absorb hard work. Our family life at home would indeed have been very ideal if not for two elements overshadowing our private lives. The first, Lazar Freed suffered practically the entire season from bad hoarseness. That's a frightful state of affairs for an actor in general, and for an actor-singer in particular. Freed played very little that season. That's also a bitter pill for an actor to swallow. So, naturally, this had an effect on us all.

The second element was Ludwig Satz. My mother had persuaded Anshel Schorr to engage Ludwig. Thus, he was, so to speak, a begged-in person, one [who was] superfluous. This is a frightful situation for an actor with ambition. One feels superfluous, one doesn't have the courage to ask. Thus they threw such roles at him as did not make it possible in any way whatever to show his tremendous talent. In addition, every actor in the troupe felt more important than him; so that wherever Satz had a joke or a phrase that evoked laughter or applause in a role, someone grabbed it away from him at the first opportunity.

Satz was a sensitive artist. He was able to show his greatness when he had the chance to build up a character, to create a type. But they didn't entrust such roles to him. He had no inclination toward so-called slapstick comic roles, where dancing and jumping played the main role. But because of his figure—he was then a slim, emaciated looking young fellow—he looked very boyish, an aspect suitable for light slapstick comic roles—and they kept feeding him that.

The theatre's soubrette, strong and ambitious, practically dominated the stage in such roles and sort of erased him. Thus, for example, she would just lift him in her arms and carry him off the stage after each couplet and dance. So she excelled with the audience on that score, but she made Satz small and insignificant with it. He couldn't protect himself against her. He felt terribly unhappy.

Thus he once came to my dressing room before a performance. I would usually come early to the theatre, so that I wouldn't have to hurry with my makeup and dressing. He wasn't playing that evening. I noticed he was terribly disturbed. He strode nervously up and down for several minutes as if were trying to decide something. Suddenly he rushed over to the door, came over to my little table, and sat down very disturbed. He wanted to start talking several times but held back, until at last he sort of burst out:

"Listen, Celia, you're going to have to excuse me that I'm going to pour out my heart to you. I've got to unload to somebody. I can't say it to Lillie, she'll take it too much to heart. I don't want to hurt her. You'll perhaps understand better. I can't go on much longer this way. I've lost my belief in myself. I see no future for me in the theatre. Perhaps I talked it into myself that my vocation was to become an actor. I can't fight any more. I've got to look for another way of making a living."

I was quite frightened by the despair in his eyes. The expression of failure was lying all over his face. Being lost, being hopeless—here was a man who stood before an abyss. I began to feel that ordinary words would not help here. Besides, I had great faith in his talent. In all those foolish roles of his which disgusted him, I had noticed several times sparks of a great talent, signs that showed latent powers that lay hidden in the slim boyish Ludwig. I began to feel I must save this man from himself, from his own despair, from his weakness in fighting, from his readiness to succumb. I quickly turned around to him; I looked at him with wide eyes and, instead of showing him sympathy, instead of expressing pity for him, I practically screamed with reproach and strong excitement:

"How dare you talk that way about yourself?! You don't know yourself about the powers that are hidden within you, the great talent you have—and you're ready to give up right now?"

I took his face into my hands: "I'm telling you, Ludwig, your talent must fight through to its goal. You foolish boy, your day must come; they're going to recognize you. I have faith in you—have patience, don't lose your courage. Your place is in the theatre."

He looked at me straight in the eyes and little by little his eyes lit up. Joy showed on his face: "Celia, you have taken a stone off my heart."

He kissed me and left my dressing room smiling and with a light, sauntering step. He often mentioned to me that conversation of ours in his successful years and, in his memoirs, he openly thanked me for the courage and strength I gave him at that time.

This scene with Satz reminds me of an episode that borders on melodrama. If someone described it in a play or a novel, many people would consider it an exaggerated tale. They do say that life is trashier than the biggest trash. So here's a thing that happened to me that season.

I had my "Evening of Honor" on the eighth of March. I prepared Z. Libin's play "The Street Walker" for that evening. The picture you see before you took up the biggest part of the special poster.

About a week before my evening I received this curious letter in English:

"This is a young girl writing to you, a student from the medical university where I'm studying to be a doctor. Lately, I've had a terrible experience that shook me up frightfully and threw me into deep despair. I began to feel I no longer wanted to live and decided to put and end to myself. Wandering over the city streets, with these ideas in my mind, I was as if by a secret power drawn close to a pair of eyes that looked down at me from a theatrical poster.

It was as if those eyes were speaking to me, as if they were warning me, as if they were giving me hope. I was virtually hypnotized by those eyes, as if comforted by a friend.... Those were your eyes.
 


 

"I decided that before I committed the deed, I must first if possible talk things over with you, tell you what drove me to my despair. I have the instinctive feeling that a person with such eyes must also have deep understanding and the ability to get into a human soul. Perhaps it's rash of me to disturb you, but I beg you don't refuse me. I'm waiting for your answer , P. B."

Need I tell you that though I was considerably occupied with the preparation for my evening, besides the usual duties I had to fulfill in the theatre, she got my answer on the morrow.

We met a day later. I saw before me a fine, intelligent, lovely, and pleasant personality, a girl in her early twenties. And here's what she told me:

About five years ago she met a young man in college, also a student. They became friends quickly, and a very strong love developed between them. She saw everything in him that she imagined in her girlish dreams. She was madly in love with him; his love for her was also very strong. He was a medical student in the last years of medical school. She also decided to take up medicine, and she entered "Women's Medical College" in Philadelphia. Two years ago he graduated and was accepted as intern in a Pittsburgh hospital. They were officially engaged before he left. They decided to celebrate their wedding in January of that year.

On the way to the wedding, riding in his car, there was accident and he was killed. She tried with all her strength to live through that awful blow and continue to go on with her life, but it got harder for her day by day until she began to feel that life wasn't worth anything without him. She had nothing and nobody to live for. She could no longer live nor did she want to, so she decided to put an end to it. He was everything to her; without him she had nothing. She couldn't control her hysterical outburst.

I put her head on my shoulder and did not interfere with her crying. I only tenderly stroked her lovely black hair with my hands.

Her hysterical weeping took quite a while. I stroked her head and didn't say a word. You could only hear her heartrending sobbing. All sorts of thoughts ran around in my head as to how to be able to quiet her—how I could turn aside her despair—what truly warmhearted words could change her decision.

Her crying quieted down; her sobbing stopped at last. I lifted her head, held it in my hands, looked her straight in the eyes for awhile and, little by little, I began to talk—uttered these thoughts more or less:

"I understand your despair very well.... l can't console you that today, tomorrow, or next year you'll find another, a better one.... Those will be empty consolation words that you'll immediately feel are not true, are not coming from the heart. And I don't want that. You're an intelligent, understanding girl, and, if what you've written me in your letter is true, I want to believe you'll pay as close attention as you can to your circumstance and believe me that these are not just thought-up remarks, but words that come from the heart—because I sympathize with you.

"You have every right to feel unhappy and despairing. But it's not right for a girl your age and with your capabilities to think and ruminate, to submit to thoughts that the dreadful misfortune sowed in you. Now then, dear, listen to me. I'm surely not going to undertake to answer your big "why," which filled your entire being when you received the dreadful news. That "why" nobody can answer for you. And your extremely overdriven step, your despairing act, will certainly not answer it. True, you won't be able to think any more, you will cease to exist—well, now, is that really the answer? Forgive me, but that would be the act of a coward.

"I only ask one thing of you, let me have the opportunity to meet you at least a few more times. I know that in your present state you can't be expected to hear and think everything over as you properly should. At this moment your whole trend of thought is pointed in one direction.

"I want you to believe me that it wasn't easy for me just now to spare the time to meet with you. But I couldn't brush your letter off. So if my eyes on that poster could have an effect on you, I want you to give me the opportunity to talk to you a few more times. You must promise me that. My dressing room in the theatre or my home are open to you at any time. So I want your word that you'll come to me at least a few times a week. I know that if you give me your word, you'll keep it."

She promised me, and she became a frequent visitor in my dressing room, as well as at my home. During our continuing discussions, I didn't try to convince her that a happy life was awaiting her in the future, but I strongly underscored that, to get rid of such a life as hers with an act that was weak, cowardly and at the same time, reasonably bravado, was surely a sin both to herself and to that for which she was ready to do it.

"You could do so much good in the profession you are preparing for," I told her, "not for your benefit—but you can at least give part of your love to those who suffer and whom you could help as a doctor."

I began to feel that every new visit of hers was bringing her nearer to her normal condition. I felt she was beginning to accept my words gladly. In general, her soul knotted itself with mine, and she hid no intimate, hidden thoughts of hers from me.

In a few weeks she announced her decision to me. She had contacted several medical universities in South America. She thought that by tearing herself out of the environment here, she would be able to go on with her studies. Sometime later she almost gleefully informed me that she'd been accepted by a medical school in Cartagena, Columbia, in South America, and she went there—with the promise that she would write to me as often as possible. She asked me to answer her at least from time to time. So we corresponded during all the years of her studying there.

At last the day came when I began to reap what I had sowed. Thus, I'm taking out some passages from one of her letters1 written when she was about to graduate from the School of Medicine and Surgery. She wrote me that she was working twenty-two out of every twenty-four hours. She was satisfied because that way she forgot herself completely. She was finding much satisfaction in helping the needy poor in the free hospitals. But my greatest satisfaction in that letter is the passage in which she consoled me.

It was by way of the years of my being divorced from Freed, as well as disappointments in friends and colleagues in my theatrical career, that I gave my pessimistic viewpoint in one of my letters to her. And here is how she consoled me:

"Words cannot express the feeling of happiness that your picture brought into my life. I take your picture in my hands and look long into your eyes until I begin to feel you are near me. So I'm deeply moved that you, to whom are drawn so many honest feelings from your devoted fans; you, who awaken in so many people the will, the desire to work, to hope, to live; you who bring so much joy into lonely lives—you have lost the faith, the belief in people's honesty. You ought to consider yourself the happiest person in the world among your countless friends. To know Celia Adler means to love her, to sacrifice yourself for her."

And so I'm going to end this document of deep human feelings with a visit of hers to New York. My son Zelik'l was then about thirteen or fourteen years old. She had become associated with the City Hospital on Welfare Island in visiting here. She took my Zelik'l along to the hospital with her and took him around to the various laboratories and showed him all the instruments. She told me after that how he observed everything with interest and asked marvelously intelligent questions and sought answers. "I'm almost certain that in the future he will somehow become involved in the medical profession," she prophesied. So here you have, if you please, a prophecy about my son's future.

Just as the incident with the desperate girl indirectly came about as a result of the poster for my "Evening-of-Honor" that season in the Arch Street Theatre, so I'm constrained to report to you that my evening was a great  success, both morally and financially. The approximate thousand dollars that left me from the evening came in very handy when Freed and I had spent the whole summer at the famous Shostak Farm in Lower Jamesburg, New Jersey, a very popular place in the theatrical world.

I must also tell you that Anshel Schorr engaged Lazar and me for the following season right after my "Evening-of-Honor." Because Lazar played so seldom due to his hoarseness, I sacrificed a considerable raise in salary, which I would have gotten. Here's the way Anshel Schorr explained it to me:

"Celia, you certainly deserve a considerable raise in salary—you've earned it honorably. But you must understand that Lazar's salary was a complete business loss this season. He also doesn't know when he will be completely freed from his hoarseness, so I must engage an actor in his place anyway. But I must also keep him for the next season because of you. That's where your raise is going."

Understandably, I couldn't argue with his honest interpretation. So I was glad that the interpretation remained a secret between Schorr and I. It was very important for Freed's morale to know that Schorr wanted him and engaged him for the following season. Thus I accepted his proposal and signed a little slip. I was also glad that mother and Ludwig were also engaged with a raise. Another joy was added for me when my sister Lillie was also engaged  in her own right, not as a bonus to Ludwig Satz.

Suddenly the theatrical public and the small theatrical world in Philadelphia were surprised by a great piece of news.

So now Mike Thomashevsky came along with more news. He leased the beautiful American Theatre, which was considerably closer to the Jewish section in Philadelphia. Anshel Schorr, known as the "Bismarck of the Yiddish theatre," found out in time that Mike Thomashevsky was negotiating with Jacob Adler for his new theatre. Schorr immediately felt that such an attraction as a new theatre with Jacob Adler and Sarah Adler as the stars would be a very competitive thing for his Arch Street Theatre. So he left for New York with the decision to grab Adler for his theatre, even though he already almost had his full troupe for the following season.

Boris Thomashevsky occupied the National Theatre. David Kessler had the Second Avenue Theatre. After the fall of the trust, Adler took over the only left-over Yiddish theatre—the People's Theatre.

Both Thomashevsky and Kessler wanted to engage Adler for that season. But my brother Abe, who was my father's business consultant, did not want to allow that Adler should submit to the caprice of those stars. He therefore lent an ear to Mike Thomashevsky that  Adler and Sarah become the stars of his theatre. Anshel Schorr and his partners decided that no price was high enough to cut down a competitor. So, together with the famous theatrical entrepreneur Edwin Relkin, they convinced my brother, Abe Adler, that he accept the proposal of the Arch Street Theatre. Understandably, helping this was the price they asked, one that Mike could not meet. The price was four hundred fifty dollars a week for playing only on Saturday and Sunday; one hundred dollars extra for each performance at middle-of-the-week benefits.

That in itself is already a considerable sum for a theatre that already had a full troupe. Added to this was my brother Abe's salary, and that of a couple without whom Adler couldn't make a move. Those were the two magnificent character-actors, Gustav Schacht and Isidore Cashier.

When Anshel Schorr got through with the very good business with the Adlers, he first had quite a difficult job convincing my mother and me that we would not suffer one iota, heaven forbid, either as it concerned the advertisements, or as it concerned suitable roles. So we were preparing for a new season to play with Jacob and Sarah Adler.
 

I recall a considerable number of interesting trips that summer to the wonderfully beautiful landscapes of that area. Also there with us were my sister Frances and her husband Joseph Shoengold and Bessie Thomashevsky. Coming to see us very often during the last weeks was our well-known journalist and managing editor of the "Morning Journal," Jacob Fischman. We all had a penchant for humor, so our trips were extraordinarily amusing and interesting. We usually sat seven to eight people in the car, and we were having a good time. Shoengold knew many theatrical anecdotes. Bessie, Nyunia, and I not only grabbed up the theatrical anecdotes, but each of us would dress them up her way. It will be very interesting for you to hear this characteristic episode that was told by Shoengold on one of those trips and polished up by my sister Nyunia.

It was often one of Jacob Gordin's unsuccessful plays that Adler had put on. He had lost a considerable number of dollars on the play, so he wasn't in a hurry to put on a new play that Gordin had placed in his lap. As many of you know, Gordin was burdened with a considerable family, and the need drove him not to leave Adler in peace, to get him to buy his new play from him. Adler couldn't talk his way out of it any longer and agreed to hear his play. He had asked Gordin to come to his house.

I've already mentioned in one of my first chapters a woman called Ruchel who was to the Adler family what Feige was to our family. Ruchel mixed into everything and spoke her mind all over the place. That afternoon, when Gordin came to read to Adler, Ruchel spread herself all over the couch to hear the play. When Gordin finished the first act, you could read in Adler's face that the play did not please him. Gordin read on. There was a strong dramatic scene in the middle of the second act that still somehow didn't please Adler. Suddenly, Ruchel could no longer contain herself and, affected by the moving situation, began to cry. Adler immediately turned around to Ruchel, observed her sincere weeping, and straightaway directed himself to Gordin: "The play is mine. Ruchel is my best audience." He bought the play. It seems that Ruchel did Gordin a big favor indirectly.

The happy vacation was over. We went back to Philadelphia. As usual, Mother came to the city earlier and got a very comfortable house for all us, where each of us had his own little residence. Feige managed the home.

We had a common dining room. We not only had our meals there, but quite often the biggest part of our troupe would get together and spend the time there.

I needn't tell you that Anshel Schorr and the business managers of the Arch Street Theatre did not skimp on advertisements to let the people know that the great Jacob Adler was playing in their theatre. Philadelphia was virtually swamped with several kinds of posters announcing the extraordinarily huge troupe the Arch Street Theatre had prepared for the public: Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Adler, Dina Feinman, Celia Adler, David Baratz, Gustav Schacht, Mischa and  Lucy Gehrman, Lazar Freed, Mr. and Mrs. Boris Rosenthal, Moishe Silberstein, Ludwig Satz, Lily Feinman, Esther Waxman, Max Skulnick, Isidore Cashier, Molly Picon, Yudel Belzer, and Anshel Schorr.

They found it constantly necessary to let the public know in various ways how much effort and money they had to expend to assemble such a troupe for the people of Philadelphia. They knew that, despite their having been able to grab Adler away from Mike Thomashevsky, they still had a big competition—Mike had obtained the immortal Bertha Kalich for his American Theatre.

Anshel guarded his promise to my mother and me and, as you see, did not slight us in the advertisements. As concerned the roles, the wise Anshel avoided having my mother play in the plays in which the Adlers performed. But it happened anyway that mother revived her entire repertory during the middle of the week. As far as I was concerned, I performed only in those Adler plays in which I had an important and suitable role. Thus, in this respect, there was no family clash—heaven forbid—during the entire season.

But my father and my mother did play together in one performance during the season. It was the sensation of that season and again showed Anshel's wisdom in theatrical matters. He prevailed upon my mother and Adler that for his "Evening-of-Honor" they play for him the first play with which Jacob Gordin began his stage career. That was the famous play, "Siberia," which was a great sensation in its time both in the Yiddish theatre in New York and with the press, as well as with the intelligentsia in general.

You yourself can understand that the theatre was virtually beleaguered at that performance. The public not only came to see the play with which Gordin first appeared in the Yiddish theatre twenty -five years earlier, but also came to see the personal Adler family drama that would be enacted on the stage. I wish to indicate here for sentimental memory reasons that the first performance of "Siberia" was given in 1891, about a year after my parents' divorce. And here are the personnel and the actors of that very first performance:

Abraham Rosencrantz—-Jacob Adler

His wife——Paulina Edelstein

His daughter—-Sarah Adler

Levin, a teacher—-Sigmund Feinman

Fanny—-Dina Feinman

Samuel, a student—-Leon Blank

Saburov, an investigating judge—-David Kessler

Berl Taratutie—-Cesar Greenberg

Spendik, a waiter—-Sigmund Mogulesco

The first new play that season was Libin's "The Big Question." I consider it important to underscore here that, in his theatre, Anshel Schorr was boss of the stage. He went against the accepted method in the Yiddish theatre that the troupe's star had to be the director. Even my father, the great Jacob Adler, had to submit to Anshel Schorr's direction. Adler was quite content already in those years to have less work and fewer responsibilities. Anshel scarcely mixed into plays from Adler's repertory. Isidore Cashier, who knew Adler's repertory and his ways very well, took care of that.

It started at the time when nearly every star and sub-star had their sworn patriots who cared a great deal about and guarded the prestige of their idol. While this is an almost forgotten chapter in the history of the Yiddish theatre of about four decades ago, I feel I must clarify more what it was these patriots stood for. Now this name of "patriot," which is ordinarily bound up with sensitive feelings for one's native land, only partly expresses what the Yiddish theatre patriots felt for their chosen ones. Their devotion and loyalty were limitless.

Nothing was too difficult for a "patriot" to do for his beloved—go on an errand, carry packages , generally satisfy every caprice and, at times, wild demands that happened to strike their beloved star....

It was their greatest happiness when their star asked them to do something for him. Woe to him who expressed dissatisfaction or spoke disparagingly about a star in the presence of his "patriots" (buffs). There were very frequent wars, indeed physical encounters, between one group of patriots and another. This would happen especially when a male or female star would endeavor to play a role of another male or female star. So the "patriots" not only battered each other, but the stage would often get spattered with rotten fruit and soft tomatoes.

I recall mother narrating [a story] about Keni Lipzin's first appearance in one of Berta Kalich's roles as Ettie in Gordin's "Kreutzer Sonata." She came into the dressing room in despair, practically in hysteria, and complained to  my mother who was a co-player in the play: "Dina, they threw apples and pears at me."

So Mother consoled her: ''Don't be in such despair. You've been honored with "früchte" (fruit).

Mother purposely said it in German it should sound complimentary.

Most of those patriots were very poor because, being deeply immersed in their beloved and in the Yiddish theatre, in general, they neglected making a living. There were stars who at least showed sympathy and furnished free tickets in their theatre for their patriots. They even threw a little petty cash their way from time to time.

But you have to credit a considerable number of those patriots with reaching high positions in the Yiddish theatre, as well as on Broadway and in Hollywood. It will suffice to mention only the famous Broadway impresario, the great David Belasco's son-in-law, Morris Guest, who began as a patriot in the Boston Yiddish theatre, and our own Isidore Cashier, who had nothing to be ashamed of in his attainments in the Yiddish theatre—he also had started as a patriot. He was one of the "strong ones" in that patriotic group, a devoted fan of Adler. He strongly deified Adler and, in time, became Adler's closest confidant. Cashier practically became his bodyguard. Very often, when Adler met someone he didn't like, or of someone behaved impudently toward him, especially if it was a Gentile with an indication of anti-Semitism, he would tell Cashier to take care of him....

Thus, for instance, a scene transpired in the subway, where Adler sat reading a Jewish newspaper. Sitting opposite him was a strong Gentile fellow who looked mockingly at Adler. At last he stood up and cynically handed his English newspaper to Adler. Adler folded his Jewish newspaper, took the Gentile's English paper and exchanged it with his Jewish paper. The Gentile spread himself out, opened the newspaper, and strongly mocked the Jewish paper's script.

My father didn't read any more. He sat penetrating the Gentile and his mocking with his look. When the Gentile got up to leave, Adler got up, winked at Cashier and told him: "Come on, you're going to have to pay him for everything...." Heaven forbid that the fellow should have been disappointed. Cashier paid him for everything. He surely didn't forget the beating for a long time.

But Adler sensed a capacity and talent for the stage in Cashier, aside from his strength. He encouraged him strongly, let him play a role from time to time, promised to put in an application to the Jewish Actor's Union for him. He even came himself to the union when Cashier took his examination. Both the union and the Yiddish theatre in general drew a winning card in Isidore Cashier.

I cannot conclude this chapter on "patriots" before I tell of a very curious meeting of mine in London, around 1931. Before I left for Europe, a good Canadian friend of mine, being in New York, asked me to render his personal greeting to his brother in London. He obviously had written him about my coming there because I received an unusually warm reception from his brother and his wife. They once invited me to take a trip to a good friend of theirs with them. "We're sure you're going to enjoy meeting him."

And so I was definitely surprised by the unusually luxurious palace I walked into. My friend's brother explained to me that the entire English movie industry was in the hands of the owner of this palace. I'm really sorry I can't remember his name now. The movie industrialist had a very dignified appearance and received us in a very friendly manner in his indigenous London English. His wife, on the contrary, dressed up in a riding costume, excused herself very coldly to us—she had a previous appointment—and left. As soon as his wife had left the house, he hurried over to me and began talking to me in a hearty, juicy Yiddish. He told me that some decades ago he had been one of my father's "patriots" and was often an extra in his Adler's Grand Theatre. He happily remembered how he was one of an Oriental army, in a mass scene in a certain play. He had to stand very tall, his head high, and with the spear right before him. But he was so absorbed in Adler's playing that he completely forgot his pose. His head was not high, his spear didn't stand straight. When Adler walked past him in the role as the ruler, and saw him in his crooked pose, he slapped him.... He was happy to this day that he called forth such attention from Adler. He proudly boasted as he told of the incident.

When we were doing a few fast rehearsals of Adler's repertory before the opening of that season in Philadelphia, I truly marveled at the fantastic confidence and practically the respect that Adler showed his one-time patriot, Isidore Cashier. It took Adler a long time to recognize somebody. But the moment he noticed sparks of real talent in someone, he became his most devoted glorifier and helped him as much as possible and led him out before the broad public and gave him open recognition.

Thus a considerable number of actors in the profession benefitted a great deal from his recognizing them. Cases are even known of actors whom Adler gave recognition and devotion, even though they caused him much chagrin and worry. One of them was Gustav Schacht, that very fine actor. He was a naturally inclined revolutionary, often revolted against Adler, and didn't hesitate to speak his piece to him in the presence of the entire troupe. This, of course, worried Adler a great deal. Every time he was about to engage Schacht, he would be warned: "He's causing you so much worry; what do you need him for?" Adler always had one answer. "It's true that he worried me many times. But he's a good actor. I have to have him."

The fact that Schacht is his daughter-in-law's father played no role here. You surely remember that Emily, Gustav Schacht's daughter, is my sister-in-law, my darling brother Charlie's wife.


It was really from Lemberg that Satz was engaged for the 1912-1913 season in the London Pavilion theatre where Morris Moskowitz was the star and director. Satz was already showing there that he had a serious attitude to the theatre in general, as well as showing his respect for and deep thinking in his study and penetration of a serious character role.

Moskowitz had produced Jacob Gordin's "Elisha ben Abuyah," and he gave the young Satz the famous character role of Erica Abiyuni wherein, as many of you will recall, he plays on a little whistle. Satz did not want to rely on holding something on the stage that looked like a little whistle and that someone should play for him backstage. He specially bought such a little whistle and learned how to play the melody from a musician, despite the fact that he never had played a musical instrument.

After that season. Moskowitz went all the way to South America, and Joseph Kessler took over the direction of the Pavilion Theatre. My mother, Dina Feinman, was his female star; his soubrette was my sister Lillie. He also engaged the young Ludwig Satz. This wasn't the first time Ludwig met his future mother-in-law, Dina Feinman. He met her in Lemberg when she was doing guest appearances there, and he appealed to her to help him crawl out of Lemberg. And Moskowitz brought him to London on mother's recommendation.

Presently we were sitting at the reading of the first play, Z. Libin's "The Big Question." The comic role, a painter, one of Libin's characteristically soft, comical little people, was as if tailor-made for Satz, figure and all. He had to be a dried-up, weak little man. I decided I must do everything that Satz should get the role. No roles were handed out after the trial reading because they had not yet been written out. I awaited until the troupe left and was left alone on the stage with Schorr. I asked him how he was going to allocate the roles.

Anshel penetrated me with his look, and his wise eyes showed with a smile that he knew what I was driving at:

"You know, of course, Celia, that Silberstein is the theatre's first comedian; the role belongs to him."

I looked at him straight in the eye and told him very seriously:

"Believe me, Anshel, that I'm talking to you now not simply because Satz is my brother-in-law. I listened to the role very carefully and I'm telling you: you're committing a great sin against the role, the play, and your theatre if Satz won't play the role. You just don't realize, Anshel, how custom-made the role is for him. It may very well be that it's for your own good that the roles are not yet ready right now. You know, of course, that if the roles had already been assigned, I wouldn't talk to you now. I beg you, Anshel, think it over before it's too late.

"Aside from that, consider the contrast, Ludwig—a spare, weak little man who scarcely has the strength to talk—versus his wife with eight children, played by Lillie with her present considerably rounded-out figure. I see the contrast so clearly. That in itself will add no end of a comic situation."

Schorr observed me with his sharp, wise eyes: "You know, Celia, you should have been a lawyer maybe. But maybe you're right. But I want to tell you that I'll do it only to please you. I'm taking a considerable load on myself. I'm going to have a lot of trouble with Silberstein, and it won't be so easy for me to win your father over to it."

"Let me have your word that Ludwig will get the role. Leave my father's acquiescence to me. "

He assured me.

"Now listen carefully, Anshel, I'm as convinced of the truth of my opinion that I'm ready to risk your trust in me, which is valued so highly by me. So I want to say that if you're not satisfied, even excited, by Satz in the role, I'll consider it as my having lost to you. I don't hold my reputation lightly and certainly not your trust in me...."

Ludwig got the role. But neither Ludwig nor I had a moment of peace during the two weeks of rehearsal. My father showed his lack of satisfaction in every way possible. He could not imagine at all that Satz, with his boyish appearance would be able to portray the painter, father of eight children. So, wouldn't you know, none of Satz's modes of playing pleased him. This had such an effect on Satz that he really couldn't show himself to any advantage at the rehearsals—that's how intimidated he was by Adler.

But evidently an end occasionally also comes to troubles. The rehearsals were finished. So I want to say here that it was to Schorr's credit that, although I felt how much remonstrance my father had with him for giving Satz the role, he never threw it up to me. Presently, the evening of the premiere arrived. I knew Satz's heart and imagined with what a tremulous feeling he was making up for the role.

As many of you know, Satz was an outstanding make-up artist, thanks to his talent as a painter. Many actors told me that, standing close to him, they could not recognize which lines on his face were his makeup and which were natural. When he had finished with his makeup and dressing for that painter, he decided to go to Adler's dressing room, so that, if it didn't please Adler he would still be able to change it. You also ought to know that Adler himself had a big reputation for making-up.

When Satz knocked on his dressing room door and walked in, Adler impatiently and looking very strictly in the mirror said to him: "Who are you? What are you doing here?"

Satz stammered an answer: "I—er—I'm that fellow Ludwig Satz." Adler turned around to him with his big, pried-open eyes, looked at Satz and said: "No, you're not Satz; you're the painter, Libin's painter."

From that minute on Adler became Satz's biggest booster. As long as Adler remained in the Arch Street Theatre that season, Satz didn't have to worry about roles.

I never had to "sell" Satz to Anshel Schorr any more. He realized Satz's greatness.

During that 1916-17 season in the Arch Street Theatre, another big future star of the Yiddish stage tried hard to make it almost unnoticed; an adolescent of about sixteen-seventeen with a very childlike figure. She was used partly as a chorus girl and played a small role from time to time. Her mother was the theatre wardrobe mistress, so she counseled her little daughter to stand in the wings whenever she had the time and look at Celia Adler play. "You can learn a great deal from her."

I frequently saw how her big, shining eyes were following me from the wings. I've already mentioned several times that Anshel Schorr had a sincere and strict attitude toward the stage. There was often a play in which I had no proper role. But there was a small role in it for a young girl. So Schorr would prevail upon me that, to please him, I should play the little role during the first week the play was on the boards. "I beg you, Celia, don't refuse me. I have someone to play the role, but I want you to establish it."

Schorr generally treated me so well in his theatre that I couldn't refuse him. After the first week, the little girl played the role. But she didn't have the chance that season to show her subsequent greatness. Only a year or two later, when she had gotten married, her ambitious and theatrically capable husband took her on a trip to Europe where she became famous in a charming musical comedy, "Yankele." Her great success in Russia reached the American theatre managers, and the young Edelstein flew to Romania to engage that girl from Philadelphia; and he made a lot of money with the great Molly Picon.

She occupied the top among the stars in the Yiddish theatre for a considerable number of years. To this day, the firm of Molly Picon and Jacob Kalich is a great sensation in the Yiddish theatre.

But what is very curious is that, after her success in Romania, when I had occasion to make guest appearances there, a number of theatrical buffs, friends of the Yiddish theatre, expressed themselves in praise of me:

"But please to excuse, Madame Adler, it's remarkable that many of your frolicsome movements and tones of voice remind one very strongly of Molly Picon."


Even in the happy throes of becoming a mother, a leading actress in the theatre has to remember not to damage the theatre she plays in with her good fortune. I had that problem that season in Philadelphia. So during the last weeks of the season, they had to arrange things so that on the stage I stood behind a chair to block my not very girlish figure from view.

I recall how many of my admirers expressed their wonder that I, their beloved Celia Adler, was not guarding her figure. They mourned the fact that I probably gave in to my appetite and obviously ate too much. They advised me to provide myself with a better corset. One of them who had a corset shop invited me to her shop to help me in that respect.

Luckily for me, my pregnancy was of such a type that no one suspected I was pregnant. It occurred neither to the public nor even to the actors on the stage with me that I was pregnant. The last play that was on the boards that season was Kobrin's noted drama, "The Number Three Door." Thanks to this play, I had to entrust my secret to the actor David Baratz.

He, as my husband, had to lift me up in his arms in a very disturbed state of mind in a certain scene, run with me across the entire breadth of the stage in order to save me from a mixed-up intrigue. So I was very much afraid that something should happen, heaven forbid, although he was a very strong and energetic man. In the interest of security, I told him my situation and asked him to be careful both when he picked me up and when he put me down. I remember that, even when he ran with me across the stage, I would whisper: "Be careful, be careful!...."

My son was born a little more than a week after the theatrical season on the fifteenth of June, 1917, in Saint Agnes Hospital in Philadelphia, I can't  say that my pregnancy and delivery were difficult for me. But attendant thereon were irksome and also comical occurrences.

My greatest disappointment was that my father did not come to my son's circumcision ceremony. The excuse was how come I had named him after my second father, Sigmund Feinman—in Yiddish, Usher Zelik.... Thus, although I was already used to frequent non-fatherly behavior from my father, it hurt me very deeply at the time. There is something in motherhood that calls forth extraordinarily sensitive and sentimental feelings.... It was a temporary disappointment that I forgot in time.

However, a countless number of happy and comical episodes occurred around my becoming a mother. I got to the hospital four o'clock in the morning. Understandably, most of the people in the house were up and took me to the door. I remember my mother calling after me: "Remember, Celia, darling, I'm expecting a son from you.... And I called back: "You can depend on me mother. I'm going to please you."

When the news hit the papers, I got an endless number of letters and cards from the Philadelphia public wishing me well. Many wrote that they had made a holiday of it in their shops and factories, drinking wine and "wishing our Celia good luck." This was also written up in the newspapers.

I recall the impression my cries elicited during my worst labor pains in the hospital. Everybody knows that birth pangs are no small thing. So this thing I'm going to tell you about is remarkable. Usually, a woman in childbirth yells, "Oh, my mother" while she's having her labor pains. The word "mother" is long drawn out during the labor pains. So my yells and the tones of voice that emerged in the drawn-out word "mother" sounded in my ears as if they reminded me of Boris Thomashevsky's frequent unnatural outcries on the stage. The moment the pains left me, I laughed heartily about it.

It's very curious that I was envied even in this, in having a child. Our comedian Moshe Siberstein's wife was a considerably big woman as compared with me. So, as it turned out, it was two weeks after my giving birth that she was going to have a baby and had a very difficult time of it. She had one thing to say in crying her labor pains, "For heaven's sake, how could Celia Adler have a child?!"

I forgot to tell you one more thing. When I left for the hospital that morning, I didn't let them wake my Feige. I did it for two reasons: First, I knew she'd want to accompany me to the hospital, so I didn't want her to go through my rough time. Second, perhaps you recall that Feige, when she urged me to have a child, said to me: "All you have to do is bear the child and have it. I'm taking the rest on myself...." Since I had already gone through the pregnancy in good order, thank heaven, I also wanted the birth itself without her, if' possible, and thus to fulfill my pact with her, so to speak.

I began to fear that my life with Freed was on the verge of collapse, and I decided that a child might perhaps change the situation.

So I want to conclude my narrative about that season in Philadelphia by citing what the famous journalist and theatre critic, A. Frumkin wrote in a lengthy article on the occasion of my "Evening-of-Honor" that season.

He paused over the fact that I was leaving Philadelphia before the next season and tried to explain the reasons:

"We've already pointed to the circumstances that have for more than a half-season virtually put Celia backstage or let her sit in the loge and watch others play roles for which she was made and which suited her. This may perhaps have contributed to Celia's decision to say goodbye to Philadelphia.

"Theatrical life is full of such circumstances, of backstage intrigues. Actors tell of having to meet up with unpleasantness at every step, of the jealousy and hatred that reigns among actors, of the trouble that has to be endured from patent 'stars,' wily managers, and sometimes even from one's equal colleagues. The young Celia was no exception in this respect. In the few precious years she's been on the stage as a grownup, she's had her ration of unpleasant experiences, bitter frustrations.

"But her fate was even more tragic in a certain respect.... She was destined to be ignored by that which, according to all logic, should be closest to her. The one who had a thirty-year career behind him, the one who is proud of having brought so many actors into the limelight, who discovered so many talents—he was the very one who closed his 'Adler-eye' to his own flesh and blood, and his artistic eye did not see, as it were, what ordinary observers saw. The excuse was that Celia is physically too weak, too delicate—her figure is against her.

"It is indeed true that Celia is not blessed with a physically strong figure. That's why, however, she's blessed with a fuller measure of talent.

"It must certainly not have been easy for our Celia to decide to say goodbye to Philadelphia for the time being, to the city she surely loves, and to the public to whom she must doubtless be grateful for the warm recognition she received from it. Let's hope she'll be with us again. "

As the daughter of an eminent father, I am driven to tell something that has a relation to Frumkin's reproaches against him.

It happened a year or two before his death. He bared his heart in a letter to his elder son, my brother Abe. In expressing his feelings toward all his children, he wrote about me:

"I feel very guilty over Celia—of all my children. I never did a thing for her. "

I also recall our meeting a few months after that letter. He was spending his time at the ocean during the summer. So I took my Zelik'l—he was then about seven—and went to see my father. I wanted my child to remember his famous grandfather. We found him sitting in a wheelchair enjoying the sun. He was very sick. It was already very hard for him to talk. But I read in his expressive Adler eyes that he was thankful we had come. He constantly kept looking at me. There was an ocean of sadness, prayer and guilt in his eyes. He broke my heart. I nestled close to him for a long time and kissed the head that was once so imposing.... 


So the excerpts from A. Frumkin have already revealed to you the secret hat I was engaged in Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre in New York for the following season of 1917-1918. It's of course true that, generally speaking, actors are ambitious to play in New York, and I certainly was no exception. Both the prestige of the New York Jewish press and the New York Jewish theatrical world have the power to draw every ambitious actor.

But I wish to confess that I was really sorry to part with the warm public in Philadelphia and the heart-warming friends I made there in the two seasons I played there. Lazar was also engaged in New York as singer in Thomashevsky's National Theatre.

So we again spent that summer in Shostak's House, but not as worry-free and happy as the previous season. Both my duties to my baby and the after-pains of childbirth didn't let me hurry too much or indulge in the pleasures of a vacation. My mother was there with us, facilitating my duties of being a young mother considerably. My Feige remained with my sister Lillie in Philadelphia to help her with her two little children. That summer on the farm also helped Lazar to overcome and almost completely lose his hoarseness, and his voice and throat served him as well as ever before.

Before the end of that vacation, my mother hurried to New York and provided for us a very fine residence on Fifth Street—a very comfortable residence, flush with the entrance from the street, so that neither Feige nor I would have to drag ourselves with a perambulator on stairs.

When we at last came home after our vacation, my Feige had already arranged everything in our residence and, just as she had promised me, she really took on her duties toward my child. After that she never left me. She devoted herself completely to our household and to the child. It was only for my own pleasure that I would go proudly on a promenade with my little baby carriage on Second Avenue where actors and actresses were envying me over my Zelik'l's shining face....

I certainly preened myself, but no one was able to equal my dear Feige when she brought Zelik'l to my dressing room with her head held high for me to nurse him, just as she had brought me to the theatre some twenty-plus years before, so that my mother would nurse me. She absolutely couldn't get her fill of compliments paid my child by the actors and actresses in the theatre. She virtually grew taller and taller, as the saying goes, from happiness.

It was surely due to her that I acted like an old-fashioned mother and nursed Zelik'l on my own breast. But I had to give it up after several months because I became terribly thin, and my doctor warned me that if I went on like that, "nothing will be left of me. Zelik'l will lose nothing by being nursed in modern ways." I had to relinquish my being old-fashioned, and my poor Feige had to occupy herself with all that variety of formulas with which the child specialist fixed us up. And so it was not easy for Feige to follow and exactly measure out all those combinations that are brought together in children's food.

It was my fate that, immediately after arriving in New York, I was to receive a considerable shaking-up from the sudden death of Morris Morrison, an adored friend of mine and a great actor. No one knew how much he suffered from lack of wherewithal in his last years when his guest appearances had become rarer and rarer.... But it's remarkable that, although he was gradually so far removed from strict Jewishness, he asked for two things in his will: First, that he be buried in the Washington Cemetery, not far from Sigmund Mogulesco's grave. His second strong request was that his funeral be thoroughly Jewish. Both his requests were fulfilled.

His death affected me strongly. He had become very dear to me because of his heartfelt warmth.

Somehow my season in Kessler's theatre was a curious mixture. It opened with a considerable number of stars appearing as guests, among whom were Bertha Kalich, Maurice Moskowitz, and Keni Lipzin. I didn't do much playing with the guest artists. So it helped me very much in my young motherhood. I seem to recall nothing about my roles during the first months of that season. It was first in December that they produced a new play, a comedy by Moshe Richter, "The Two Grooms."

And so I bring you here an excerpt of a critique in "The Day" about that play, written by the theatrical reviewer Dr. Wortsman, who had come from California that year. He wrote:

"Celia Adler has at last succeeded in getting at least a bit of a decent role this season and she's convinced me that the paeans of praise about her playing I've heard so much about are truly deserved. She plays with charm, tact, and understanding. One movement of hers, a shrug of the shoulder at the right moment, expresses a whole slice of experience. And when she speaks, you hear a person who knows what to say. She really is the Bessie who tries to win her father to her side, to win her loved one, and not like one—as often happens in the Yiddish theatre—who speaks to the gallery."

Another reviewer spoke about a play, "On the Legitimate Way," which was a translation from English: "Celia Adler has succeeded in creating a new comical type of woman that hasn't as yet been seen on the stage. We'll have the occasion sometime to speak of Celia Adler in general. She deserves the highest attention. As a young actress, she is surely one of the most gifted the Yiddish stage possesses. Besides her innate talent, she also shows a diligent zeal. You can see it in her smooth and well-studied playing. Keen industriousness is a very rare virtue among Jewish actors."

I cannot point to great achievements that season either on my part or on the part of others in the troupe. But I have retained several memories of curious episodes that were directly linked with Kessler's characteristic traits. Much has already been written about how Kessler reacted to plays he didn't like, especially to fabricated contraptions he had to present in the theatre. I thus recall a play by Isidore Solotorefsky who was considered for many years a successful playwright for the Yiddish stage, especially because of his strong melodramas.

Here we were playing "Sweet Dreams," one of his melodramas, on its first night. The first act ended with such a scene as this: I was playing a thirteen-year-old boy in knee pants. I went over to my father, played by David Kessler, to say "Good night, Daddy" to him. Kessler was supposed to answer: "Sleep well, my son, and may you have sweet dreams." When Kessler repeated "sweet dreams" for the second time, the curtain had to descend slowly. So Kessler, it seemed he had enough of Solotorefsky's dialogue during the first act, speech that was very distasteful to him, and to my "Good night, Daddy" he answered, "Go to sleep, my son, and may you have sweet dreams." And suddenly he turned around to the audience and expressed himself in deep pain: "A sweet dream, a bad dream to Solotorefsky."

The curtain slowly descending as I noticed from the stage that Solotorefsky ran out of the theatre.

Such reactions did not happen to Kessler only in the so-called trashy plays. Such a reaction often hit him even in plays by recognized literary men. Thus for example, such a reaction also overcame him in Sholem Asch's famous drama, "A String of Pearls." Something in the play's action and in his role got on his nerves. It may even be that he himself didn't know why. But he had studied the role without appetite and repeated it in a very desultory manner. He never knew his lines.

It just so happened that, during the second week of the play's run, charming, polished lover-singer Samuel Rosenstein played my groom—not a singing role—in "A String of Pearls." When he suddenly took sick during Friday night's performance, they prevailed upon Jacob Ben Ami that he jump into the role at the Saturday matinee performance.

You can realize that Jacob didn't have the opportunity to study the role properly, so he had to depend a great deal on the prompter's box. Being in a bad mood, Kessler, as was his wont in such cases, kept breathing heavily down Ben Ami's neck, who had to draw his words from the prompter, so to speak. This unnerved Jacob very much. I sympathized so much with his predicament and was chagrined at Kessler for his unjustified behavior toward him. At the Saturday night performance, Jacob more or less grasped his role already and lost his helplessness. But Kessler, needing somehow to express his lack of satisfaction, didn't stop pestering Ben Ami with his famous "Well! Well!...."

In the last act in my role as Rebecca, I had a love scene with my groom, David (Ben Ami). He had to deliver a considerable monologue. When Ben Ami held me close, I suddenly felt like paying Kessler back somehow for his unjustified behavior. I began to beg Jacob quietly not to speak the monologue.

"Why, Celia?"

"You'll see."

And, sure enough, even before I finished my answer to Ben Ami, Kessler repeated the entire monologue that the prompter read out of the script. Only when he had finished did we hear him mutter:

"Somehow a new speech...."

Both Ben Ami and I felt a certain satisfaction that our plan had succeeded.

After the performance, Ben Ami got into Kessler's dressing room: Excuse me, Mr. Kessler, for what happened on the stage in the last act. I want you to know, however, that I did it on purpose. You worried me a great deal with your breathing down my neck, when you knew that I got the role only a few hours before the performance. I wanted to show that you who have had a considerable number of rehearsals in your role and should know the play better than I—you've been playing for almost two weeks—you know your role so little that you seized upon and recited another monologue but your own.

Kessler fixed his eyes on Ben Ami but, instead of angrily bursting forth as could have been expected, he grasped his shoulders and called out in his best manner with his characteristic expression:

"It's all right, my boy! It's all right!...."
 

THE SECOND GOLDEN EPOCH

During the second half of that 1917-1918 season, the first seeds were sown in Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre that led to a new epoch in the Yiddish theatre. I designate it as the Second Golden Epoch. But simultaneously with that also came the first push toward the finish of Kessler's career and perhaps indirectly toward his early death.

Although the new epoch brought me much happiness and joy on occasion, I nevertheless had more of chagrin and heartache. Until this day, when I remind myself of this most important chapter in my career, I feel deep pain, both as concerns my own evanescent hopes and the almost hopeless situation of the current Yiddish theatre to which that epoch contributed its share.

I certainly cannot think peacefully of Kessler's last year of travel before his sudden death. Thus, before I get to that chapter, I wish to relate to you two more charming Kessler episodes. Let them serve as a farewell, as the end of my sweet memories of those few years I had the good fortune to play with that truly brilliant artist, perhaps the most talented actor our Yiddish theatre possessed....

I had occasion to go on a summer tour with Kessler in Libin's "His First Bride," and in Gordin's "God, Man and Devil," greatly advertised with four stars: David Kessler, Malvina Lobel, Maurice Schwartz and Celia Adler. Kessler liked me very much. You already know from before that I laughed a lot on the stage. He was also very often in the mood for laughing and making jokes. I recall how almost before every performance on that tour he would suddenly ask me:

"How goes it today, Celia, with or without?...."

If I said "with," we laughed throughout the whole performance. In "His First Bride," the play by Z. Libin, La Lobel played the leading role. Her name was Freidl. I was Kessler's sister and my name—Bertha. In his role in the second act, he was to tell me that, walking on Broadway, he thought he saw Freidl. So he said to me, Bertha, as follows:

"Listen, Celia, I'm walking on Broadway and I think I see Bertha."

So I began choking with laughter. I had to answer him, but couldn't.

So he again said:

"I'm talking to you, Celia. I'm walking on Broadway and I see Bertha."

Here I could no longer contain myself, hid my face, and virtually shook with laughter.

The scene ended catastrophically in universal laughter....

We were playing J. Gordin's "God, Man, and Devil" in Milwaukee's Pabst Theatre.

It so happened that an iron bridge over a rivulet had to be erected very close to the theatre, and the riveting machines hammered very hard. They had to work nights. Have you ever heard the terrible hammering of a riveting machine?

The audience practically couldn't hear anything spoken on the stage while their hammering was going on and, somehow as if to salt the wound, the machines would hammer harder just as Kessler began to speak.

He had his famous monologue at the end of the second act when Hershele Dubrovner begs his wife Peseniu to forgive him, but he wants a divorce from her. And he concludes:

"Don't be angry with me, Peseniu. I don't deserve your honest tears. I'm much worse than you figured me to be; I know, I feel how hard it is for you now...." And he falls weeping at her feet: "Oh, Peseniu, Peseniu!''' And the curtain falls.

The machines hammered so hard in this scene that he was beside himself. And in order to show that the audience wasn't hearing anything he said anyway, he began to yell the monologue with which he concludes the second act of "His First Bride," instead of speaking the monologue from "God, Man, and Devil":

"No, no. I can't sing in the opera. My father and my sister have sold my voice...."

I was playing Zipeniu in "God, Man, and Devil" and, hearing what he said, I looked at him with fear in my eyes.... When he saw me looking at him, he called out: "Why do you look at me with your Adlerian eyes!"....

When I heard such language, I ran off the stage.... But he yelled after me:

"You can run out, all right, all right; but I must stay here and finish...." And he fell at Peseniu's feet and screamed tearfully: "Peseniut Peseniu!"

The curtain fell to stormy applause. Evidently, the audience really hadn't heard his words; they only heard him yelling and carrying on and no doubt they sympathized with him because of the outside hammering....so they awarded him with applause....

We were still in the middle of that last season in Kessler's theatre when rumors began to circulate that all was not well with the Second Avenue Theatre. Max Wilner, who played an important role as business leader and theatre-entrepreneur, was David Kessler's stepson. So it all started as a family feud. As a young businessman, Wilner was interested in the Yiddish theatre as a business. He had no feeling for the Yiddish theatre as an institution and certainly no concern with the founders and builders, among whom Kessler was such an important member.

When business in Kessler's theatre was very bad on the last few years, it went into debt in terms of many tens of thousands of dollars. There is usually a combination of poor income with poor domestic harmony in human experience. So it came to harsh words and to quarrelling scenes between Wilner and Kessler; and their antagonism rose from day to day.

The climax came when Wilner spoke up very clearly and simply in cold practicality that Kessler was a hindrance to theatrical business, that he was played out, and generally so debased him in front of his family, that Kessler slapped him in anger. Understandably, after such a scene, there could no longer be any discussion of further business deals between Wilner and Kessler.

The pressing debts made it impossible for Kessler to take the theatre over himself. On the other hand, Wilner, as a young businessman, was ready to release Kessler from the theatre and take on himself all the responsibilities and all the debts. The matter became public.

The theatrical writers held the public in suspense with news of the cauldron of theatrical politics for several weeks in a row: "Heaven and earth are turning upside down about Kessler's theatre on Second Avenue. David Kessler is separating from his partner and manager, Max R. Wilner. They're divorcing. Kessler is leaving, and Wilner is staying in the theatre, Mr. Kessler has been holding pen in hand to sign the divorce for three days now but hasn't signed it. They can't agree on certain points they won't reveal. As we are given to understand, the suspension is over the sign on the theatre. Kessler doesn't want to sign the divorce until the signboard is taken off the theatre; the signboard has Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre written on it. In other words, Kessler wants to take his name with him when he leaves. So he's still holding the pen in his hand. Meanwhile, a new play is being produced under Maurice Schwartz's direction. And so, new bosses, young blood now prevail in the great Kessler's theatre...."

"When Kessler quit his theatre, he was snapped up by Louis Goldberg, Thomashevsky's manager, for his own Thomashevsky's National Theatre with a salary every poor Jew might well wish for himself—five hundred dollars a week. So the manager of the America Theatre in Philadelphia came along and offered Kessler six hundred dollars a week to play in Philadelphia. He accepted."

"But there was another theatre in Philadelphia that belonged to Anshel Schorr. So Schorr didn't want such competition; he held a meeting with the owners of the American Theatre and proposed the following to them:—"Philadelphia cannot support two big theatres. If you pay Kessler six hundred dollars a week, besides paying the other people in the troupe, the expenses will eat you up. We too will get our head chopped off in this game. Here's my proposition: we'll give you seven thousand dollars if you will completely close the American Theatre and leave Philadelphia."

"After a little bargaining, they accepted the proposition. They left Philadelphia. Kessler was left with a signed contract to a theatre that no longer existed."

Thus you can understand from all these news items that Kessler sipped no honey. In the course of seven years, when he was a wanderer, he played in  various theatres—in my father's Grand Theatre, in Bessie Thomashevsky's People's Theatre, and also in Boris Thomashevsky's National Theatre. He felt unhappy everywhere. Kessler never told anyone about his heartache. But I remember that my heart was pained when I saw him occasionally on the Avenue.

In his wanderings in those years, he had occasion to play in a successful operetta by Thomashevsky. To be able to announce Kessler's name in the operetta, Thomashevsky created a silly entrance for him in the third act. Kessler had already reached a behavioral attitude of not protecting himself. He accepted the role. I recall how Jechiel Goldsmith described a scene in the Actors' Club for me with pain in his heart:

"I sat playing two-handed pinochle with Kessler. He was joking to hide the bitterness gnawing at him.... Suddenly he glanced at his watch, stood up, and with a smile on his face that virtually broke my heart, said as the saying goes among vaudeville actors: "I must go—my appearance is ten-seventeen...."

In that phrase of his, he expressed his heartache and his debasement more strongly than you could describe in a whole book.... 


Wilner recognized a potential star in Maurice Schwartz. He was impressed by Schwartz's ambition, his youthful fire, his great belief in himself, his capacity to make others also believe in his powers and to fire them with his enthusiasm for the great plans to be achieved by him. In one word—Wilner visualized the pot of gold in Schwartz as far as his business future in the Yiddish theatre was concerned.

Thus the moment he set Kessler aside from his theatre, he made Schwartz his right-hand man. He handed over to him the stage direction of the Second Avenue Theatre until the end of the season. Schwartz, from his point of view, realized that this was the opportunity he was dreaming about. Wilner could put him on his feet.

Everyone knows the American expression, "when opportunity knocks at your door...." Schwartz was ready when the wonderful opportunity presented itself. He had the additional luck that at that time good fortune knocked more than once at his door, and he grasped and utilized it with all his energy. Besides the windfall of Kessler's being alienated from the theatre and Wilner's trust in him, the chance of getting the splendid Irving Place Theatre for the same money showed itself. The theatre was as if tailor-made for an intimate dramatic theatre. With energetic fever Schwartz infected that theatre's owner with his far-sightedness, and he succeeded in getting the theatre. He stepped into it with decisiveness to show how right he was when he predicted to his young pal, Sol Dickstein, that he, Schwartz, would one day be bigger than Adler, Kessler, and Thomashevsky, all rolled into one.

I promised you when I spoke of Schwartz's ambition that I would give you my opinion about him and the other three. I can't state clearly why I'm driven to make this comparison. Perhaps it's because, during what I have designated as the Second Golden Epoch in which Schwartz was the most important factor, I often made the comparison in my mind. In addition, I've also been affected by an unexpected, happy surprise the last few days. I've received a very heart-warming letter from Schwartz. In his upright comradeship that very often comes over him, he compliments me very much for my telling the story of our first season in Philadelphia. He has also awakened in me a part of our theatrical dreams with his wonderful, open-hearted approach, dreams which later evaporated into thin air so gruesomely.

Thus, I'm permitting myself to make his letter public, and I hope Schwartz will pardon me. I have the feeling that his letter will enrich my narrative and will be of great interest to the reader. I herewith reproduce the letter from A to :—

"Hollywood, May 13—my lucky day.

"Dear Celia:

"Alfred Guldin sent me the article in which you tell about our playing together in Green Street in Philadelphia. I saw before me our youth and all those feverish experiences. It's remarkable of you to remember all the details, all the happenings, which I don't have the chance to remember or cite because of my difficult work in many branches.

"How fast the years went by!

"How poor we were, but how happy! Every minute on the stage was a great joy!

"How many hopes of the Yiddish theatre were destroyed because of those who ruined what the better artists sought to create.

"You no doubt recall the occasion when you suddenly let it be known that you were engaged, betrothed to a certain manufacturer and, since everyone was in love with you—and I perhaps more than all of them—the jealousy was overwhelming.

"Where is she?—What are her whereabouts?

"Turbulence and commotion prevailed until they found your address.

"And since I could imitate your father, Jacob Adler very well, I spoke to you on the telephone and yelled like him—What kind of a daughter are you to take a bridegroom without asking me? And why a businessman, of all people? I'm not satisfied with a manufacturer—I want an actor. And if a bridegroom, why not the young Maurice Schwartz? You'll both be a good pair like me and Sonia....

"'If you've already received an engagement ring, give it back. If you don't obey me, I won't dance at your wedding .... A. D. G." (etc., etc, etc.)

"Wasn't it remarkable that you were the only one who believed that it was Adler talking? We all found out later that you were playing a comedy with all of us.

"Best wishes for your good health and say hello to your Zelik for me.

"As always, in friendship,

Maurice Schwartz


I must confess to you that I shed a considerable amount of tears at certain points in the letter, especially at these lines! How fast the years have gone by—how poor we were but how happy—every minute on the stage was a great joy." Ah, how sadly true that is! What became of that joy? And again, "How many hopes of the Yiddish theatre were destroyed because of those who ruined what the better artists sought to create!...."

So I add, through my tears, another phrase—also because of frenzied ambition to surpass....

I also want to say here to Schwartz's credit that he imitated my father so wonderfully then that I honestly believed my father was speaking to me. Perhaps I wouldn't have given Schwartz my answer that I was playing a comedy, I revealed my secret, believing that I spoke to my father. The follies of young boys and girls—but how sweet they are....

And so I'm deeply grateful to Schwartz for his delightful little letter—both for his compliments about my narrative and for the sweet memories of the charming telephone conversation when he imitated my father so wonderfully.

And now about the comparison.

I played with Schwartz for many years, I also had the opportunity to see Adler, Kessler, and Thomashevsky in their greatest achievements, in their very crowning years and I think I'm not fooled or unjust in my assumption that Schwartz has also already reached his highest attainments by now. Thus my overall appraisal can be complete. There is no doubt about the fact that Schwartz's name will remain forever in the history of the Yiddish theatre. He wrote a chapter of theatrical achievements which are infinitely greater than those shown by those three others. But Schwartz cannot compare as an actor with anyone of those three. I believe it would have been a great thing for Schwartz and for his name as an actor if he had recognized that fact at the very beginning of his career.

The wonderful creations that engraved themselves the strongest in his viewers' minds were his David Shapiro in "It 's Hard to Be a Jew," "Tevye, the Dairyman," both by Sholem Aleichem; the miller in "A Secluded Corner," Nissen-Alter in "The Blacksmith's Daughters," both by Peretz Hirshbein; the little tailor in "Jewish Martyrdom" by Sholem Asch, and similar roles of this genre. Had he not fallen into the weaknesses of those Great Three that he, as star, could play anything, his theatrical achievements would also have been much greater. Those others could do it....

I shall again have occasion to indicate some more weaknesses that Schwartz inherited from those three.

About these two comparisons of mine—about his acting powers, about his enormous achievements in the history of the Yiddish theatre—I shall pause some more and strengthen my opinion when I consider the Second Golden Epoch in the Yiddish theatre step by step.

It was surely a risky step to take to open a Yiddish theatre on Fifteenth Street and Irving Place in those years. Our theatre was at that time centered between Grand Street and on the Bowery and Second Avenue. The established theatrical entrepreneurs, managers, and stars looked upon it as a wild venture.

"The Jewish public will not travel that far, especially without an established star," they mocked the young puppies and already stroked their little bellies with satisfaction over their prophecy that the whole matter would quickly burst like a soap bubble....  
But Schwartz and Wilner had the courage to dare, and as soon as the lease for the Irving Place Theatre was signed, they began to greatly propagandize and acquaint the public with their new deed.

Schwartz threw himself into the work with his youthful fire. He began to organize the venture with inexhaustible energy. On the second of March, 1918, in an article in "The Forward" under the heading, "Is It Possible To Support A Better Yiddish Theatre in New York," Schwartz gave his credo, his program for such a theatre.

I find it important to repeat most of Schwartz's article as it was printed:

"After two years of day-dreaming, I was at last able to get the most, the very best theatre I've ever thought about. A small theatre with a splendid large stage where beautiful, good plays could be produced and, most importantly, where there must be harmony. The theatre has historical significance. The greatest artists have played there. That's why, when the news came out that I've taken over the theatre for ten years (with the option of another eleven), I'm now being looked upon as a madman, as a daydreamer—because the opinion prevails that such a theatre cannot survive. They reason that those who yell for good plays don't pay for tickets but ask for passes.

"Besides this, there's another big obstacle against good plays of literary persuasion. The theatres are too large; they get lost. The batting of an eye is too small. In order for all two thousand people to see, you really have to shine with your eyes. A quiet sob gets lost. Then the audience and indeed the critic, who gets pulled along by the audience, says that the actor or actress has no  temperament, no soul, no sympathy, etc. In all the English theatres where good plays and indeed beautiful operettas as well are produced, they are played in a theatre of a thousand or twelve hundred seats. The viewer then feels as if he were at home where he can see and hear everything comfortably and can get into the mood of it. And this gives the actor the opportunity to play better because he feels he's being given attention.

"In order to make the theatre financially successful, it must first be a moral success. And I an counting on it to be a double success on the basis of the following points:

"(1). The theatre shall be a sort of shrine where there should always prevail a festive and artistic harmony;

"(2). A company of young artists who should love the Yiddish theatre and bring it to a beautiful state;

"(3). To play good dramas, splendid comedies, successful farces, and beautiful operettas. And if it's to be a melodrama, let it be an interesting and logical one;

"(4). Produce each play as it deserves to be produced and wherein the author should also have a say about his play. Have enough rehearsals so that the actors should have enough time to master their roles. Each play should also have a dress rehearsal with costumes and scenery;

"(5). The press and the theatre should go hand in hand and, if the press, the people, and the theatrical unions will give me the necessary support, I am certain that the Irving Place Theatre will be the pride of our Jews in New York."

And so, with his credo, and with his deep belief in his great ambition, Schwartz got going on the assembling of his troupe for the ideal theatre which he so beautifully and attractively painted in his article. I was lucky enough to be the first with whom he dealt; he virtually enchanted me with the beautiful colors in which he painted for me that fantastically wrought theatre of his. He wanted me as his leading lady; he needed me to help him. He felt secure with me. The combination of Maurice Schwartz and Celia Adler would be attractive both to the public and the press, as well as for the better young actors whom he intended to draw into the theatre. He had no difficulty coming to terms with me. He promised me that I would be advertised everywhere together with him, that no one would be advertised as lavishly as we two.  

He put that into the contract, and we signed it. I even granted him his request that I shouldn't ask for a raise in salary over what I had received from Kessler that season. I must help him during his first season—after all, it was "our theatre."

About a month later, he came to me with another request. Since he wanted to draw on the best young powers possessed by our theatre, he also wanted to engage Bertha Gerstin. During the first years of her theatrical career, Bertha Gerstin played in New York vaudeville theatres. She had transferred to the so-called legitimate theatres only during the last few years, and she very quickly established a name for herself as a first-class actress. She was the leading lady in Thomashevsky's National Theatre the previous two seasons. She also wanted to be advertised as a leading lady in the Irving Place Theatre on a par with me. He couldn't agree to her request without my acceptance, according to my contract. I certainly had the right to refuse it. Thus, he also had no difficulty in this case in winning my permission—"I must help him, after all."

Just as Schwartz agreed, so most of the theatrical people must agree that another person in my place would not have made such a sacrifice. But I realized that our theatre would benefit greatly from her.

It will be worth repeating here a conversation I recently had with Bertha Gerstin relative to that time. She told me that she very much hesitated to leave the established Thomashevsky National Theatre for Schwartz's dreamt-up Irving Place Theatre:

"I didn't understand at the time why he emphasized the playing of better theatre so much. I didn't know the difference. What's better theatre? If you play well, that's better theatre."

But with his giant strength and his great enthusiasm Schwartz didn't let go of her, especially when he enumerated for her whom he already had. All those better young actors with whom he would surround himself—young folks with youthful ambitions—"We will show them what theatrical performance means!" He convinced her.

A few weeks later, he again asked for my help. He wanted Ludwig Satz in his troupe, and he believed that I was the only one who could have an effect on Satz.

Satz had had huge success with Adler in his Grand Theatre that season. The Jewish press received him with great acclaim. Adler also wanted him for the coming season. Satz was very happy with Adler, and it didn't even enter his mind to leave him.

I felt that Satz should also be present at the building of such a new theatre. I believed very strongly in his many-sided talent and knew he would create his place in that kind of theatre. I began to talk Satz into it. At first he wouldn't hear of it at all. He was even panicky over the thought of leaving Adler. "Celia, I feel so indebted to Adler. He gave me my big chance. How can I thank him this way?"

I insisted:

"Listen, Ludwig. I believe very strongly in the new theatre. You will strengthen the theatre very much with your power. You owe me a greater debt than you do Adler. I am more of your family than Adler is. I believe I've shown it to you on many occasions. So I deserve that you place my request higher than Adler's. You may believe me that I also have your benefit in mind. You must be among the founders of such a theatre."

I also drew my mother's help into it. I proved to her the possibility of the success of such a theatre.

"We shall all be able to realize ourselves there. We're building a future for ourselves and also a new epoch in the Yiddish theatre."

My mother understood me. She helped me convince Satz. He gave in at last. And I again helped Schwartz. I brought Schwartz the news with gratification and felt that I had added considerably to the effort of creating the new theatre. My certainty and strong belief in the success of "our theatre" was greatly strengthened when Schwartz let me know several days later that he had also engaged Jacob Ben Ami.

I was left with a good esthetic quality about Ben Ami from the time yet when I played in Dymow's "The Eternal Wanderer"—his personality, his talent, and his attitudes toward the theatre pleased me greatly.... I was indeed delighted when I discovered that Ben Ami would also be with us....

I was very much impressed by Schwartz's ambitious act and his courageous belief that we, the youth, had the strength and talent to create a new path in the theatre, to shake off the mold that had grown on our theatre because of personal temptations that our first "great ones" could not avoid—to peel out their clean, shining legacy from under the thorns and wild growths that had accumulated in the course of the years and had darkened its luster and minimized its great worth.... I felt elevated that I was the first one whom Schwartz had attracted. I began to feel a part of that great daring attempt, was glad over every new power our theatre had acquired....

It will be worthwhile by the way, to mention something here that set Ben Ami aside from the rest of us. You already know from my story about the preparations for the Irving Place Theatre, that we looked upon it and hoped that a new path would be created—a more beautiful approach to things theatrical. But it was Ben Ami who directly sought to achieve and assure that the theatre would make a great effort to produce plays of literary worth. In his negotiation with Schwartz, he insisted on the request that a literary play be performed  at least once a week.

There was a lot of bargaining over this point. Schwartz feared that such a promise could burden the theatre. There was talk of playing a literary work every Wednesday. Ben Ami really called it "literary Wednesday." So Schwartz argued that he would lose money those evenings; he wanted Ben Ami to add something of his own to this thing—to give up at least five dollars from his salary. Ben Ami agreed—instead of seventy-five dollars a week, he was left with seventy.

During the 1917-1918 season, my father brought out and very often praised before the public in his Grand Street Theatre a practically unknown actress. She distinguished herself greatly in character roles. That was our very talented Anna Appel. Schwartz engaged her also.

Thus I really found joy and the best of expectations when I at last read over the names of our troupe at the Irving Place Theatre. I had the feeling that Schwartz kept his word and really surrounded himself with the best young powers the Yiddish theatre then possessed.

We got to work for the season with eagerness and diligence.

I recall the holiday spirit, the inner joy I felt going to the first rehearsal at the Irving Place Theatre. Every fiber of my body sang within me. Beautiful dreams, sweet hopes wove themselves in my mind. We were embarking on new paths that would lead us to a secure shore.

I read the same spirit in each member of the troupe when we first assembled on the stage. The joyful expectations could be seen in everyone's eyes, in the shining faces, a readiness to give brain and brawn to help make a beautiful new beginning. You could almost feel the excitement of seminal youth chockfull of energy, infected with ambition to proceed on their own new paths to a more beautiful, better Yiddish theatre.

Right at the first meetings and in the mating of new acquaintances I began to feel a purified atmosphere, a sort of elevation. It was an altogether different approach than I was used to finding in previous beginnings of seasons. There was an absence of banal jokes, cynical gossip, and sharp jests that always left a bad taste.... Thus, that first get-together warmed me, strengthened and encouraged my sweet hopes.

I recall that the usual approach to the pre-reading of the first play somehow weakened my holiday spirit. It seemed to me that Schwartz should have previously spoken to the troupe, to work us up, so to speak, for following a new path with faith. He didn't do it. He went right ahead with the pre-reading as was then being done in all other theatres. No new approach was evident.

The spirit for a better Yiddish theatre was expressed from all kinds of corners—both in the theatrical pages of the Jewish newspapers and in special articles by recognized litterateurs, journalists, and theatre buffs. Thus, for example, an article by Ossip Dymow, the dramatist, appeared in "The Day" on the eighteenth of May, 1918. I am citing from that article here:

"Something new, fresh is straining to gain entrance into the atmosphere of our theatre. The theatre public has changed for the better; many old, firm theatrical traditions have unexpectedly been set aside.... Many fresh theatrical flowers have blossomed forth in a short time and many theatrical stars have been snuffed out.... Many reputations have bit the dust; but quickly, almost without being noticed, new names, new powers showed up in their places.... Somehow with heartless but justified gruesomeness.... The lifeless, ancient things are going down and their place is taken by the new, the young.... That's how it is in life; that's how it also is in art. The public has suddenly become cold to things they previously enjoyed.... Plays that would have been well-received by the public two-three years ago have now completely fallen through.... And whatever has seemed not able to succeed has indeed been disapproved...."

As has been said, the above-mentioned was only one of the number of articles of that type that were written at that time. It was indeed a great help to our new beginning in the Irving Place Theatre, a worthwhile advertisement of excellent scope....Schwartz and Wilner sought to exploit this spirit and began a campaign for yearly subscribers.

Schwartz also had a plan for founding around his theatre a club of one hundred extras—of both men and women. Even a dramatic school could come out of this in time. The extras will be specially trained to know how to appear on a stage, so that the mass-scenes should appear natural and with a certain understanding.... The payment for their work will be free attendance at the theatre whenever they wished it.

But not everything went along as smoothly in the theatre as it appeared to go. Symptoms of the first crisis began to show themselves as soon as the first theatre advertisements were being prepared. The crisis got out into the open very quickly. Since my name was involved in it, I consider it my obligation to clarify the matter. As it was then told in the "Forward":

"The two most important artists in Maurice Schwartz's Irving Place Theatre are rebelling and are on the verge of leaving the theatre. They are Celia Adler and Ludwig Satz. We shall describe at another time why Celia Adler and Ludwig Satz are rebelling. The mutiny is very interesting; it is the star-system, a grievous chapter in artistic circles.... But meanwhile we shall say that Celia Adler and Ludwig Satz are about to buy a play by Ossip Dymow and have a go at things on their own....."

Well, what did the "interesting mutiny" consist of?! How can such an insinuation as a star system happen in our theatre that's seeking to create "a new path," "a new approach"?! Here's what led to it:

You will recall that I was directly responsible for Satz's leaving Adler's Grand Theatre to be with us in the Irving Place Theatre. When the first theatre advertisements began to be prepared and Satz saw that Maurice Schwartz, Celia Adler, Bertha Gerstin were being advertised more prominently, he demanded of Schwartz that he be advertised the same as us. And just as I agreed that Bertha Gerstin be advertised the same as me, Schwartz could agree that Satz be advertised the same as him. At first Schwartz had refused Satz's demand, so Satz wanted to leave the theatre. I felt that I had an obligation to Satz and had to stand with him in his fight. I told that to Schwartz. It didn't take long for Schwartz to yield to Satz.

Everything was agreeably settled....


Schwartz chose Z. Libin's fantasy drama, "The Man and His Shadow" as the first play with which to open the new Irving Place Theatre.

Although the play was far from fulfilling the hopes that were entertained for the new theatre, it is worth mentioning that the press gave it a warm reception and the same was true of the serious approach by the most important, theatrical reviewers of that time.

As the beginning of a new attempt in the Yiddish theatre—an attempt which changed its appearance for many years and which led to the Second Golden Epoch in our theatre. It is of the utmost importance to pause over it as concerns the reception the Irving Place Theatre got in the Jewish press.

For example, Hillel Rogoff, the present editor of the Forward, wrote:

"The Yiddish theatre has been enriched this year by yet another stage and yet another star manager. The young artist Maurice Schwartz has transformed the old German theatre on Irving Place into a Jewish house and has opened the season there with Z. Libin's serious play, with a troupe of outstanding young actors and actresses, with a beautiful production and capable direction. Of all the theatres that have begun the season with dramas, the Irving Place Theatre has made the best impression. This should impart courage and strength in his undertaking to the guest in our theatrical world."

You feel that in speaking of the drama, Hillel Rogoff was wrestling with Libin's none-too-appropriate play, and with his unwillingness to hurt the new beginning....

Rogoff speaks up in a very generous manner for most of the actors in the ensemble. Reading his appraisals, I recalled the sincerity with which most of the actors approached their roles. I recall, for example, that for my role in the last act as a doddering old woman, I spent whole days in several old-age homes studying all kinds of old women—their movements, the tone of their speech, and in what manner they expressed their abdication of life, their "it's all over."

"Ludwig Satz makes the greatest hit in a small role which is almost sort of tacked on to the play. Evidently Satz thought—you wanted to shunt me off with nothing, to give me a 'camouflaged role'—so I'll show you that you've made a mistake because I will draw as much attention as you, and perhaps more. And he's done it.... Satz marches right to the very top very quickly among the character-comedians on the Yiddish stage."

There appeared in those years in "The Day," a "Uriel Mazik" in pseudonym form who created a stir with his reviews of the Yiddish theatre. The theatrical world and also the newspaper world speculated for a long time over who the writer was who was hiding behind the pseudonym "Uriel Mazik." Thus it was a great surprise to many when the secret came out after a long time that "Uriel Mazik" was the journalist and storyteller Alter Epstein. Here is how "Uriel Mazik" reacted to the opening play, "The Man and His Shadow," at the Irving Place Theatre:

"It is certainly a great pity that a foolish, awkward thing should have been put on right at the very start of a new theatre, where youthful powers have been assembled and they being among the very best we possess. I was convinced from reading the theatrical reviews and critiques in our daily press that Z. Libin's last work fell flat. Sitting at home I, together with all other critics of the arts, also wanted to express my irritation against Mr. Schwartz for wanting to fool us with various sweet pledges. Also it wasn't necessary to go see how the thing was put on, see what the actors and actresses did because the opinion was clearly expressed that hardly anyone could do enough for it to be praised in any way whatever. So I sat home and waited for this terribly bad drama to be removed and a better one substituted for it."

"But it happened—the play 'The Man and His Shadow' began to get popular. The public was flocking to it, and there was no thought of producing something else. I got to talking with a number of theatre visitors, and they assured me that the thing was not really so bad, that it was bearable to see it performed. This was a curious thing to me.... Such a difference of opinion between the critics in the papers and the critics from the public is educational and interesting in many respects. Well, anyhow, I went to see 'The Man and His Shadow.'  I sat through a whole performance and couldn't see for the life of me the element in the play that could so enrage my friend Dr. Wortsman, for example. 'The Man and His Shadow' is far from being the sort of melodrama we are used to seeing from the kind of writer Z. Libin is. Indeed this last creation of his made me feel like the author wanted to rise up here and free himself from the foolish rubbish that he has fed us these last years. It is a tentative trial balloon to impart something worthwhile, and the writer must and should get the necessary recognition."

I maintain that these two reviews sufficiently brought out the expectations that were put on the Irving Place Theatre, and the good will to help the theatre to proceed only along the paths the theatre had promised.

But it really fell to Louis Hirsch, an English reviewer on "The American Weekly Jewish News," to underscore a piece of important news and a very big change that the Irving Place Theatre had brought about. It was truly a revolution in the Yiddish theatre. What made me wonder very much was why this had not been brought out by the two mentioned critiques in "The Forward" and "The Day." So I'll give you a verbatim translation of an excerpt from that article:

"This year, the prompter's voice, the respected, long-lived institution, will be missing in one Yiddish theatre. The Irving Place Theatre, which opened last Thursday under Maurice Schwartz's direction, permitted itself to commit this very sin against tradition. For so many years in the Yiddish theatre, we were used to first hearing the prompter's raw words and then afterwards the actor's words.

"Schwartz has surrounded himself with a glorious troupe and they already showed at the first performance that they knew their roles. This was such a surprise to the audience that they sat amazingly quiet and attentive through the entire performance. That too is something new in the Yiddish theatre. That's the power of a new attempt. Thus, much hope is put in that theatre. And a serious approach can be expected both from the press and the public. True, there are no stars there, but all are curious, enthusiastic and filled to the brim with clean, artistic thespian talent. And they are seeking to create a new path in the Yiddish theatre."

Dymow's play, "The Awakening of A People," was a considerable artistic success. Even this play didn't fill the theatre's pockets full of money. But this artistic success more or less assuaged the theatre and gave it courage to keep going.

And so I wish to be allowed to take for myself a little bit of praise and a few compliments given by Hillel Rogoff for my acting in the play: "One of the beautiful scenes depicts two children playing father-mother Friday night. It's been a long, long time since we've seen such a picture on the Yiddish stage. Dymow poured into it a full measure of his talent, and he was fortunate that Celia Adler was right there in the troupe at the theatre where the play was being performed. The scene fell into her hands. There are no words to express the joy which the audience experienced at the few chosen minutes during which Celia Adler enacts this marvelous little scene. She achieves a high degree of art; she's wonderful."

It was really a pity that the play didn't have the needed financial success. I liked my role very much. So, if I won't be accused of boasting, I shall express here a frivolous thought of mine. In keeping with my promised open-heartedness, I shall risk doing so:

The history of the theatre all over the world is rich in oases where actors and actresses become world-famous for playing a certain child role. Thanks to such a definite role, their career was assured them for their entire lifetime. As a grown-up I had the occasion in the course of my career to play some ten child roles. The roles were from close to ten to around thirteen-fourteen years of age. In each one of these roles, most of the critics, both in the Jewish press and not infrequently in the English press, praised me very lavishly, almost considering it as the greatest achievement in the art of acting, even though in the plays there were characters with large and important roles, virtually the greatest actors of our stage. My huge success has not especially enriched my career, nor the reverse, but each success had me wanting more....

The children's roles of which I speak now, I have played as an adolescent, myself even being the mother of a child. My reward for this extraordinary success was, as is said, the opposite. I'm playing parents with my little buddy on Friday night.

 

Thomashevsky and I in "The Eternal Wanderer"


Celia as Alie'tshke in "Gedungenem khosn"



My child role in Ossip Dymow's "The Awakening of a People."
 

The Irving Place Theatre also didn't have much luck with David Pinski's play, "The Crooked Ways of Love." It is definitely one of the great dramatist's poorest things. So I shall be satisfied with excerpts of a critique written jointly by "Uriel Mazik" and the famous painter Saul Raskin.

Uriel Mazik said: "Crooked Ways" is a very deformed play, written in a very lame fashion, and it made a very lopsided impression." Saul Raskin said: "It would be hard to imagine an actress other than Celia Adler who would be able better to express her sad state with her playing. The young actress plays with her eyes. Every actor mainly plays with one thing—one with his voice, another with his figure, a third with his mimicry. Celia Adler plays mainly with her eyes. And here she has shown her entire art—big, loving eyes, big, sorrowing eyes, big mocking eyes full of expression, fire and light and, more than anything, intelligence, a full basic understanding of her duty and means of portrayal."

During the time that the previously mentioned plays were being performed on weekends without success, a number of literary plays were performed during the middle of the week, most of them drawn from the world repertory. Thus, were put on Schiller's "The Robbers," Gutzkov's "Uriel Acosta," Bernard Shaw's "Mrs. Warren's Profession," and others. Ben Ami demanded very strongly in accordance with his contract that literary plays from the literature of Yiddish drama be performed. Schwartz told Ben Ami that he was giving him the right to put on a play that he himself would chose, "I'm not going to interfere at all...."

Ben Ami consulted Jechiel Goldsmith, and he proposed that he play Hirshbein's "A Secluded Corner".... We've played it in the Progressive Dramatic Club, and I believe that it is very appropriate for our theatre here."

Ben Ami, who was a sworn comrade and friend of Hirshbein, grasped it and put the play before Schwartz. Schwartz hesitated over the play, even though he didn't know it: "What the amateurs have been playing?...."

Ben Ami began to insist that he set a date, a Wednesday, for "A Secluded Corner." Perhaps I should be more knowledgeable of Freudian teaching to be able to tell how it happens that people very often fight unknowingly against their own greatest interest. Something of the sort happened to Schwartz.  

Everyone now knows that Hirshbein's "A Secluded Corner" and "The Blacksmith's Daughters" were truly the forces that led Schwartz into his long-lived career in his Maurice Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theatre. Schwartz sought to postpone the first performance of "A Secluded Corner" with all kinds of excuses. At every approach by Ben Ami, he had pressing reasons why it had to be postponed. But Ben Ami didn't relent; he didn't get tired asking. Goldsmith also encouraged him and strongly drove him to demand a specific date of Schwartz. Now, when I tell about that epoch, I've taken the trouble to and had a talk with Ben Ami about this matter. And this is what he told me:

"Evidently I was young and foolish. Although I had responsibility toward my wife and child, I nevertheless laid down an ultimatum: If I didn't get a date within two weeks, I would leave the theatre."

At last Schwartz decided the date would be Wednesday, October sixteenth. "I'm not going to play, and I'm not going to participate at all—do as you like."

We began to have rehearsals under Ben Ami's direction. Both Ben Ami and Goldsmith sought on many occasions to convince Schwartz that the role of the miller in the play was tailor-made for him. Schwartz refused, and Ben Ami gave the role to Boris Rosenthal. Our rehearsals were treated like an orphan by the theatre. We had to get them in between other rehearsals.

But Schwartz once visited a rehearsal, sat down near the prompter, Julius Erber, who was known in the profession as the literary prompter. The first act ended.

Schwartz glanced at Erber and remarked: "Is this it? This is a final curtain?"

Erber answered half in jest and half in earnest:

"Mr. Schwartz, after all, this is literature...."

It must be said here to Schwartz's credit that when he got to know the play he began to feel that it was definitely worthwhile to make the attempt, but his responsibilities tortured him with doubts. A problem that tortures every theatrical entrepreneur is to foretell whether a play will or will not be successful. It is known that Broadway would be ready to payout many hundreds of thousands of dollars to find a person who could predict if a play will be a hit. Very often, when the director and the theatrical entrepreneur are reading and studying a play they look, for example, for scenes in the play which will call forth laughter from the audience.

It was hard to predict that such a scene as the closing of the first act in "A Secluded Corner," that such a really quiet end of an act, shall call forth great enthusiasm in the audience. These feelings fought with Schwartz; his fear of a failure and his wanting to be one of the participants if it all turned out successfully. So we all welcomed very much the fact that, when a few days later, after he had seen several rehearsals, he informed Ben Ami that he would play the role of Chaim Hirsch, the miller. But he wasn't going to mix into the direction. But his doubt still didn't completely leave him. He rehearsed without enthusiasm and very often with mockery. It wasn't easy for Ben Ami to stick it out until the premiere of "Secluded Corner."

You've read in the reviews of Libin's first play, "The Man and His Shadow," which they praised the production very highly. Schwartz and Wilner didn't spare letting it cost them a lot of money, so that the stage would look as it should.  But Ben Ami couldn't do a thing to get some sort of equipment for the play when it came to "Secluded Corner."

There are three different sets in the play: the cemetery and the outside of the grave-digger's house, the richer home of Chaim Hirsch, the miller; and the poor residence of Note, the gravedigger. Wilner brought along a few old stage sets from his Second Avenue Theatre, and Ben Ami had to produce "A Secluded Corner" with them. He couldn't even convince anyone that Chaim Hirsch's residence should be painted so that it would look more prosperous than Note the gravedigger's.

Schwartz really argued with Ben Ami: "It would cost thirty dollars to paint a set. I'm greatly doubtful that the box office will take in thirty dollars at the performance on Wednesday." So Ben Ami saw to it, pained as he was in heart, that they patched up the old sets somehow for use as equipment. Thus, the patches were really noticeable.

Evidently, however, if a play has what it takes, the public will hail it even with patched-up equipment. And, contrariwise, expend many thousands of dollars on equipment, but if the play doesn't have the necessary magic, the most magnificent equipment will not make it a success. It would seem that a play without equipment can become a hit; equipment without a play—never.

It's possible that the hardships of the first production of "Secluded Corner" had perhaps lowered his spirits. But we did not lose our excitement over the play and over our roles on that account. Our instincts really didn't betray us. True, the theatre was not packed that Wednesday. There were perhaps fewer than three hundred people. But the excitement, the enthusiasm, the warmth with which the small audience received the play is hard to [deny.] We on the stage practically began to feel that an electrical charge was flowing from the audience to us on the stage with every sentence, each phrase reached the hearts and feelings of the audience. The ovation after the performance was such as I had never before seen. The joyous calls, the yelling of bravo all over the house as if the theatre were packed.

Most of the audience assembled near the stage. Those who couldn't find a spot there stood up on the chairs and kept applauding continuously, calling out the names of actors, and yelling excitedly. We stood on the stage not believing our eyes and ears. Some of us showed tears in our eyes. The curtain remained up for many, many minutes. They didn't want to take their leave of us.

Schwartz couldn't get over the miracle and stepped out to make a speech—else the audience might not have let us go. True to his trembling over his undertaking, he appealed to the audience to help us. "You see we took a chance and produced such a fine literary play. Tell your friends about it and see to it that we are able to go on with our good work."

"A Secluded Corner" was played twice more in the middle of the week. The audiences and the excitement rose with each performance. But the end-of-the-week plays, poor things, failed one after the other. So Wilner and Schwartz gambled and put the play on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. "A Secluded Corner" brought in the greatest intake for twelve weeks in a row that the Irving Place Theatre got that season. Even the smart Second Avenue stars and theatre managers mocking of literariness, as they called literary plays stuck in their throats, poor fellows.

Artistic achievements, countless songs of praise, and a very great amount of inward satisfaction sufficed for the entire troupe. A new epoch had begun in the Yiddish theatre. The triumph of better Yiddish theatre was truly complete because it had won despite all obstacles that stood in its path.

"A Secluded Corner" had laughed in theatrical practicality's face, as it  were: "You treated me like a stepchild, didn't let me come near you, didn't recognize, didn't take care of me—were ashamed to bring me before the public—so, to spite you, everyone liked me and now people mirror themselves in me. So may you all have a good time with it, those of you who believed in me as well as those who looked upon me with mistrust."

It goes without saying that we all felt in a holiday spirit. Every performance was dear and lovely for us. I cannot to this day explain the curious feelings that came over me at the performances during those holiday-like weeks. A sad feeling overcame me when the curtain fell after an act at every performance of "Secluded Corner": "One more act played, one more piece of holiday gone."

It's superfluous to say that Ben Ami and Goldsmith were the happiest and luckiest people in the troupe. They somehow felt that this was their personal miracle. As Hirshbein's personal friend, Ben Ami really soared to the heavens. When Ben Ami had written to Hirshbein asking for permission to produce his "Secluded Corner" in a professional theatre, Hirshbein answered him:

"I give you the rights to the play only on condition that you take upon yourself the responsibility of the production."

So you can imagine with what joy Ben Ami wrote Hirshbein about the enormous success of his play.

An author's talent and his personality are a theme that was treated very often and a great deal was written about it. The summation, the last word of most of those who wrote about it, is that it is in general more helpful both for a writer and for his readers that they should not meet personally. All too frequently the writer's personality and his enormous talent are strongly dissonant. This can express itself in the writer's bodily appearance, his actions, his manners, and his character in general. And it often happens that the reader's disappointment in the writer's personality takes away from him his appetite for the author's creations.

I believe that Peretz Hirshbein was among the few happy exceptions. His personality did not disappoint the reader and the theatre viewer. First, Hirshbein was a quiet, modest man, without pretensions. He often said about himself that people owe him nothing for having had the desire to become a writer, a poet. Hirshbein's personality and his image bore urbaneness, refinement, and quietude.

A very characteristic conversation between Hirshbein and another great Jewish poet is related—a poet whom all these virtues I previously enumerated with respect to Hirshbein also fitted very well. I mean here Yehoash, our great Jewish poet. I'm certain that all those who knew these two talented personalities will agree with me.  

As they sat together one day, Yehoash inquired of Hirshbein where he was living, whether he had a comfortable residence, and Hirshbein answered: "Such quietness reigns in my residence that I can practically hear a fly beat its little wings."

And Yehoash regarded Hirshbein with contentment and said: "The quiet in my residence is even deeper than yours. I can hear my neighbor's intention to hesitate."

But don't think that Hirshbein was a weakling, a docile person. He was very strict and cautious as regards his plays and his writing in general.

By the way, it may perhaps be worth mentioning here that Hirshbein was also very strong physically. I myself saw him take a half dollar between his fingers and bend it.

His strong character expressed itself in a number of his negotiations as playwright and journalist. It's superfluous to say that when Hirshbein came to America he was far from a rich man. Nevertheless, when one of the biggest daily New York newspapers proposed that he write for the paper and added: "The greatest writers who came to America all write for my newspaper." Hirshbein refused and added on his part: "I don't want you to always be able to say that...."

He also had his own approach to the theatre. It is a known fact that for many years stars bought up a dramatist's play and made it their possession for their entire lives. In the 1918-1919 season, when Hirshbein's plays suddenly became such big success in the Irving Place Theatre, Louis Schnitzer, who was the money power in the 1919-1920 New Yiddish Theatre, invited Hirshbein to his office to talk business with him. Hirshbein came with his wife, Esther Schumiatscher, the subsequently famous poetess.

As they sat in the office, Schnitzer turned to Hirshbein:

"You know, I'm ready to spend a lot of money, actually a nice few thousand dollars for selling me your play 'The Green Fields.' I would like it very much if my wife would have sole rights to the play. I mean I should like the play to be hers for her entire lifetime."

Hirshbein didn't spend any time thinking about it and responded: "You may keep on wishing. Come, Esther," and both left the office.

Well, as you can see, Hirshbein could take care of his own without pretensions.

It's also nothing new that Hirshbein was a constant wanderer. He constantly traveled the world. When "A Secluded Corner" suddenly became such a success at the Irving Place Theatre, Hirshbein was in Canada. When Ben Ami announced the great success to him, he answered Ben Ami that he was coming to New York. The news of Hirshbein's coming not only made Ben Ami happy but all of us as well, and the better Jewish theatrical public in general.

The "Forward" theatrical writer told every one the good news in the  following language:

"Hirshbein is coming for a bit of pleasure! Peretz Hirshbein, the quiet, modest Jewish writer, whom the New York theatrical world has recently had occasion to think well of, is coming to New York to gather pleasure from his success with his own eyes. By the way, I shall also reveal to you a secret here: Congratulations are due to Hirshbein; he's become a bridegroom in Canada."

That wasn't the first time Peretz Hirshbein came to America. He was here several years before, but he had no tie-up whatever with professional Yiddish theatre at that time. He came then and mostly spent his time in dramatic association circles. Hirshbein was until then generally little known in America. His one-acters, and plays were performed from time to time only in dramatic associations, especially in the Progressive Dramatic Club. Thus, it is perhaps worth mentioning here that that club indirectly played a hidden role in the New Epoch of the Yiddish theatre.

Both plays, whether "A Secluded Corner" or "The Blacksmith's Daughters," were written about especially for the Progressive Dramatic Club. This happened in a very curious and charming way. When Hirshbein became acquainted with the above-mentioned club, when he was on his first visit to America, the club performed several plays by the famous Polish dramatist Pschibischevsky in its repertory. Hirshbein didn't like those plays. He thought that a Jewish dramatic association ought not to be too anxious to perform such complicated plays, loaded down with heavy problematic themes.

In a conversation with Yoel Entin, that club's leader, he argued with him over how he came to perform such plays. Entin's answer was that there was an important reason why those plays were chosen. The reason was that there were few women's roles in them. The club's acting personnel had a very limited number of capable actresses.

Several weeks later, Hirshbein appeared with a manuscript and said: "Here's a play for you that's very suitable for your actresses."

He brought his magnificent comedy, "The Blacksmith's Daughters." After that, within a very short time, he wrote one after the other, this cycle of folk plays: "The Blacksmith's Daughters," "A Secluded Corner," "The Abandoned Inn," "The Green Fields." Neither Hirshbein nor anyone else had the slightest notion that the cycle of folk plays he had then written would create a New Epoch in the Yiddish theatre.

I don't recall the time that a play on the Yiddish stage brought forth such a furor both in the Jewish press and among the theatrical public.

Abe Cahan's critique appeared on December 29th, 1918, under the headline of "A New Play by Peretz Hirshbein in the Irving Place Theatre."

"The well-known, talented writer, Peretz Hirshbein, had written a four-act play several years ago which he called 'A Secluded Corner.' When the writer of this article saw the performance, he, at first, got very weak impressions of it. The first act and a part of the second act have more faults than virtues, and do not stand out with any special artistic worth. But slowly a situation develops which grows in strength and reaches a high state of such original, such dramatic interest that it simply creates an epoch in the history of the Yiddish stage. It's a great event in our theatrical life. The originality consists of the special zest that the simplicity of life receives in this play.

"Hatred—the enmity between two competitors-that's the feeling that's treated in the new play. Everything is so plain, so without novelty, so without notions, so A-B-C-ish, and yet it grows until it erupts like a typhoon.

As if pieces of dynamite were being assembled. It seems there's nothing to see, but from these gray, ordinary pieces an explosion occurs which blows up a world. This is a classic force. It has no equal on the Yiddish stage; we have much greater plays on our stage, but none of them have such classic force. The enmity is about their livelihood. A man who makes his living as a gravedigger is getting ready to build a mill. The township's miller gets scared at the competition, and a battle begins between the two families. The miller's son is in love with the gravedigger's daughter, and the two competitors will not hear of the match. It's a sort of Romeo and Juliet story, and the love situation is permeated with the battle between the two families. Peace is established through the plan that the pair settle in the new mill after the wedding. The miller's son would then be his competitor, and such competition pleases the miller.

"It seems that you've read or seen something similar to this a thousand times, and yet it grips you as if you'd never seen anything like it, as if you'd never ready anything like it before. The play exhales a rich freshness, no additional explanation, no additional artifice, no imitation—it's Peretz Hirshbein. It's his own soul, his own wine. It's full of the gold of artistic integrity. It's previous. It's magnificent in spite of all weaknesses and rawness. Bravo! Bravo!

"Maurice Schwartz deserves credit for producing such a simple play. You can pay him tribute with all your heart. You have to have courage to produce such a play. But the public adds new courage to this new production of the play. It would seem that the simple strength of this play will be well appraised by the public and, if that's the case, it will be a source of hope that good strong drama can be successful with us. The basic thing is that the effects should not be manufactured, no pudding made of marrow and whimsical raisins.

"The play has many raw elements. They need to be polished, smoothed out, refined. Peretz Hirshbein lacks the bizarre form of art. He also lacks artistic development, polish. But he has within him a strong artistic essential; he is as naive as a child. And in this childlikeness of his there is a real talent. Such a writer can only limp along in his technique; often the elements are rather too childlike. Therefore, when the artistic endeavor doesn't require any technique and everything simply revolves around natural feelings and the power of fantasy, then the childlikeness and naïveté are the essence of powerful art. The most important scenes and figures in the play are as if hewn from huge boulder rocks. Not planed off, not polished, big, awe-inspiring....

"In general, the play is well done, occasionally undercooked, but overall good.

"The role of the girl, the heroine, the gravedigger's daughter, is played by Celia Adler. She's outstanding, as usual. She often manifests the characteristics of an American girl instead of an old-world type, but she is nevertheless still outstanding. Schwartz himself plays the miller. He's an irascible Jewish man who yells all the time but whose anger has no significance—it passes and begins again, and again becomes unimportant. Schwartz observed the role well and he creates the type. One would want to have him show more artistically impulsive élan and less cerebral work. Nevertheless, he does create the type, and there emerges a fairly strong living portrait. One would also hope that Schwartz would at last free himself of imitating Jacob Adler's voice and artistic-speeching on the stage. Adler is outstanding; but to imitate is not art, even if you imitate the greatest.

"Ben Ami plays the hero, the miller's son, a young simpleton in love and hot-blooded. He plays the role well and he also creates the type, although he can't free himself of that certain Ben Ami tone which you hear from him in all plays. Overall, what emerges is a living piece of existence with live people."

Maurice Schwartz was beside himself when he read over Abe Cahan's words addressed to him. He had put a great deal of his intuition and creative power into the role of Chaim Hirsch and had created a living character. Both the public and the actors recognized his successful achievement in the role. So he was terribly aggrieved when Cahan reproached him for imitating Adler's tone of voice.

Thus, Schwartz dared to discuss things with A. Cahan in a letter to the "Forward." I cite a part of his letter:

"You write that I've created a living type in the role of Chaim Hirsch, and yet you say I shouldn't imitate Adler. It must have been one or the other, if I created, then I didn't imitate. If I imitated, then I didn't create. But I want to clarify two points. The first, that Mr. Adler should be at peace and not believe that my success consists of traveling on his ticket. And the second, the public coming to the theatre should know that I've only imitated actors at concerts for a certain feature, a lot for my own amusement, because you yourself, Mr. Cahan, laughed a great deal at my imitations. The thought of imitating someone else is not my thought at all."

Abe Cahan did not ignore Schwartz's open letter. He immediately answered his letter. So we'll cite partially from Cahan's letter:

"Let Schwartz take only his art seriously, but he shouldn't take himself to seriously.... The remark that Adler doesn't have to be afraid that he, Mr. Schwartz, 'won't travel on his ticket' doesn't make a good impression. Nobody will agree with Mr. Schwartz that Mr. Adler has to be calmed over his fear of Mr. Schwartz annihilating him. Not at all. Mr. Schwartz is not the only actor who loses worth, poise, and measure when a critic points to a fault in his playing.... Subject only to the criticism being written in decent language, a critic must be absolutely at liberty to express his opinion."

I've given part of the arguments of those whom Ab. Cahan treated superficially, as well as the exchange of letters between Schwartz and Ab. Cahan, because my instinct tells me that I owe it to my own six decades of being on the stage to reveal the grief and heartache that actors live through when they feel themselves aggrieved.

On November 17th, 1918, Yoel Entin, the very strict literary expert and critic of many years' standing, wrote as follows under the heading, "The Triumph of the Literary Play," in "The Truth":

"The Yiddish literary play now celebrates its greatest triumph. If anyone still harbors the slightest doubt that the Yiddish literary play can renew our stage, raise it from its inferiority, let him go to the Irving Place Theatre to see 'A Secluded Corner.' Our artistic wheelers and dealers argue that there's no audience in our midst for the really literary Yiddish play. So let all those who have the least inclination to give in to them come to 'A Secluded Corner.' They will witness the most blissful excitement that the idealistically enlightened and aesthetic person could wish for. They will experience that sympathy between the public and the artist toward which the noblest theatrical art has ever aspired. They will begin to feel that heartfelt co-performing between auditorium and stage which is the most beautiful aiming toward, the most glorious redress, of dramatic art.... it is somewhat difficult to describe the fine suspense, the deep joy in individual scenes, moments, and traits.... the most generous-hearted enthusiastic ovations at the end of the acts, even as the metamorphosed Jew was in Heinrich Heine's poem, 'On the Arrival of the Holy Sabbath '....

"'A Secluded Corner' is one of the happiest creations of Hirshbein's blessed pen. A Jewish 'Romeo and Juliet," an honest-to-goodness rural love story from one of those out-of-the-way little corners.... People laugh at every scene, at every remark, at the smallest expression and least mien: it's that hidden, inner humor that one can hardly suspect exists if looked at from the surface. And it has no humor outside of itself, neither in the persons involved nor in the comedy's situations—the humor in 'A Secluded Corner' gushes forth from its locale and because its people have permeated it, and vice versa."

It was a wonderful, honestly deserved, truthful Song of Songs leveled at the magnificence of "A Secluded Corner' .... And I believe you can surmise from it why the play created such an epoch.

On November 17th, Dr. I. Wortsman wrote in "The Day" under the heading, "A Beautiful Play Magnificently Performed":

"It's been a long time since I've had such spiritual pleasure in the Yiddish theatre. My joy was indeed great when I saw how enthusiastically the public received both the play and the actors. Maurice Schwartz can really congratulate himself now. He's brought Peretz Hirshbein to the Yiddish stage which has been so dreadfully anemic lately....

"The play is truly performed resplendently. Maurice Schwartz plays Chaim Hirsch, the miller, and it's been along, long time since he's played so well. Ben Ami plays Noah and it's not enough to say that he plays well. Little Henrietta Jacobson plays very well as the little girl Chayele. You can say that she's become an actress with her current playing. She occasionally reminded you of Celia Adler when she played child roles. Goldsmith was also splendid as Noteh the gravedigger. His makeup, his deportment, his bringing out of that type of Jew—well, it would be hard to imagine a better rendition.

"Celia Adler as Zirel virtually gave a concert. One cannot describe it—from her first appearance at the door, her stance, the way her eyes looked at the time. You have to see it to appraise it properly.

"Ludwig Satz also gave a concert as the old Todres. Until now, Satz has heard songs of praise about himself. But many feared that he was a one-sided actor. He has set aside all questions with his playing of the role of Todres. He's an artist of the first order. It's worth seeing the play just for his performance alone."

I came across a critique in "Kundes" during my research which I consider sufficiently charming from which to bring some citations. Someone signed himself with the pseudonym "Pif-Paf":

"To put it briefly, Peretz Hirshbein's 'In a Secluded Corner' is like an alarm clock for your blood—a Jascha Heifetz for your emotional disturbance, a Song of Songs for your heart, a wine garden in the desert, a white hospital for the Yiddish theatre of the Rokoffs, the Gabels, the Steinbergs, and so forth and so on.

"Hirshbein's 'A Secluded Corner', which graduated from an ordinary Wednesday night to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday matinees and evenings, has thrown back the vile calumnies of the Jewish theatrical mangers that the Jewish theatrical public likes to chew old mattresses."

I am now at the beginning, at the first stage of the Second Golden Epoch of the Yiddish theatre, I get the strong urge to tell what was said in such a variety of ways about the play and the troupe.

But my theatrical instinct has whispered to me that, even though every word written about that beginning has great interest for me, it can become tiresome for most readers.

Much was also written in the English press and on a very large scope. I'm going to content myself by mentioning a few writers here. You will understand from the names how serious the Broadway theatrical world's approach was to our new attempt. Just to mention a few names, the writers were Ludwig Lewisohn, George Jean Nathan, Samuel Spivack. It was my good luck to have the mentioned English writers pause very much over me and my playing. I often wonder if this was my good fortune. Just as it was not very healthful for a young actress to receive to much praise from Yiddish reviewers for her work in the old Yiddish theatre, so it was also perhaps not very good for me to receive in the new theatre those extraordinary songs of praise in the English press....

I hope I've succeeded in imparting to you at least a portion of the excitement that our beautiful beginning at the Irving Place Theatre called forth among the better Jewish theatrical public. According to all logic, a theatre that called forth so much notice, so much praise, recognition for everyone, should according to all human logic, have experienced an honest-to-goodness familial harmony, a happy contentment among all, both in the theatre itself and especially on the stage.

To my great sorrow and deepest disappointment, it was not like that at all. Evidently, the weaknesses and temptations that misled the great ones in the first generation also transferred in part to us. It became harder and harder to endure the atmosphere in the theatre and especially on the stage from performance to performance. There began a sort of race to upstage, to run after laughter, to pull for applause. True, the old star-owner who did this by force was missing here, but the result was practically the same. Enemies were made practically without a reason.

I will decidedly not separate myself from those who sinned. I only know that my sins were surely no worse than the sins of others. But my heartache was enormously deeper than that of the others. An illusion that fed me throughout the long weeks and months of our preparation for our new path in the theatre evanesced within me. I hoped and believed that the theatre would become our home, that the troupe would build and create for many long years.... There would be no star-owner who only had himself in mind.... It would be all for one and one for all.... The theatre would be the one and only thing.... Thus, my disappointment was very bitter.

Understandably, the relationship between Schwartz and me was not improved. A much more serious matter came along that perhaps poured oil on the fire, as the saying goes.

About that time, negotiations began over opening a new, better theatre with Louis Schnitzer as the money power. After a time of quiet negotiations between Schnitzer, Ben Ami, Goldsmith and me, the news got out into the open. I shall tell more about this in my later chapters.

It's easy to imagine that the competition of a new, better theatre worried Schwartz more than anyone else. Perhaps he was also worried that the new theatre was already credited with two of his actresses, Anna Appel and I, and two actors, Ben Ami and Goldsmith. Schwartz never went over the matter with us directly. But the matter began to play a big role at the performance of "A Secluded Corner." Hirshbein's innocent, simple prose, to be spoken by plain people, was pointed in the actors' mouths toward the founding of the hew theatre.

In the fourth act, Chaim Hirsch (Schwartz) argues with his son Noah, (Ben Ami) why he's in love with Zirele, the gravedigger's daughter (Celia Adler). But arguments between Schwartz and Ben Ami eventuated. For instance, Schwartz yelled, "Tell me, who is she?" The implication was how come Ben Ami had attracted Celia Adler (Zirel) to the new theatre....

And suddenly he yells. "I no longer want you as my child...," and the son answers: "Maybe you'll get along better without me...." These were also arguments between Schwartz and Ben Ami.

In the fourth act, the old "Todres" (Ludwig Satz) comes along insisting on making peace. When the old man turns his face to the window, Chaim Hirsch says to his wife: "What in the world does the girl want of me?...," meaning me, Zirel.

Todres answers this. "The girl is dearer to me than you and your mill put together."

But Satz put into the answer a deeper connotation by using movement and mimicry which we on the stage clearly understood as his really saying to him: "Celia Adler is dearer to me than you and your whole theatre put together...."

 

Through the prose spoken by Hirshbein's heroes, the relationship between Schwartz and us became even more strained.

I was getting ready for my "Evening of Honor" at about that time, a provision I had in my contract. I didn't even propose to him that he participate in my performance.

I picked out a play on my own responsibility. It was a magnificent comedy by the great German dramatist, Hermann Sudermann, which became world famous thanks to the brilliant Russian actress Komisarzhevskaya.

What did Schwartz's getting things off his chest at me consist of?

The custom in those days was that when a troupe member had an "Evening of Honor," a big sign was posted at the theatre weeks ahead of time announcing the date and the play of the evening involved. The bigness of the special sign depended on the status that the actor involved held in the theatre. There was a special supplement about the performance added onto both the newspaper announcements and the weekly advertisements—and it ran for a generous number of weeks. In those years, when the Yiddish theatre was an important adjunct of Jewish life in New York, these special announcements and notices were a big help in making the "Evening of Honor" a financial success, especially for leading players in the theatre. I was cheated in one way or another of the sign in the lobby and of all those other privileges. Understandably, I was in great spiritual pain because of it, and I trembled greatly over the possibility that my Evening would suffer on account of it.

I was never among those actresses who were connected with organizations and individuals that lent a hand at an actor's "Evening of Honor." I relied completely on the notices in the newspapers and on the advertisements to bring the public to the box office. To my happy surprise, the theatre was filled to the rafters.

But it was not entirely a miracle. I've already mentioned in my story that I'm eternally grateful to the Jewishness. It has always treated me very well.

Before that evening, there appeared several times practically in every newspaper considerable notices and longer articles under all sorts of names and pseudonyms about my coming "Evening of Honor." Doing research in the Jewish newspapers of that time, I honestly admired with how much warmth of heart and love the Jewish newspapers wrote about my Evening beforehand, and I can't understand to this day how, despite the hindrances from the theatrical management, my Evening nevertheless got so much publicity.

Without considering the accusations of "that crafty actress," I must yet emphasize that the longer articles were written under names that are still unknown to me to this day. For example, several days before my Evening, someone wrote under the nickname of M. Grim and, although he accused me of things with which I generally was not in agreement, I consider it worthwhile to pass on to you several citations of his charm:

"A small, almost miniature girlish figure, curvaceous and vivacious, with slender hands, a slender neck, a little head, with large eyes, and a prominent nose—Celia Adler (so my prominent nose is also a virtue.) She is still very good in the roles of little children. She just has to put on a short, little dress, let her hands drop helplessly, and even her basic voice doesn't interfere with giving the impression of a little girl. But in grown-up roles, the little dress becomes longer, the sleeves cover the arms up to the fist, the head rises, the figure becomes slimmer, and the little girl is transformed into a grown-up woman, conscious of her own status.... Whether in the case of the little girl or in the miniature self-righteously conscious woman, the eyes are still strongly visible, large, wise eyes, that never cloud over and always remain wise.... It often seems that Celia Adler's greatest fault also lies in the wisdom and clarity of those eyes.... Celia Adler knows.... She knows that she's brainy, she knows she's talented, she knows she can, she knows that eyes watch and admire her.... " (Oh, my, how well off I'd be if I possessed all he attributes to me. I wouldn't even consider it a fault.)

"Occasionally it seems that she impresses her own self, falls in love with herself, and can't keep from saying to herself: Celia., how smart and talented you are; she will forgive us, this wondrous Celia, that her major fault is being spoken of right at the time of her 'Evening of Honor'—you can only talk this way about actors toward whom you're not nonchalant.... And not being indifferent is the least one can allow oneself to say openly: (I haven't the heart to argue with someone who admits he's in love with me. Dear Mr. Grim, you are nevertheless incorrect in my being in love with myself.)

As has been said, much was written before my Evening and after my Evening, so we shall yet return to it. But now I wish to impart to you my own impression of that Evening of mine, which, for many reasons, was chock-full of drama, of upright friendship, and of false theatrical interplay. And since the unknown Mr. Grim stamped me as smart, I shall carry out what they ascribe to smart people and tell all in the order of their importance. First, the drama.

Not only the stage but the entire audience was overcome by a suspenseful drama played out in the loges of both sides of the auditorium. In the loge on the right side of the stage were sitting my father and my sister Julia. I needn't tell you that no sooner did my father's graceful, silver-white head show itself, he drew everyone's attention, especially in the case of a Jewish theatrical audience. This time, however, all the attention didn't fall only on him because, in the loge of the left side of the stage were sitting my mother and my sister Lillie, and throughout the entire performance. Both when the curtain was up and the play was on, and certainly during the intermissions, an electrical current flowed from the audience to the right and left loges.

In those years, the theatrical audiences not only knew and loved their great actors, but they more or less knew the family mix-ups in which their beloved actors were involved. The family mix-up of my parents, Jacob Adler and Dina Feinman, lay deep in the hearts of the theatre public of that time. Neither my father and certainly not my mother showed any signs of bad feeling in any form of expression or looks one for the other, heaven forbid. But the audience tried to find signs of their family confusion with its urgent, searching looks.

A curious bliss, a thoroughgoing heartfelt sympathy and elevation, a satisfaction of having the good fortune to witness this quiet drama that filled the theatre and extended from both loges to the stage, and from the audience to all three, dominated the audience.

This repeated itself at the end of each act when my father and my mother imparted to me their hearty applause from their loges and sent me their love with their eyes—expressed their satisfaction with their daughter.

The end of this quiet drama in the theatre came at the conclusion of the third act, when the curtain remained up and when they began the ceremony of greeting and handing out gifts and flowers to the beneficiary. The stage practically changed into a flower garden very rapidly. And it fell to Eli Tenenholtz's lot to go on with the ceremony.

A new way, a new approach also eventuated at the ceremony of heaping honors upon the celebrant of the evening. The stage was transformed into a speech-making platform on which colleague actors expressed their feelings to the beneficiary. Eli Tenenholtz saw that part of the ceremony through with great talent and intelligence.

I am constrained to say that, under normal circumstances, Schwartz would no doubt have carried on the ceremony as director of the troupe. But under the circumstances that existed we weren't sure if Schwartz would even show up on the stage on my Evening. I know that I didn't expect it. But Schwartz has a healthy instinct for such things, and when he began to sense the dramatic tension mastering the audience in the theatre thanks to the presence of my parents, he attired himself in his very best, ordered a magnificent little flower basket, and showed up backstage at the beginning of the ceremony.

So Tenenholtz was in a quandary. He knew the relationship between Schwartz and me; but he felt that Schwartz had to be introduced. He was looking for an appropriate opportunity.

And so, many heart-warming words were said to me and about me by a number of the troupe's members. My brother-in-law, Ludwig Satz, left quite a surprising impression both with his intimately heart-warming few words and with the original gift he provided for me. He cleverly concealed the two or three cut-out little holes in a closed little box, he held and, in a moment, as he spoke to me of his suitable gift, he opened the box with a flair, and two pure-white doves flew out into the theatrical hall. The exclamations of wonder and dumbfoundedness expressed the joyous surprise of all the public. It was a very magnificent, touching scene....

Tenenholtz's theatrical instinct told him to introduce my parents as a climax at the very end of the ceremony. He introduced Schwartz before them. So I want to indicate a feeling that overcame me when I saw Schwartz all dressed up, holding a little flower basket in his hand, knowing that both he and I would be forced to play a lot of false theatricality before the audience....

And now here was the scene of false theatrics. Schwartz paid me many colleagues compliments in the most beautiful flowery language, and I accepted them with a put-on, happy-smile expression and with the same smile took from him the flowers and a check he handed me as a gift of the management of the theatre.

Meanwhile, after Schwartz's speech, Tenenholtz introduced my parents with a few appropriate, very heart-warming words, with a lot of reverence, and asked them to came to the stage. My language is not rich enough, and I don't know if there are suitable words in the world that could paint the scene on the stage when my parents embraced me with true parental love—and words that could certainly not impart the self-disciplined, warm-hearted response of the audience and, especially, the trembling of my heart when, perhaps for the first time in my life as a grown-up, my parents embraced and kissed me simultaneously. If you understand between-the-lines language, you will perhaps find more here between the lines than in the lines [themselves]....

Understandably, my father expressed his satisfaction and his admiration of my attainments in his theatrical Adlerian fashion. He even indicated that I had reached the high position I held in the theatre all by myself, without his help. But it remained for my mother to be the one whose words made both those of us on the stage and the entire audience catch our breath for a moment. She only said nine words, but she touched the very depths that can hide in a human soul with these few words. And the words were indeed true. And it is a percept, isn't it, that words that come from the heart go to the heart. She said: "We, my child, we're descending, but you are ascending ...." It was a wonderful conclusion to the ceremony....

Much was written about that Evening of mine, both as concerned the play and the performing of it and the drama in the theatre, I shall perhaps return to this later. But an indication of the already mentioned M. Grim and his appraisal of my Evening was that he made a side remark about which I have much to say. He said: "Here is a piece, and a very splendid piece at that, which could have a run in the Yiddish theatre. But whether its first performance will not be its last—that only the director of the Irving Place Theatre knows."

You will doubtless not find in the records of the Yiddish theatre that I was ever again in a performance of the play.

I am led by my feeling for truth and justice to exculpate Maurice Schwartz, the director of the Irving Place Theatre to this. He indeed wanted to put the play on again, right during the second week. Only a few days after my performance, at a rehearsal on the stage, Schwartz enumerated the repertory that would be played the second week and decided that, on Thursday of that week, as a benefit performance for political exiles, he would put on "The Battle of the Butterflies." Right or wrong, I was peeved at Schwartz for not asking me about it before promising to put on the play. I refused to perform in the play.

I'm indeed sorry now, when I think of it, that I robbed myself of having in my repertory such a magnificent comedy as "The Battle of the Butterflies," and such an outstanding role as is found in it for me. My spitefulness over Schwartz misled me into not considering that side of the situation. Thus M. Grim's prophecy that the first performance of "The Battle of the Butterflies" would also be the last was just about fulfilled.

But Schwartz, the director of the Irving Place Theatre, was not guilty. The guilt was mine.... I hope that the unknown M. Grim, or the one hidden behind that name, will gain satisfaction from knowing who was guilty.

I hope I've succeeded in imparting to you be mood in the theatre on my "Evening of Honor." But besides me, other professional writers also gave their impression of the drama and the mood that reigned over the audience in the theatre. My parents' presence goads me into giving you some citations about the matter. I'm terribly sorry that I shall have to give you a wonderful citation from an appraisal of the Evening, but that I cannot give you either the name of its writer nor even the name of the newspaper because the excerpt is old and falling apart. But I'm sure you'll agree with me that the citation is worth making.

I cite: "The real drama that brought tears and happiness, hope, and all sorts of thoughts about people and things, occurred after the third act at the celebration of beneficiary Celia Adler's holiday. Unfortunately, this is a personal drama which awaits the artist who could make an opus out of it. But I cannot free myself of the impression.

"In the loge near the stage are sitting the relatives; from among them shines forth a majestic figure with a magnificent white head. His expressive face shines like the sun, and the large artistic eyes look at the stage. And his looks are saying, My blood, my flesh, my spirit—an exposition of my creation of my life.... and his look caresses and nestles his child. And his child, the young goddess, the queen of the Evening, she sends young, warm thankful looks to her father, and every look is like a sunbeam, and it seems her lips murmur quietly—Thank you, father, thank you, you holy source of my life, of my spirit."

"In the farthest corner of another loge sits a middle-aged woman dressed holiday-fashion. That's the great mother of the great daughter. She looks little at the stage, and the daughter looks little at her. Neither needs to declare herself any more. Both are secure in their love for each other. The blood that passed through the mother's milk to the daughter makes them one forever. The woman looks toward the father, and her eyes are full of triumph. She has old accounts with him, and the greater the daughter's talent, the greater her happiness. And, God, how much talent the daughter showed this very night. This one is an actress and that one is an actress—this one is a woman and that one is a woman—this one will proceed with her life, her existence. The mother's heart is full of bliss."

Again someone is writing under the hidden name of "Luminus" without my having any notion as to who is hidden under the nickname. I shall only cite for you what he says about this matter:

"The scene was a touching one when Celia Adler's father, Jacob Adler, and her mother, Madame Dina Feinman, got on the stage. The picture of the parents rejoicing over their successful child was truly pathetic, heart-warming. The quintessence of the picture was the mother's words: 'My child, we are descending, but you are ascending.... Thus it is a comfort and a proud enjoyment not for the parents only that this ascending is truly an attainment, a climb to the strongly beckoning future of a great artistic career."

And so I have found an excerpt in English that I again cannot ascertain as to from whom or whence it comes; it is under the heading which reads as follows: "An Important Rung in Celia Adler's Career."

"Those who participated last week in the Honor Performance on behalf of Celia Adler at the Irving Place Theatre witnessed an extraordinary moment when people weep for joy. In this case, not only the actors on the stage wept when Celia Adler's mother, herself a famous actress, got on the stage at the invitation of the master-of-ceremonies, Mr. Tenenholtz, and spoke to the audience about her happiness and joy over being able to participate in the occasion, but the entire audience that packed the theatre from the loges to the highest gallery shared her joy. But when the mother began to choke down tears in her throat, and Celia Adler quickly buried her head in her mother's shoulder, trembling tearfully, countless sobs from various sides of the large audience could be heard...."

I've mentioned in the previous chapter our veteran Yoel Entin's review. I cite his opinion of the play:

"The Battle of the Butterflies" is not only one of Hermann Sudermann's best plays. It is also one of the liveliest and playable ones on every stage."

Celia as "Rozkhen" in "Battle of the Butterflies"

The reviewer of "The Day" wrote: "The beneficiary Celia Adler put everything she had into Rozchen. She put so much of herself into the girl that fear gripped you from minute to minute. She not only interpreted a type, she created it and gave it life. As Celia Adler portrayed her, Rozchen is so charming in her naïveté, so naive is her wisdom. To say that she plays naturally is banality. She is Rozchen—the true type of 'the bakefish'—the girl that still isn't a woman but also not a child anymore....
 

Now, when I'm at the twilight of my theatrical career, may I be permitted to express my grievance and that of my actor colleagues at an injustice a number of theatre critics often commit concerning indifference to the actor and, at times, because of self-satisfaction.

Our Yiddish theatre has never reached that degree in its performance that, when the critics are invited to it, it is such that all the actors will have had the opportunity to work out their roles completely. On the English stage a performance is tried out for weeks before the critics are allowed to come and see it. This is not so with us unfortunately. True, during the years of the epoch I'm now describing, Schwartz and the other directors of better theatre did not ask the critics to come until the third or fifth performance. But this was far from enough for an actor to really be able to fathom his role, especially when it happened in our Yiddish theatre that a play was an unexpected failure and a new play had to quickly be mastered.

Most of the theatre critics were strongly knowledgeable of the theatre circumstances. It is my belief that they should therefore have been careful with their verdict. Never mind even mentioning an "Evening on Honor," which is mostly an added study for actors, and seldom has the opportunity of being made fully ready. I know of a great many of my actor colleagues who have had a lot of aggravation from reviews by recognized and long-time theatrical writers who, in general, didn't take into consideration the circumstances that were well-known to them.

I consider it important to emphasize that my argument is really pointed at our most honest, most upright, and truly most understanding theatre critics for whom I and most of my actor colleagues have always had the greatest respect. They should have taken into account the frequently unprepossessing circumstance under which even the most serious theatres had to make a play ready.

In the first weeks of January, 1919, we heard the trial reading at the Irving Place Theatre of Peretz Hirshbein's second successful play of that season, "The Blacksmith's Daughter," with great expectation and a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment.

It is certainly no new discovery that just as luck plays a role in human life, so things also have their luck. And that's certainly the case with plays. "The Blacksmith's Daughters" was much luckier than "A Secluded Corner," although both were equally successful. Actually the two plays ran almost the same number of weeks. "The Blacksmith's Daughters" was lucky in that it was approached with quite a different seriousness.

As you remember, the play, "A Secluded Corner," came into our theatre as if by the back door, somehow as if it had been smuggled in. That's why those of us, who were so atremble in our souls until "A Secluded Corner" surmounted all doubts and all stepchild treatment, took up with great pleasure the serious and respectful path of going into the rehearsals of "The Blacksmith's Daughters."

You will recall that the management of the theatre was afraid to risk spending thirty dollars to paint over an old set for "A Secluded Corner." But for "The Blacksmith's Daughters," the management took great pains and didn't stint on money, so that the two sets—both the forge and the blacksmith's house—would be built well in every particular. Great care and expense were especially put into the outfitting of the forge.

And I wish to emphasize here that Schwartz put a great deal of care and gave much thought to the production of "The Blacksmith's Daughters." I am not using the term "direction" intentionally because the important part of theatrical art was still strongly missing at the Irving Place Theatre that season. Thus I was not shocked by an article by the M. Grim, unknown to me, which appeared on March 29, 1919, under the heading: "Direction—Something Our Theatre Doesn't Possess." I shall only cite the first paragraph:

"An acquaintance asked me: How come Yiddish theatrical critiques concern themselves only with the piece's plot and with the actors' playing and never pause over the direction? My answer to that is: You can't criticize what isn't there."

But again the word "luck" enters. Each role was in the hands of the actor who, being of lesser or greater talent, nevertheless, all had a real flair for better theatre and the capability and intelligence to penetrate deeply into their roles and extract everything the author had hidden in his prose. And because each actor felt and recognized that way of life, the portrait emerged complete and in the style of Hirshbein's created atmosphere—despite directional insufficiency.

Thus, for example, the play was enhanced by two little songs, one for Maurice Schwartz that became also world-famous—the very charming boyish little song, "Little Girl, Little Girl, Little Girl"; and the second, a half-folk song that I sang in the play, "When a Young Girl is in Love".... These were not official song numbers, heaven forbid, such as are put into plays and that are accompanied by an orchestra and stop the progress of the play, so to speak, so that the singer or songstress can distinguish herself with her voice. The song quite frequently does not fit at all into the plot of the play. Neither Schwartz nor I was accompanied by music from an orchestra. We wove them into our roles, and the whole thing came out as a natural expression of the plot.

Schwartz sang his song while working in the forge and thereby vivified his young rural swain's love. I sang my song when serving and used the tones for better characterization of my youthful, girlish mental rumination. I'm sure the thought never occurred to anybody that these things were not in the play and the roles. We both made use of the songs in such a way that Schwartz's Nissen-Alter and my Zelda were thereby enriched as characters in Hirshbein's play.

My heart doesn't allow me to pass the great Muni Weisenfreund (Paul Muni) and not pause any longer over the world-famous actor who, in the barely ten years he played on the Yiddish stage, wrote a big slate of artistic achievements and creations. I have expressed the idea several times in my story that the sincere and truly talented actor is never sure that he has achieved completeness in his role. Muni Weisenfreund was one of those actors. He perpetually doubted his great talent and constantly sought to deepen himself in his roles more and more.

Thus, for example, I know that, after the premier of "It's Hard to be a Jew," in which he was stamped almost overnight in his role as "Ivanov" as one of the truly great talents on our stage, he was depressed and doubtful—he was sure that he was a failure in his role; that the critics would tear him to pieces. He had a certain justification for his feeling of doubt, Paul Muni never played a young role until then.

He began playing when he was still a boy. His parents, Philip and Soltsche Weisenfreund, had their own moving picture house in Chicago, where they would also put on sketches. Already in those years, Muni was playing only fathers and grandfathers, always with a beard, his lean, boyish body constantly upholstered so he'd look more advanced in years. Thus he got the impression and the belief from his early youth on that his genre as an actor was only fathers and grandfathers, characters of older people. He was afraid of playing a young role.

He was therefore very unhappy when Schwartz allocated to him the role of the young gentile student "Ivanov" in "It's Hard To Be A Jew."

It's a known fact that it was this role that was the big thrust that brought him at last to world fame. It's worth indicating that Muni fought against and tried to protect himself from this role with all his strength. He was convinced that it would be his greatest failure. He was afraid of the thought of showing himself perhaps for the first time in a bigger role in New York with his face clean and not bearded.

That fine journalist, M. Osherowitch, one of the veterans of "The Forward" writing staff, concerned himself with the theatre for a considerable number of years, even creating a few plays for the theatre. He's one of the select few literati who enjoyed a good relationship with actors, and he very often digs deeply into the actor's soul. In his book, "David Kessler and Muni Weisenfreund—Two Generations of Yiddish Theatre," Osherowitch shows a tremendous understanding of theatrical experiences and troubles which an actor undergoes in the course of his career, especially one who has a serious attitude to his vocation.

Writing about Muni's climbing and growing in his career in New York, he indicates and ranges broadly over Muni's big successes in Schwartz's theatre, especially when he began to play recognized roles. Thus, quoting the most important theatre critics of that time, Osherowitch shows us with what admiration and deep appraisal they received each appearance of the young, growing, great artist. Osherowitch finds it necessary to make the following comment after a season of Muni's great success:

"He constantly nestled close to the Yiddish Art Theatre, where he was at any rate the right actor on the right stage. But as it turned out, it seems he was not engaged by the Yiddish Art Theatre just right after his great success in "It's Hard To Be A Jew"—just right after all the critics had written about it with so much enthusiasm. That was the result of professional jealousy which often happens in theatrical circles when a young actor begins to attract too much attention".... (Goodness me, how I know the taste of that!....)

I herewith openly wish to express to friend Osherowitch my greatest thanks and recognition for underscoring and bringing to light the helplessness in which the young actor often finds himself in the course of his career. No one will surmise that great attainments, which an actor achieves by hard, strenuous work, through great talent and artistic intuition, often can and will hinder his career.... But it really didn't hinder Muni from attaining his high position, from becoming world-famous. But it did hinder him from dedicating himself and living out his days in his first love—the Yiddish theatre. Others do not have the luck to get the chance he got and perhaps also not his brilliant talent—and they get lost or suffer all their lives.

Very few Jewish actors were so praised for their creations from all quarters and with such unanimity. And Osherowitch remarks: "And Muni Weisenfreund was again not engaged by the Yiddish Art Theatre after his great success in Gogol's 'The Inspector General' and in Sholem Aleichem's 'The Grand Prize'.....

"This was a great disappointment for people who were close to the Yiddish Art Theatre. One simply couldn't imagine the Yiddish Art Theatre without Muni Weisenfreund.

"Dr. Mukdoiny then wrote: 'How will Schwartz's theatre look without Muni Weisenfreund? Weisenfreund was the pure artistic conscience of that particular theatre.'"

Muni Weisenfreund was already again with Schwartz a season later.

"That's how the whole thing rotated—one season at the Art Theatre, then in exile; a season in exile, and then back again at the Art Theatre."

Osherowitch is constrained to summarize it all in the following way:

"Maurice Schwartz can't accept the tradition that an art theatre has to incorporate the actors within itself, and has to grow together with them."

Thus Osherowitch takes Muni through his career of some ten years on the Yiddish stage in New York until he takes him to his appearance on Broadway in "We Americans," and then to Hollywood. And he closes his study of Muni Weisenfreund, underscoring: "It was those ten years in New York that so strongly formed Muni's real talent. It was those ten years in New York that led him to fame and great possibilities."

Right now, speaking of Muni Weisenfreund (Paul Muni), I get to thinking that in my career I've never had the opportunity to play with this brilliant actor during my career on the Yiddish stage. Even though we played many seasons at Schwartz's, fate so decreed that Schwartz was not more of less hostile with me during those seasons when Muni was with Schwartz's theatre; and contrariwise, it was not until twenty-seven years later, during the period I am describing here, that I had the pleasure to play with him, the then already famous Paul Muni. But it was not in Yiddish; it was in the famous Ben Hecht spectacle, "A Flag is Born," on Broadway.

So I feel flattered to this day that, when they placed before Paul Muni a list of almost twenty recognized actresses, among whom were the very greatest American actresses, famous figures from Broadway and Hollywood, Muni said very cold-heartedly, looking over the list: "There's missing here just the name of the actress who is as if born for the role—get me Celia Adler."

I shall still have occasion later to tell about that spectacle and about Muni's playing and mine.


I'm sure you've already forgiven me for interrupting my story and dedicating a chapter to one of the rays that shone on and warmed our better theatre for several short seasons. I did it with pleasure, and I'm sure you also enjoyed it. I can now return to that first season at the Irving Place Theatre in February, 1919, when Peretz Hirshbein's magnificent comedy, "The Blacksmith's Daughters" was produced on the professional Yiddish stage for the first time.

I consider it a great privilege that it was my good fortune to play the leading women's roles in all of Hirshbein's plays that were produced on our stage. Each of the four roles gave me much inner happiness, deep joy, spiritual profit, and endless theatrical satisfaction. I should hope that I gave as much of myself to the four roles as I got from them.

I believe that no dramatist has brought out Jewish adolescent flirtation, girlish love, and boy-girl pranks as Peretz Hirshbein has done in such a really Jewish manner in his cycle of folk plays. Until this day, when I get to dip into and read the prose of my roles in "The Blacksmith's Daughters," "Green Fields," "A Secluded Corner," and "The Abandoned Inn," I can't stop wondering how remarkably and with what ease he brought out the sudden sprouting of girlish ripeness, and yet in such a true Jewish fashion, without a drop of the usual worldly adolescent love gushing. Even in the names themselves—Zelda, Zina, Zirel, and Meite. I perceive so much Jewish charm.  

Hillel Rogoff wrote in "The Forward" of March the fifth, 1919:

"Now playing at the Irving Place Theatre is 'The Blacksmith's Daughters,' a second pearl from Peretz Hirshbein's dramatic treasury, a drama that deserves the same exciting appraisal from the Jewish public as 'A Secluded Corner.' The great success of 'A Secluded Corner' was the happiest appearance in the theatrical world of this generation. Are the great masses of theatre-goers really sufficiently mature for such a poetically tender, literarily delicate type of performance?....

"The proof is now in the offing.... Success for this drama will be the biggest victory for more beautiful, better drama on the Yiddish stage.

"For his heroes in this play, Peretz Hirshbein has chosen four clean Jewish hearts. Their love is clean, beautiful. Their fight does not have any signs of gruesomeness, of poison in it. Everybody would rather like to run away from the field of battle, leave the place to the adversary—a play in which all the people get the fullest sympathy, the fullest affection of the viewers. A play in which everything is lovely, everything is clean, in which everything is bathed in poetry.

"And the actors and actresses have caught the play's true spirit, and they play their roles in a marvelously artistic manner. Celia Adler in the role of Zelda and Maurice Schwartz in the role of Nissen-Alter have outdone themselves. Sitting in the theatre and watching them play, I cannot but believe that Peretz Hirshbein created the roles especially for them; that he discovered the capabilities of these two actors before he painted these two characters."

No doubt many of you still remember that the then famous American theatre impresario, Arthur Hopkins, brought Jacob Ben Ami to Broadway with the play, "Samson and Delilah," for a number of successful years. In the same manner, the famous American institution, The Theatre Guild, took into its repertory Pinski's comedy "The Treasure." At the first production, they called on me for the role of Tillie, which I had played at Satz's Evening. I shall perhaps again have the occasion later to tell about my first appearance on Broadway.

I also recall several curious episodes on those Evenings. You must understand, that one cannot, even with the best of one's will and serious attitude, study a play for such an Evening as completely as one would like to. Usually it happens that such Evenings are additions to the usual rehearsals in a theatre's performing routine. It seldom happens that a play is really ready for a performance on such an Evening.

Schwartz's second play "The Ideal Man" by Oscar Wilde, also comes to mind. There are titled English lords and ladies among the heroes of the play. I also played such a lady. So I recall how the wardrobe mistress looked so curiously at me when she saw that I was already about to go on the stage. I wore a dress that distinguished itself with a tasteful style, but simply, without frills or feathers. Much aristocracy lay just in that simplicity. At last she took a chance on telling me:

"Celia, you're really going to play Lady Chiltern in such a dress? You don't look like a lady in that dress...."

Hearing that, Bertha Gerstin gave a smile and, slapping the wardrobe mistress on the back, said:

"Mrs. Lateiner, it's hard to believe but that dress costs one hundred and fifty dollars in the finest dress shop. Ladies wear only such clothes—without spangles...."


And so it was that we concluded the first season at Schwartz's Irving Place Theatre. And so I again feel resentment when I compare our seasons then with what's going on now in our theatre. That season lasted nine months, and so also for many years thereafter. It's a miracle today if a theatre barely lasts four months. After the nine months in New York, there first began a tour over the provinces of at least six or eight weeks.

After the huge success of the Irving Place Theatre, the troupe, and especially the two Hirshbein plays, and after the outstanding reception of excitement which the entire Jewish press had given both the plays and the troupe, we left for the tour of the provinces, with the assurance that it would prove to be a tour of triumph. Almost the entire troupe left; only two of the important actors didn't go along. Jacob Ben Ami and Bertha Gerstin remained for a summer season at the Irving Place Theatre.

I'm not going to get into the politics that brought about the fact that two such important actors were left behind. I mention it only as a historical fact.

The tour distinguished itself in every way as an enormous financial and moral success. All of us received honor by the pound and the theatre management filled its pockets. But the tour began with an unexpected bad occurrence that worried all of us and caused me especially much fright and heartache.

The occurrence came as an aftermath of the First World War that had only recently been concluded. Our first trip was to Canada—to the then two magnificent theatrical cities, Montreal and Toronto. At that time, in the U.S. and Canada, they were still guarding very strictly a law left over from the war years and called the Enemy Alien Act. Since Ludwig Satz was an Austrian—he had not as yet become a full-scale United States citizen—the border officials in Canada didn't want to let him in. In order for you to grasp better what this step meant to us all, I want to give you a letter that Maurice Schwartz wrote to the editor of "The Forward" theatrical division, namely, the journalist and storyteller, Berl Botwinik, about that incident. He made it public on the theatrical page of the "Forward."

I'm sure that the very charming and humorous tone of the letter will amuse all of you:

"Montreal, Canada, was the first city where we were going to surprise the public. And the first troubles began here. Poor Ludwig Satz was punished for being a Galician. And so he brought a considerable amount of trouble on us. It was still in New York that I told him that they wouldn't let him into Canada because he was an "enemy alien." So he turned on his heel and said a la Satz: They certainly will let me in. I went to a lawyer and he saw my first citizen papers and it's all right.

"All right is all right—so we'll go. We got to Rouses Point, bordering on Canada, around seven in the morning. Satz, who was with us in the car, slept very well in the berth above me and dreamed of the success he would have in the provinces. Suddenly, bang—someone knocks....And the bang was some bang: Get up there! Where is the Austrian?"—I heard a voice. And, before you could say Jack Robinson, there was Satz already standing in his pajamas and trembling like a leaf. "Come and dress yourself!—hurry up!" a character with long whiskers was yelling.

"You will no doubt understand that, looking at Satz's pale face, I couldn't let him go by himself. So I quickly dressed and yelled with mock heroism: 'Satz, I'm with you!'

"We got off the train, the other actors went away to Canada with broken hearts, and we were left here. My arguments were of no avail to the effect that we had nothing to do with the war, that Satz was indeed naturally afraid of war, that in 'A Secluded Corner', he plays the role of the Jewish Wilson who makes peace between the two millers. I could have saved my breath—it was like talking to the wall. 'You have to get photographs of yourselves,' yells a Canadian employee—'I'll be back here at ten o'clock and you'd better bring me those pictures." And off he went, grumbling.

"We remained standing like slaughtered chickens. 'Yes, Brother Satz,' I said. 'Come, we'll look the township over meanwhile.' And we made for the township that was ten steps away from the station. Meanwhile, a big black dog came toward us, a veritable cur, remained standing right opposite us, and looked at us with protruding eyes. When we sought to keep going, he kept on looking at Satz as if to say: 'So you're really a Galician?"

"To make a long story short, we couldn't get rid of the dog at all. Whenever we just stirred—oops—there he was. We went in to the photographer—a tall, skinny, Irishman—who photographed us. I didn't have to get a photograph, but I did it out of sympathy for Satz. He took the two dollars from us with an angry expression and told us to come for the pictures at a quarter-to-ten. Already waiting outside for us was the dog with whom we were now on familiar terms, and we made for the township to look for a restaurant. The dog ran ahead of us, happily wagging his tail. We grabbed a bite and also favored the dog with a ham sandwich.

"We called for the pictures and went to meet the inspector with the long whiskers. The inspector took us to the United States Immigration Office that issued Satz a passport after a thousand-and-one questions. We got into a car and happily got going to Montreal.

"When we arrived at Lacolle, on the opposite side of the Canadian border, real profound severe sorrows first began to rain upon us. An inspector looked over Satz's passport, smiled and said quite matter-of-factly: 'It 's all right, the passport says you can leave the United States, but we can't let you in even for a million; you're our enemy!"

" 'For heaven's sake—what to do now?!', yelled Satz. 'How are we going to play today, and where will I stay here? Look at how many priests are loitering here—they'll convert me yet.'

"Presently it was four 'clock. It would take three hours to get to Montreal. I telephoned the Minister of Justice in Ottawa, and his answer was to return to where he came from. In short, we said goodbye, and each of us took to the road tuckered out, hungry, and depressed—I to Montreal, Satz to Cleveland, here he was to wait for us until Friday.

"Luckily, I got to Montreal about eight o'clock. I got into the lobby of the theatre, but there wasn't a living soul around. Some kind of little girl was standing at the box office and buying a ticket for herself. 'Where are the people to pay homage to art?' I yelled at the manager. "Where are the people who wrote so many hundreds of letters that we should not forget them, that we should bring them literature?'

"They're not here,' answered the manager. 'They went to the motion pictures.'

"Well, you can imagine how I felt. That evening we played to half a house. Rosenthal played Satz's role, and the people thought he was Satz. But someone who had seen Satz in New York asked an usher if that was really Satz or his brother because he was somewhat taller, but Satz was shorter. But the performance was a moral success.

"What was to be done if the public didn't attend? You satisfied yourself with a moral success. But people were turned away the second night. They couldn't get tickets. We played 'The Blacksmith's Daughters,' and my stage manager, who is as small and skinny as Satz and who knew his role by heart, played Satz's role and imitated him so artistically that we ourselves thought it was Satz. After the performance, when I told one of the audience what had happened and that it wasn't Satz, someone said to his wife, 'A wise-guy, she thinks I'm a fool—as if I didn't know Satz...."

It seems that the new winds that began to blow in the Yiddish theatre, as Dymow had revealed in his article that I've cited in an earlier chapter, were not entirely a figment of his imagination. Something got to stirring both in the Yiddish theatrical world and the Jewish newspaper world and, in a certain measure, also among part of our theatre public.

Certainly Schwartz was instrumental in a considerable share of disseminating these "new winds" with his first season in the Irving Place Theatre. Peretz Hirshbein's two tender, quiet and simple folk dramas gave the "new winds" fresh impetus with their enormous success and with the excitement and enthusiasm they called forth among the public at large. And so plans for the "New Yiddish Theatre" were already being worked out in the middle of that season—a theatre that later played out its short life in the old Madison Square Garden. Since it fell to my lot in this case also to be among the first to be drawn toward that second attempt, I shall tell here in full detail how the new theatre was born.

Almost the moment Schwartz opened his theatre, I began to feel little by little that, with very small exceptions, the Schwartz theatre would be a continuation of the old theatre with all of its faults, even with its dreadful star system. Those others had also made attempts at better theatre, at plays of literary merit. But so far as the quiet frame of mind, the full-scale artistic satisfaction and achievement for us actors was concerned, the Schwartz theatre was not much different from Adler's Grand Theatre, Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre, or Thomashevsky's National Theatre. A young actor was very often rewarded for his honest artistic achievement with chagrin and heartache just like in those other theatres.

The sensitive Jacob Ben Ami was the first of our troupe in the Schwartz theatre to speak out in the open about his disappointment. It didn't take long for Jechiel Goldsmith and me also to feel it with all our senses—this didn't turn out to be what we had expected. This was not what Schwartz had so beautifully painted in his credo in the article that I brought to your attention in a previous chapter. We owed Schwartz only one thing—he deserved the credit for showing that there was a theatre public that could digest better theatre and was ready to pay for it.

He could indeed have become the "high priest" of the new holy art, the art of the theatre. But he inherited many of the weaknesses of the Great Three and thereby weakened the office of that priesthood. That's why those of us who felt within us a leaning toward that type theatre could not remain at peace. We were drawn toward and we were ready to involve ourselves in such possibilities. I must again here point out Jacob Ben Ami for leading us to such a serious new possibility, although he came by it indirectly and perhaps even unjustifiably.

An amateur group that went by the name of The Literary Dramatic Club existed and played for several years. Its two leading players were Jechiel Goldsmith and Henrietta Schapiro. A young man, Louis Schnitzer, was also among the members of that club. He had no thespian aspirations. He was an ambitious and successful businessman. Although limited in intelligence and knowledge, he had a natural desire for better and lovelier theatre and an innate respect for intelligence and education. As a young man, he was strongly smitten with the beautiful and shining Henrietta Schapiro. He succeeded in time in having her become Mrs. Schnitzer, thanks to his financial strength that towered above that of all the other young men in the club.

It's understandable that he would try very hard to fructify her ambition to become a star performer in the Yiddish theatre. Her two biggest virtues were her beautiful face and magnificent figure. Evidently, these were by themselves insufficient to attain a high place in the existing Yiddish theatre, even though Schnitzer didn't spare effort and money.

Maurice Schwartz's successful beginning at the Irving Place Theatre ripened the thought in Schnitzer's mind to invest in a new attempt at a better theatre, where his wife would have the opportunity to fulfill her dream, to make a leap to the very top of the Yiddish theatre. He put his plan before Jacob Ben Ami with the main accent, understandably, on better theatre. After seriously thinking it over, Ben Ami grasped this opportunity. He got Gershon Rubin, Jechiel Goldsmith and me to thinking about and working up the plan, as well as making sure of every detail, so that the theatre should really become the better theatre about which we all dreamed, the longed-for permanent home for all the better in the Yiddish theatre.

Schnitzer showed very quickly that he was serious about shouldering the financial responsibility of such a theatre. He surprised us with the good news that he had succeeded in getting the Garden Theatre, a part of the old Madison Square Garden between Twenty-Sixth and Twenty-Seventh Streets on Madison Avenue. It was a magnificent, intimate theatre with a more than usually large and spacious stage, which was as if ordered for a theatre with artistic ambitions.

At Schnitzer's announcement that he had leased the Garden Theatre as the home of our "new theatre," we seriously tackled the work of preparing to bring our dream to life....

 

I find it necessary to state here some of the conditions and by-laws that we then first nailed down for our theatre:

1.There would be no stars. Every actor would have the opportunity to which his talent entitled him.

2. The roles in a play would be passed out by the director according to the actor's appropriateness and ability.

3. No one would refuse a role allocated to him. But he would also have the right to study whatever role pleased him and would have the opportunity to show at one or more rehearsals what he could do with the role. The director would decide who was better. He would also decide if the role in question would be played by two or more actors in a row.

4. The director would not act in the play he directed.

5. The leading actor in one play would play only a subordinate role in another play.

6. Each member of the troupe who had no role in a play would, if necessary, participate in the mass scenes, if there were any.

7. The actors' names would appear in the newspapers and on billboards according to the alphabet and would be of the same size.

8. For the many-faceted completeness of the theatres' artistic and cultured elevation, a Literary-Artistic Council would be appointed that would consist of two literary persons, two painters, and two actors. The director would consult this committee about plays and about artistic matters of the productions.

We took a look at and discussed another rather important point at length and from all sides, to wit, the idea of instituting a uniform type of speech. All sorts of Jewish dialects should not be heard from our stage. For example, it ought not to happen that, in one family on the stage, the father spoke a Polish dialect, and his son or daughter, who grew up in his home, spoke Litwack, Galician, or Woliner Jewish.

I still enjoy the happiness, the pleasure, the deep satisfaction that we all felt in devoting ourselves to the planning of all these precepts. Our hopes and expectations reached their highest pinnacle in the course of these serious preparations.

I am again living through the indescribable joy and excitement we all felt when we succeeded in attracting the world-famous German-Jewish director and actor, Immanuel Reicher, to be the director of our theatre. He was considered to be the father of naturalistic theatre in Germany. Indeed, he occupied a very high place on the German stage during the years when the German theatre was considered the finest in the world. Thus we were practically in seventh heaven from feeling that, for the first time in the history of the Yiddish theatre, a noted director of great reputation would direct us, show us, teach us.

Aside from his great artistic achievements, Immanuel Reicher was an uncommonly great personality with a warm, heartfelt attitude toward us actors. His intimate talks about the theatre and theatrical art were comradely, without his playing the Big Man or casting supercilious looks. They were truly from the heart to the heart. He joyfully accepted our proposal to have the Literary-Artistic Advisory Council for the artistic modus operandi of the theatre.

It very often happens that the sincerity, the strong impulse, and the honest development of an idea capture and overwhelm those who started it. That's what then happened to Schnitzer. He was so overcome by the serious scope and artistic atmosphere that he practically forgot the personal interest that originally moved him to plan the theatre.

And so, these were indeed the honeymoon months of our new beginning for all of us.

For a long time both the Literary Council and all of the actors discussed what the name of the theatre should be. And, in keeping with all the preparations, the name Jewish Art Theatre lay in everyone's mind. But both Ben Ami's modesty and that of the group of leading actors didn't permit them to crown themselves the artistic head priests. True, that was the goal; but it was too soon, too brash for us young ones to call ourselves an art theatre. But Immanuel Reicher requested it. After long deliberation, a compromise was reached. To please Immanuel Reicher, the name remained the Jewish Art Theatre, in English; but it was the New Yiddish Theatre in Yiddish.

"There are really many, many things in the way a drama is prepared for the public that need to be improved. The fact is that all the actors in the troupe are willing to earn less than they would in other theatres just so their dreams and plans for a truly artistic theatre be achieved in the dramas, in the performances, and in all the details of such a theatre. One point—and it is the most important in the new theatre company—is that there be no male or female star. All are equal and all must follow the director. Every actor is and yet is not a star. He or she is a star when an actor or actress distinguishes himself or herself in a performance. The following day, another one distinguishes himself—so he's the star. Thus, the star system is left to the critics."

It was unanimously decided by both the Literary Council and the leading players that the opening play for our theatre must come from our own Yiddish dramatic literature. And Peretz Hirshbein's "The Abandoned Inn" was selected, a strongly dramatic folk play with something of a mystic background. It was also decided at the same time that the second play must come from the world repertory—Gerhart Hauptmann's "Lonesome People." We also decided then that both plays should be studied simultaneously. "The Abandoned Inn" should be put on weekends, "Lonesome People" during the week.

In large measure, this was also something new in the opening of a new theatre. Thus, this decision also led to a still greater departure in the usual course of the Yiddish theatre: the troupe took on daily rehearsals of both plays for two full months before the theatre opened. A special hall near the ocean in Coney Island was rented to ease the actors' rehearsing routine in the summer heat in New York.

I thus recall a very queer episode during those rehearsals in Coney Island. All my life I remember I've taken great pleasure in observing the outdoors while a storm was on. I was overwhelmingly impressed by the thundering and lightning, and I would stand dumbfounded at the window admiring every stroke of lightning and every clap of thunder. To this day I bear in mind that, as a nine-ten-year-old little girl on our farm in Rosenheim, New Jersey, while I stood at the window during such a storm, my little sister Lillie clung scared and trembling to me, and hiding her little head in my dress she urgently whispered to me at every lightning stroke and thunder clap: "Quick, Celia, say the prayer; quick, say the prayer," and I, in admiration would utter a prayer at each lightning and thunder: "The Hebrew prayer especially for lightning and thunder."

And so, there was a terrible storm during one of the rehearsals in Coney Island. Now you all know that a storm at the sea in Coney Island is much worse than one in the city. A black gloom covered the seas and the sky, and thunder and lightning virtually split the skies, confining everybody unwillingly to his place. At that moment, there were two exceptions in the troupe: I, standing marveling at the big window, in wonder at stormy nature and mechanically whispering prayers after every lightning stroke and thunder clap; and that great personage, Anna Appel. She was crouching in a corner, hiding herself behind a large chair and whispering, her hands folded: "With your mercy and your charity, dear heavenly Father, with your mercy and your charity, dear God."

When the storm was over , and La Appel got out of her hiding place somewhat ashamed, she fell upon me with arguments as to how come that I, such a mite against her, was standing fearless at the window. So everybody took on her arguments with laughter that also at the same time expressed sympathy for the great Anna Appel.... Immanuel Reicher, our director, the great wonder, explained to her with a smile: "The secret is quite explainable. That little Celia—she's so full of electricity."

La Appel remained standing with her bright eyes, looked at her own size, and with her extraordinary gift for humor, spoke up shamefacedly: "If that's the case, then I am evidently full of gas."

Incidentally, I recall that during those rehearsals there was another incident in which I was mixed up. Three actors were tried out for the role of Itzik in "The Abandoned Inn"—Jacob Ben Ami, Jechiel Goldsmith, and Joseph Shoengold. I wish to have you recall that a strong, passionate love scene between the hero, Itzik, and the bride, Meite, which I tried out for, occurs in the third act.

They had to decide, after several tryouts among us, who was to get the role of Itzik. Reicher, the director, had already made up his mind, even though he hadn't revealed it yet. But we all joked good-naturedly about the three Itziks, and each one spoke his mind in his own way.

First the elderly Abramowitz spoke up suddenly: "Listen, folks, I think the only one who should decide it is Celia. She endured the love scenes with all three Itziks, so she should say which Itzik she likes best."

All consented: "What do you say, Celia?"

I caught everybody's joke and spoke my opinion my own way: "I don't know who plays better; I'm occupied with my own role; but I know who makes love, hugs and kisses best. But I won't reveal it to you."

I still relish the warm-heartedness and the almost complete contentment that all of us actors felt during those weeks of rehearsals in Coney Island. We were impressed with the assurance and conscientious authority that we felt in Reicher's direction. He could explain so wonderfully well to an actor what he wanted of the role.

I don't recall even one time that Reicher showed an actor how to speak or act in his role. He would only interpret the role in a quiet conversation with the actor involved and say what he thought this or that scene should bring out. Despite his completely justified authority, he didn't even tell the actor what to do in his quiet conversation with him. He only proposed to him what way to try to bring out what he wanted.

In general, it is the director's task to make an effort at getting the actor to understand what the director wants. Understanding it, he will have to have enough talent and artistic intuition to bring it out in his way and with his means. Only then can it come out naturally. Talent and intuition are the actor's stock-in-trade. No director can give it to an actor.

The actors' devotion, their sincere, honest attitude showed up at every opportunity. Right there, at the rehearsals in Coney Island, you could feel and understand the soul of the honest and sincere actor-artist. Even those who lost out in their tryout to play the role of Itzik, the leading men's role in "The Abandoned Inn," which had been tried out by three actors, did not show any sign of jealousy, of envy toward him who won the role. That's the spirit that prevailed and mastered everyone in our troupe.

When I think of that time, a resentment very often entered my mind during those weeks as it does now over the fact that those who took it upon themselves to be directors in our Yiddish theatre, as well as those whose lot it was to write about the theatre did not show up at the rehearsals. They would first then have been able to understand the actor's true soul and his attitude toward his vocation. I can only think of it as being among the sweetest honeymoon weeks in my entire career as an actress on the Yiddish stage. Regrettably, they were short weeks because something of a later poison was already then beginning to pour into our sweet honey.

But I still want to hold back my telling about that poison I've mentioned. I still want to hold on to this respite, to prolong the time a little more when we all were like floating on clouds and living with the hope that our great dream was about to be realized. I still recall the joy and the deep satisfaction which each of us felt when one of our colleagues showed artistic achievement and received high compliments at rehearsals from our director, Immanuel Reicher.

We were truly happy in our hearts at the joy of that particular colleague; and—I wish to underscore this—it was all without a sign, without a shadow of jealousy or envy.

I recall how much pleasure and real reverence I busied myself with dressing up my private dressing room that had been allocated to me in our Garden Theatre—the wardrobe that I hoped and believed I would be able to keep in my second home for many long years, perhaps until the end of my acting career.

I have no doubts that our theatre would have lived and lasted long, and that it would have reached real artistic achievements, and would perhaps have led our Yiddish theatre in America along far, far different roads. But the drops of venom began working bit by bit. I cannot recall a deeper tragedy in my career that could equal what I went through—and live through now—when I narrate for you this chapter from our new theatre.

I've said earlier that Louis Schnitzer was so dominated by our earnest approach and honest scope that he forgot that the main driving force that pushed him into becoming an impresario of better Yiddish theatre was his wife's ambition. And although he was very stubborn by nature, there was evidently a hidden power in his life that broke his stubbornness and the honesty with which he was mastered by us. Thus I shall reveal here more vividly this tragedy that brought so much chagrin, heartache, and disappointment to nearly our entire troupe.

So that no one will suspect that our troupe or the leading performers acted unjustifiably toward the ambition of a young actress because of jealousy or envy, I shall forestall it by bringing to your attention a few lines from an article written by Ab. Cahan five months later on December twenty-fourth, 1919:

"....It isn't pleasant to say all this when it concerns a theatre which one wants to support with all his heart. But how can one help that theatre if the fundamental thing has to be concealed? Madame Schnitzer is playing the main role. She has a lovely woman's figure and that's very important in the play. Thus, she fits the role bodily, but as an actress .... She's the owner of the theatre and she should be complimented on her theatre's seeking to produce good plays. But, really now, does she honestly believe that her powers are sufficiently strong for her to play leading dramatic roles?.... A suitable figure does not necessarily mean a successful actress in important roles. If one has to be thankful to her for the fact that her theatre seeks to produce good plays, it doesn't mean that one has to pay such a big price for it as to see an actress in roles in which she's absolutely too weak....

Others did not write so sharply and directly about the lady who owned the theatre. But I must say that that was only part of what led to the tragedy, to the downfall of our beautiful dream. The dissonant inharmoniousness, the break in discipline, the curtailing of the fair proportions of our theatre's beautiful face did much more harm ....

Here's how it started: When the roles in the first two plays, "The Abandoned Inn" and "Lonesome People," were handed out, the very important role of Anna Mehr in "Lonesome People" was given to the lady owner of the theatre. But it did not satisfy her. When "The Abandoned Inn" was decided upon as the opening play for Saturday and Sunday, she demanded the leading part in this play, too, the role of Meite, which was allocated to me.

But we had a fixed point of policy that every member of the troupe had the right to ask for and show what he could do in a role he wanted; and he would have to be given the chance to tryout for the role. But she didn't want to risk a comparison with me in the role of Meite. She demanded that the role be given to her and only to her. But this neither Reicher nor Ben Ami nor the entire Literary-Artistic Council could or would subscribe to.

This was the first hindrance to the household peace between the impresario and the artistic leadership of the theatre. The friendship that Schnitzer felt for Ben Ami, Goldsmith, and Tickman was transformed almost into hate practically in a few days. He could very easily have shunted off Tickman, his personal friend and representative from the theatre. But he couldn't alienate Jacob Ben Ami and Immanuel Reicher—even if he had wanted to.

So—there was backstage politics, so to speak, about all this, and it was known to very few of the troupe.

We pulled up stakes from Coney Island at the end of August and began to rehearse on the stage of our theatre. And here is where the poison began to make itself felt, which quietly polluted and little by little poisoned the good spirit, the colleague feelings, and the artistic entity of the troupe.

What did the poison consist of that so mercilessly ruined that most beautiful and most honest attempt of ours to create a truly better theatre, an artistic home for all the better forces that were then in the Yiddish theatre?

Immanuel Reicher, the master director, placed a lot of hope on the mass scenes in "The Abandoned Inn," especially in the wedding scene in the second act. He liked very much indeed the point in our actors' program that every member of our troupe who had no role in a certain play must take part in the mass scenes, if there were any. He praised us very highly several times for this point when he came to know our program.

No matter how capable the director may be and how dedicated the group of extras that are used in mass scenes may be, you have to have several responsible, experienced actors to lead the masses. As has been said, Reicher was considered the father of the realistic theatre. Thus, such a scene as a Jewish wedding in a small township or village is tremendous material for a director. So he worked out his directing plan for that act, segmenting the masses into groups, and put each group under the leadership of an actor who wasn't performing in the play.

But when he sought to implement his plan, he ran into a very unpleasant situation. He called together on the stage all the actors in the troupe, both those who had roles in the play, and those who had no roles. When he explained his directing plan for the second act and appointed the leaders of the various mass groups, Mrs. Schnitzer openly and firmly declined to participate.

And yet her absence would not really have made any great difference. But watching her, others too declined, rightly or wrongly, with the contention that such a point made sense only when everybody was equal, without exception. But the breach in discipline had a depressing effect on the troupe. This tore the troupe's fraternal spirit apart in large measure and weakened the director's authority.

Thus the troupe was split down the middle: on one side, those devoted to the thought of better theatre stubbornly held to the principles that the theatre had postulated for itself; on the other side, those who thought it would be better for them to play up to the owner, especially to the lady owner, justified her false ambitions, not sensing that they were thereby undermining the very existence of the theatre.

I'm not completely sure that I've succeed in clearly bringing out the unavoidable end which that breach in discipline foisted on the theatre. Perhaps it is so deeply bound up with an honest actor's complicated soul that it is difficult to interpret it and to make it clear.

It could be that my embitterment was the result of two such disappointments one season right after another, namely, my dissolved dreams of Schwartz's Irving Place Theatre and immediately after that the still greater shock, the feeling of being fooled anew, the doubt and fear that perhaps our last attempt was being lost to us. Our shaken faith would remove from us every bit of energy for making another try like it. This very embitterment, which I now live over again in my narrative, may perhaps be bringing me to a state in which I cannot objectively dissect the happenings that led to my "second debacle."

So—I'm going to leave it to those, if such there be—who will one day write the history of the Yiddish theatre. Let them draw a conclusion; let them judge....

And so I needn't tell you that the breach in discipline made it much harder for Reicher to prepare the mass scenes for "The Abandoned Inn." It was lucky for us that we had founded a dramatic studio around the theatre, actually under the very fine direction of Immanuel Reicher. Luck favored him with a talented group of youngsters who came along.

I wish to mention here with pleasure that the Yiddish stage drew considerable benefits from that studio.

A special standout among the girls was one very charming young lady with lively, sparkling eyes and a slender miniature figure who literally livened up the stage with her joy and laughter. She was such an active creature that had no other name for her but "mercury."

Her love of and her healthy flair for the theatre had simmered in her from childhood on, it would seem. So she really very quickly created for herself a noted place in the better Yiddish theatres. Our press also gave her warm attention, often imparting to her earned compliments for her fine theatrical achievements. Thus, the very fine actress Helen Blay emerged from the young little June Blay.

You can readily understand that the joy, the happiness that we imagined we would have at the opening of our new theatre came to nothing....

And yet we entertained a hidden hope that perhaps the opening, the unveiling of our theatre out in the open, the artistic presentation, the magnificent direction, the acting achievements—perhaps all these would give the theatre the needed swing, the elevation, to conquer the dark forces that had brought us the embitterment. It could happen that the theatre would hew to its path despite their petty ambitions and that it would, in time, be strong enough to shake off these very evil forces.

But the hidden hope didn't materialize. Yet I don't wish to undertake judging whether the critics were correct in almost unanimously receiving our first two productions, "The Abandoned Inn" and "Lonesome People," with little excitement, even though they perhaps set too strict demands with the best of goodwill and the highest sincerity, and so dissected the production, the direction, and the playing that the overall conclusion, the final word, was not very favorable.

So I want to cite here from an article by Dr. H. Zolotarov, our very prominent, sincere journalist. I'm doing this because he also has arguments with our critics in his long article over their strict approach:

"A group of talented, young, ambitious Jewish actors, without shining stars, not hoping to make mountains of money but striving to produce literary dramas and also to produce them artistically under experienced direction.... this new, artistic association appeared before the greatest audience and the Jewish intelligentsia in Peretz Hirshbein's 'Abandoned Inn.'

"We attended that performance. We saw all of its good sides and all of its faults. We were not fooled either by previous expectations, or by what we saw in the theatre. But we are all suffering from a great misfortune. Our critics approach Yiddish literature, Yiddish dramatic art, even the newest appearance of an artistic theatre with such a scale of measurement and gauge of demands as it is fit to approach the greatest in the world with. Either they praise excessively or they condemn excessively. And instead of doing the little bit of good the critics could do—interpret and innervate the good, help it to develop—they discourage it and often throw a shovel of earth over the young little tree. We've read theatrical criticism in various languages by the greatest European theatre critics for many years, and we don't recall that so many immediate demands for completeness had been made upon the great European stage. For heaven's sake, how is it even thus possible to ask for completeness in artistic playing? A colleague has called the New Yiddish Theatre 'the theatre of pity'. We confess that the name sounds a bit bombastic to us. Director Immanuel Reicher himself characterized it from the stage much more quietly: He knows, he said, that technically the production was not as yet complete.... but, taken as a whole, he stated, we have given you the best we have.

"And that's the truth of the matter. The New Yiddish Theatre is 'the best we have' in the artistic sense. And the duty of even the honest reviewer and critic ought to be to point out the faults that could be improved, and to interpret the thing as a whole to the public, so that it will be able to appraise the artistic better. It is in this manner that he makes a sincere and honest attempt to elevate the Yiddish stage and the Yiddish theatre."

 

I've purposely cited Dr. Zolotarov's arguments with the theatre critics because this gives me the opportunity of speaking my own mind about the matter, so as to acquaint you at least a little with what the better and more sincere actor feels at a premiere performance when the critics sit in the theatre.

Thus I first wish to indicate here an accepted opinion among actors and theatre buffs all over the world that the worst audience before which you can appear is the one consisting of critics, writers, and high intelligentsia, in general. They're a cold audience. The usual actors' expression at such a performance is: "There's a cold blast from the theatre." We on the stage don't feel any expression of warmth, of excitement—elements without which the actor virtually can't breathe, can't fully express his talent, his artistic intuition.

It is understandable that those who go to the theatre with the special duty of having to write a criticism would have to guard against openly showing their feelings and impressions in order to hide their opinion from the public and from their fellow critics. But it's hard to understand why writers in general and the so-called high intelligentsia are so stingy in expressing their satisfaction at a performance. In order for you to spare yourself wondering how we know this, I shall reveal a secret, something not many of the public know about.

At every premiere performance, what with the frightful nervousness that reigns both on the stage and in the actors' hearts, we all look during intermission through all sorts of openings in and around the curtain and study both the faces of the critics and mast of the most prominent and noted personalities from the literary-artistic world sitting in the theatre; and they, as if they knew about our clandestine looks.... we can hardly ever read a mien, an expression in their faces that would give us the least surmise of what their opinion of the performance is. It's really terribly difficult to give everything we have to such a performance....

Let's reveal to you another secret. I believe that hardly anyone knows about it except us actors and those close to us. The highest degree of nervousness gripped us when we were told that Cahan was sitting in the theatre. Nearly everyone in our theatrical world was most afraid of his opinion. His influence was enormously great because of his position as editor of the most-read Jewish newspaper in the world. The readers of "The Forward" greatly respected his opinion and were influenced by his appraisal.

Cahan's opinion was weighty, almost holy to a great number of his readers. The working masses comprised the big majority of his readers of "The Forward." They had great respect for Cahan's honesty, for his readiness to take up for the aggrieved.

It would seem that our New Yiddish Theatre was not born in a lucky hour. The theatre wasn't even lucky for me—I who had put into it so much heart and soul.

When I thought of telling you about the first and only season that the theatre existed for me, I was sure that it would take no less space than the first season in Schwartz's Irving Place Theatre. But now, when I have to express my thoughts, I want to get it over with as fast as possible; my thinking about it becomes distasteful for me.

But since I'm telling about myself, I shall permit myself to boast by citing only a few opinions that were written about me.

Here's what Hillel Rogoff wrote about "Lonesome People" in "The Forward":

"Celia Adler raises herself with her playing to a high state of pure art. The role is big and difficult, yet you don't sense a single shortcoming in all of the five acts. We don't recall a case when this rare artist enchanted the audience as much as in this role. Her overall stance and the expression of her face in the critical moments hover before the viewer's eyes long, long after he has left the theatre."

I take out this short expression from the review in "The Day" about the same role:

"People are broken up over the suffering of the twenty-two-year-old woman, Katie—long may she live, this touching, human, natural Celia Adler...."

And here's another expression by a reviewer of the same play:

"Only for one Celia Adler were there no temptations lying in the road here. But, good people, where will you find a temptation for an actress who at some twenty-odd years has become our Sarah Bernhardt and Komisarzhevskaya rolled into one?" ( I practically blushed when I read this.)

Among the plays performed that season in the Garden Theatre was Ibsen's world-famous play, "Nora." It was performed on Tuesday, February third, 1920, at my "Evening-of-Honor."

So I can't complain that the public didn't make itself seen at my evening. The theatre was crowded. The audience received me warmly. A number of my colleagues were delighted with me. But overall, my holiday was distasteful. If it hadn't been for the several hundred dollars that I needed, I would gladly have said to the owner of the theatre, "Thank you—I'll do without it."

Perhaps I wouldn't have mentioned the matter at all. I was impressed, however, by the fact that, without my knowing it, there sat in the theatre that evening as an onlooker, that famous Zionist leader, Louis Lipsky, who, to my greatest surprise, wrote a very warm review about my Evening in "The Morning Journal" of February ninth, 1920. I don't wish to attempt to say that that was the only time Louis Lipsky wrote about the theatre. But I'm happy to have had the good fortune to be a theme for one of the select few theatrical criticisms that he ever wrote in his life.

I cannot cite the long article wherein he shows much understanding of the theatre and a fine attitude toward the actor. I shall give you only a few of his positions:

"Celia Adler, the young, gifted, Jewish actress, played 'Nora' last Tuesday evening at the New Yiddish Theatre and thereby sought to put herself against the other first-class actresses in a role which makes great demands on an actress' powers. A house filled with friends—and real, personal friends—greeted the love-deserving artist and manifested not only a deep interest in her playing on 'Nora' but also a true personal love for her. One can say right at the start that Celia Adler acquitted herself creditably in the role. She showed uncommon intelligence, made a deep impression with her sincere intuition and much understanding of the difficult role. It would be foolish to make comparisons. Madame Komisazhevskaya's 'Nora' was a piece of calculated performing in which fire and warmth were missing, but it had its own beauties. Nazimowa was much better in some respects , however, she lacked sincerity in the serious moments. Mrs. Fiske's 'Nora" was a piece of mature performing that was conceived in an entirely different spirit. The outstanding virtues of Celia Adler's 'Nora' right at her first performance are her girlishness and her thoroughness, and it was a very interesting piece of art as such.... She deserves the praise of lovers of good playing."

I was very much pleased when he came into my dressing room after the performance and said to me, among other things: "Celia Adler, I should very much like to see you in the role after you've played it at least another ten times." (How truly necessary!)

And so my playing "Nora" reminds me of a very curious episode at a performance of the play in Brazil on my later tour there. A group of women came to my dressing room after the performance. They introduced themselves as representatives of a woman's organization and leveled an argument at me: How come I appeared in a role that shows a woman leaving husband and child and going away. "You ought not show such a bad example to our women."

Understandably, I remained dumbfounded at this curious argument. And in order to rescue myself from their wrath, I answered spontaneously: "Nora returns the next day in the morning—she only wanted to teach her husband a lesson and to frighten him. But you can be at peace; Nora will return the following morning."

They left my dressing room content.

The season concluded with Hirshbein's "The Green Fields," which Ben Ami had produced at the Irving Place Theatre during the summer season of the previous year. Since the role of Tzine in the play is my favorite role, I feel a strong urge to dwell on it. Besides, this was really the official end of our vanished dream.

I don't wish to torture you in this case also with excerpts from a lot of reviews which were written about the play. But I do wish to indicate two moments at that performance—one that has nothing to do in general with press critiques, but which gave us actors tremendous satisfaction.

None of the recognized stars came to see a performance of ours either the previous season at the Irving Place Theatre or at our new theatre. The fact that my father came to my Evening at the Irving Place Theatre—that was only because of his recognition of me as his daughter. That's why it was a pleasant surprise for us actors when David Kessler came to one of our performances of "Green Fields." He was generally so devoted in his entire approach to the theatre that he took pleasure in new accomplishments and new attempts.

If it hadn't been for the family mix-up between him and Wilner, Kessler would no doubt have taken time off and shown interest in coming to see the beginning of better theatre in Irving Place. He not only showed his enjoyment by applauding as he sat in the theatre at the performance of "Green Fields," but he also came backstage and personally expressed to us his recognition and praise. I especially derived much happiness and satisfaction from it, something of which I had very little that season.

The second moment at the performance of "Green Fields," which was already a mixture of joy and grief, was Cahan's critique of the play and of the playing.

Peretz Hirshbein and the cast of characters of "Green Fields"
 

It seems to me there really cannot be two opinions about the fact that "Green Fields" is the loveliest idyll of Jewish life that ever appeared on the Yiddish stage and perhaps in Yiddish literature in general. And, according to my view, there can also be no doubt that Ben Ami brought out the poor but spiritually rich Yeshiva scholar wonderfully well in the role of Levi-Yitzchok.
 

 

 Tsine in "Green Fields"

 

 Ben Ami and me in "The Abandoned Inn"


Tsirl in "A Faraway Corner" 

Cahan has, for example, such expressions as these in his critique: "The play is very beautiful, very interesting, very impressive. You could go for months on end to the English theatres and you won't find the genteel and the ennobling pleasure from their plays that you'll get from this play. Just as a magnificent building permeates your soul with a feeling which is similar to a musical feeling and to the elevation born in your soul when you read poetry—so such a spirit is born and grows in you as you look at 'Green Fields'. I feel just that was about 'Green Fields' as I write this article a day after I witnessed the performance."

Can there be a better opinion by such an important journalist and personality as Cahan? That's a very great victory for a theatre. But he gives the following opinion at the very beginning:

"Each actor and actress had something to enact; each actor and actress chimed in with the others, so that the whole thing was like an orchestra in which the instruments flowed together in one harmonious entity." Well, now that's good, isn't it? But he subsequently begins to dissect each one separately, and again there are more faults than virtues. Thus, for example, he begins with me and says:

"Celia Adler enacted the role outstandingly, but..." And now so many of my faults are recited that it couldn't very well be "outstanding".... It couldn't even be fair to middling.

About Ben Ami he says: "When Ben Ami appears on the stage in 'Green Fields', draws in his breath kind of spiritually, that's exactly what is needed here... This spirituality was evident throughout the three acts." And again a "but" comes along that negates everything.

Although I don't want to, still I must compare my two disappointments. I never left Schwartz with a feeling of hatred. I never felt any enmity from Schwartz toward me. Schwartz's weakness, Schwartz's trying to rise higher than anyone else, were within the framework of justified human weakness—temptations that not everyone can avoid. But here, in this theatre, I began to feel the owners' hatred toward me, and I must confess, I also sensed a definite enmity toward them. The lady owner's unjustified ambitions at any rate had no basis, no reason for being, no possibly of ever being realized.

When I told about the birth of my child, I gave an indication of incomplete domestic harmony between my husband, Lazar Freed, and me. That lack of harmony became much worse during the time elapsing between then and the season I am writing about now.

I felt that our ripping each other apart was having a bad effect on the health of both of us. and I was still more afraid that our growing son would begin to feel our severance; that a home without love, without fellowship, without a warm atmosphere could have a deleterious effect on our child. Although the thought of one day having to give an answer to my child's questions scared me, I decided to take the step and put an end to this thing.

I needn't tell you that one doesn't take the responsibility of making such a final decision with a light heart. A separation is generally a very painful process for all people. The world at large harbors the opinion that this is an easy matter among actors, and there are really cases in the theatrical world that can be held up as an example to justify certain people's expression: actors change husbands or wives like people change clothing on their bodies. Well, as has been said, there are such cases in the profession.

It's also true, however, that such cases also occur among people outside the profession. I'm convinced, on the other hand, that in the theatrical world, the matter is tied up with greater unpleasantness than in ordinary life, especially in the Jewish theatrical world, where the field is so tight and limited.

I can bring you exact examples from me and my family. My mother had to be together with my father in the same theatre only months after the divorce. The same thing happened that I had to play in the same theatre with my husband, Lazar Freed. You will surely understand that, being engaged in a theatre, I couldn't possibly think of not permitting Freed be engaged by the same theatre. Even knowing beforehand that Freed was engaged by a certain theatre, I couldn't avoid playing in that theatre, as really happened in the only better theatre in which we all desired to play—I mean in Schwartz's theatre. Whether pleasant or not, I had to play with Freed for a number of seasons.

So I accepted a proposal of a summer season at the Brooklyn Lyric Theatre in a cheap melodrama with self-styled stars—a terrible exchange for a tour of "Green Fields." My sparse financial situation, however, didn't allow me to be choosy. Meanwhile, I made my home with my child and Feige with my good, heartfelt pal of my school days, the former Dora Hurwitz, whom I've mentioned many times in the first part of my book.

I left the greatest part of my household goods where our home was during the few years that Freed and I lived together in New York. I wanted him to have a home when he returned from the tour. I obtained a home in Philadelphia at the end of the summer and really started divorce proceedings there.

I wish to conclude here the chapter about Lazar Freed in my life with a letter which I received from him all the way back in April, 1943, about a year before his death. He was then in a sanatorium in Duarte, California, not far from Los Angeles. His letter is a reply to my letter that I had written him after our son's graduation from the Medical Division of New York University. The letter speaks for itself.

"April 6, Los Angeles

Dear Celia:

I have just received your heart-warming letter. May God bless you for your comforting words and for the good news.

And how nicely and vividly you've described the ceremony of our son's graduation.

That's how I pictured it in my fantasy. I see very clearly what you lived through and thought through at the moment of the ceremony.... Even now, as I write to you, tears flow from my eyes because of both of joy and chagrin. Joy because it happened at last, and our brilliant child stands on his own feet with an intelligent profession and will not have to wait until someone will engage him and do him a favor and not pay for his hard work. Self-sufficient and free and independent as he is, may God give him strength and health and, above all, may the war be over quickly.

And a great deal of chagrin that my eyes and I myself couldn't see it, although I know that you represented me well. I know that both of you thought of me at that moment. And chagrin that I'm not able to send him the gift I wanted to send him.

Actually, you deserve double thanks. You were the one to tell me the good news when the telegram came that he would be accepted by N. Y. U. (New York University) and now for the lovely letter, and a third and super-thanks is due you—I've contemplated saying or writing it to you for a long time—for your good work in helping to raise such a fine person as our son, such as person from near and far can't stop praising.

May you also be rewarded with happiness and especially with good health for the rest of the days you are destined to be with us.

When you see the little fellow, embrace him and tether him to your heart as I would do it.

Thanking you, again for your lovely letter and, if you're not lazy, write again sometime.

Say hello to Mr. Cone.

Your Lazar"
 

Evidently he didn't expect that his end would come so quickly.... I even made time for sending our son to him in Duarte, California, to see him. The end came shortly thereafter.

I don't want to go into describing the various feelings and the countless sentiments that have now come to the surface as I've been reading and rewriting his letter. It might perhaps border on what people call melodrama. I'd better let it be. But I must dwell on the line in which Freed tries to thank me for the good news I gave him: "When the telegram came that they were accepting our son to New York University." I am doing it because a curious scene of joy and happiness is bound up with it ..... At the same time I feel that I must tender here my thanks to three important personalities in the Jewish-American political world who helped a great deal in the possibility that telegram's being sent by N. Y. U.

It wasn't so easy for a Jewish fellow to be accepted by the Medical Division of that university in those years; it was just like in Sholem Aleichem's "It's Hard to Be A Jew," where high marks and even a gold medal were not enough guarantee for a Jew to be accepted by such an important institution of learning. You had to seek help, "pull strings," as the saying goes. I ran around seeking help and knocking on countless doors. I was advised to turn to Dr. Sh. Margoshes and his lovely wife who had, as they say, an "in" with personalities whose word counted in that university. They received me in a friendly fashion, assured me of doing everything they could. But they also advised me to turn to our B. Vladeck, who was then President of the New York City Council. His letter on official stationery might have a great effect.

I can't forget to this day the warmth with which Vladeck received me, listened to my request, and said: "A letter by itself is not enough. I'll consult the Dean of the university personally." I was virtually dumbfounded at such a hearty approach. I admired our great B. Vladeck who, busy and occupied in such an interlocking activity as be conducted, harnessed as he was to many social duties, would take time to help me and my son—not, as I had asked him to, only with a letter, but himself proposing to make the effort and take the time for a personal contact with the Dean. Thus, he certainly was not to blame that his effort didn't reach its goal .....

And so I was counseled in those circles to try my luck and interview our great Man of the People, who, by his own strength, reached such high pinnacles in our workers' movement and in American political life in general—the outstandingly successful and yet plain David Dubinsky, the President of the International—that I ought to try to persuade him to become interested. Perhaps he could help.

I made the effort and prevailed. The "perhaps" was superfluous—he could and did help. I shall thus be forever thankful to him for his humanitarian friendship which he showed me, for giving me his time, his effort, and certainly for the achievement of the denied goal.

Rivers of ink and whole mountains of paper have been employed to describe and elucidate a mother's heart, a mother's joy, and a mother's feeling and worry over her child's happiness. I can add very little to it. But that moment engraved itself very deeply in my memory when the long-awaited telegram, which had been obtained with so much effort, came at last from N. Y. U.

I was then all alone at home. I now live over again the indescribable joy that can't be put into words when these few words sparkled from the little yellow paper: "You have been accepted'," etc.

I should very much like to have you feel with me now my situation then. A mother's overflowing heart who at this moment has no one to pour her feelings out to. I'm all alone in the house. Tones similar to prayers tore out of my throat—prayers that tear out of human hearts when they feel they have something for which to thank the familiar, inexplicable force that guides their lives. Without consciously feeling it myself, I danced and jumped, laughed hysterically, and tears of happiness welled from my eyes. All kinds of phrases begging God and thanking God rang in my ears.

Tired out by the outburst, I grabbed the phone, called Freed's hotel. I felt that he deserved being the first to be in on the good news. But he wasn't in. So I called the Cafe Royale—not there. Where else could I look for him? ... In the Actors' Club— Freed wasn't there either. I left my request everywhere: Let him call me.

So I began to look for my husband, Jack Cone. But I couldn't get him either.

My son Zelik'l had left to have a good time somewhere with his pals. I didn't know where to look for him.

Modern theatrical art holds that people don't talk to themselves. So I evidently became an ex-modern actress .... My overflowing mother's heart sought to pour itself out... I confess that I talked to myself in a very loud voice.  All this evidently didn't calm me.... I got out into the corridor, rang the little bell for the elevator. When the colored man opened the door, and his mild, friendly, and smiling eyes looked at me, I poured out my heart. He also had children—he too was hoping one day to experience such happiness and joy. He understood me; he wished me luck....

I got back into the house somewhat calmer. The telephone was ringing—Freed was calling. He thanked me, his voice choked with tears, that I didn't forget him at that joyous moment. All arguments and grievances, all angry feelings vanished. Two hearts beat in time, parental hearts that rejoiced over the hope of their child's happy future.

It didn't take long for my Jack to come running breathlessly. My overflowing heart had someone to pour itself out too.

It wasn't until late after midnight that my son came home. Seeing the bedroom lit up, he came in. Neither Jack nor I said anything to him about what had happened. My theatrical instinct urged me to prepare a scene of a mother's own fantasy. Zelik'l told us how he had spent the day, and although we should have heard boyish joy over a happily spent day in his narrative, we could feel worry and sadness in his words that constantly filled his brain over the uncertainty of being accepted by a medical school.

But suddenly his eyes fell at my feet where he saw the telegram pinned to the covers. My theatrical instinct didn't disappoint me. The play of my motherly fantasy had the climax I foresaw. I'm sure that his outcry and almost hysterical outburst scared many of the neighbors at that quiet nocturnal hour....

Perhaps you will wonder why I've lingered over that telegram which is practically an ordinary occurrence in many American homes. The reason for it is not only the fact that, as is true of all people, your own home is not the same as all other homes—your own child is not the same as all other children. It's also because it was so hard for me to see my son's studying and attainment through. It will no doubt sound unbelievable to many of you that I, Celia Adler, an actress of repute, was so depressed financially that seeing an only child through to the status of becoming a doctor should have been so difficult to do. But that's how it was. Circumstances so conspired that just during those years when his studies required great expenditures—just exactly then my earnings were very low.

Those were the crisis years in America, and such years have a bad effect on the theatre. Mildly speaking, our Yiddish theatre was in deep trouble. Freed generally earned very little; he couldn't help at all, although I never demanded any help from him. Jack Cone also earned little then, although he forced himself in every way possible to carry the financial responsibility both for our living and my son's studying.

It was an overall very wonderful relationship that existed between my second husband and my son. Zelik'l used to consult him more than me. And Cone would very often say to Zelik'l in joke: "Don't you think we should also take 'stepmother' into our decisions? ...."

Cone's care was two-fold. Under no circumstances did he permit that my status, my reputation as an actress, should be lessened by my climbing down for the sake of an income. He also took care that Zelik'l should not have to work nights, as other students did, to earn the expenses for his studying.

Knowing our financial hardships, relatives and those close to us very often reprimanded us for taking on such a heavy yoke. I constantly defended myself against this advice with this argument: "If I've been blessed with an only son who wants to study, I'm ready to do anything to help him."

Zelik'l himself often spoke to Jack about it, told him how much he suffers seeing how hard it was for us. He was ready to give it up. Jack's answer always was: "You must concern yourself only with your studies, and leave the rest to me, to us."

I remember the times when we sat in our small residence during a student's critical weeks when he was preparing for an important examination. We would sit and guard against speaking a word out loud so as not to disturb Zelik'l, in his studying. We would often go down for a walk in the street, even when it was snowing or raining, in order to leave Zelik'l by himself. (We begrudged ourselves spending money on a movie....)

Believe me, I'm not telling it to you in order to evoke sentiment ....I'm only concerned about showing that even an actress like me could very seldom lead a life of luxury and not infrequently live in need. And since it happened that my time of need was just when my son required my help, I so deeply appreciated my being successful in seeing things through from the moment the telegram came and the years of his medical studies until he graduated as a doctor, which I've described in my letter to Freed and his answer that you read at the beginning of the chapter.

I wish to add two more moments about this matter. The first moment was when Zelik went to be interviewed by the Dean in accordance with that telegram. The dean, Currier McEwen, a young Irishman, asked him in the course of the interview who his parents were. When he mentioned his mother's name, the Dean paused a moment and remarked:

"Adler?—Are you in any way connected with the great Jacob Adler?"

Zelik looked wonderingly at him and answered: "Yes, he was my grandfather .... "

To Zelik's wonderment, the Dean told him that he still remembered when he admired Jacob Adler in "Shylock" on Broadway, and that he had read much about him: "He was a great artist."

He also wondered why Zelik had pursued a career on the stage. Zelik told him that his mother insisted that he go to college first, then he could decide his own future. "Before I finished college, I had already firmly decided to take up medicine."

The second moment again has to do with a mother's foolish heart. It was with no little effort that Zelik and I got to the point of his being accepted as an intern at Beth Israel Hospital. Thus I recall how I purposely used to go to the hospital often—sit in one of the corridors and enjoy hearing the loud-speaker keep repeating constantly: "Calling Dr. Selwyn Freed!—Calling Dr. Selwyn Freed!"


You already know that I was engaged by Anshel Schorr's Arch Street Theatre for the 1920-1921 season. So it no doubt would be difficult for me to relocate myself back again that season in the old theatre after two seasons of new attempts and beautiful dreams. But things went doubly my way this time. The city of Philadelphia always awakened in me certain pleasant sentiments. The Philadelphia public received me very warmly and in addition, my mother, Dina Feinman, was also in that theatre's troupe.

Secondly, even before I had fully established myself for that season in Philadelphia, I received a pleasant surprise. I got a letter from the Artistic Council of the Theatre Guild. They wrote that they were preparing to open their current season with a production of David Pinski's "The Treasure." They wanted me to play the feminine lead, Tillie. They wanted to talk things over with me. Being in the mood I was in then, after my two great disappointments in the Irving Place and Garden Theatres, this letter took me out of the apathy that had befallen me.

I've already tried to explain in the first part of my story why it didn't occur to me in my youthful years to seek a career on the English stage. Now I was again standing at a moment when I sought an answer in my heart as to whether I'd be satisfied to dedicate the remainder of my life, my theatrical life, to the English stage. I cannot say definitely with assurance that I would decline a career on the English stage. But I can say openheartedly and conscientiously that at that moment I wasn't attracted and I didn't feel within myself any great ambition to become an English actress.

Of course, it's possible that if I then had the power of divination to see ahead as to what would happen to the Yiddish theatre, I would perhaps have looked at such an opportunity differently. But not having such farsightedness, I had the feeling then as usual that my spending my theatrical life career was tightly bound up with the Yiddish stage.

Heaven forbid that I should fool anybody. I never refused and never would refuse roles on the English stage. That's human nature, the actor's urge, the financial necessity. But I never felt myself trembling over or had the great desire to play out my career on the English stage. On the contrary, I was always afraid of the thought of having to part finally with the Yiddish stage despite my disappointments, my heartache, my embitterment that my career on the Yiddish stage had dealt me in such large measure. That's why I made an appointment to go see and negotiate with the Theatre Guild with a considerable amount of quiescence.

I received a very warm reception. There was an attitude of curiosity if I'd meet their demands and a pleasant artistic atmosphere in general. I had a rather pleasant surprise when I found out that Immanuel Reicher would direct the play. It was then the Theatre Guild's policy to produce a definite number of plays each season, allocating a definite number of weeks for each production. "The Treasure" got between five and six weeks. So the proposal pleased me very much—both as to the role that I had once played, by the way, on the Yiddish stage and the pleasant attitude and financial arrangement as well. I told them that I must first talk it over with the manager of the Arch Street Theatre to prevail upon him to free me for these certain five to six weeks.

And so I shall yet return to telling about the feelings that came over me at my first appearance on Broadway, the impression that the production and my playing made on the press, on the most important actors in the troupe, and on the leading powers of the Theatre Guild on the English theatrical public and, in general, on the Broadway theatrical profession.

I must again here mention with gratitude Anshel Schorr's extremely fine attitude toward me in general whenever I happened to have him as my boss during my career and his indulgence in accommodating me by giving me the chance to play in such a theatre as the Theatre Guild on Broadway. When I told him all the particulars about my negotiations with them, he said to me, without thinking a great deal about the matter, that I should immediately inform them that I would accept their proposal. He only asked me to talk them into releasing me for the opening play in Philadelphia, which was to take place a few weeks before the rehearsals of "The Treasure" were to begin.

And again Schorr showed his expertise in the craft of the theatre. He wanted the Philadelphia public to know and believe that I would return to his theatre after the appointed time. He asked me to immediately make public a letter in the daily Philadelphia "Jewish World" and tell them how the matter stood. Understandably, I went along with him in this, and the following letter from me appeared in the "Jewish World" at the very beginning of September:

"A Letter From Celia Adler."

"Very Honorable Editor of the 'Jewish World' :

"Allow me through your worthy newspaper to express my warm thanks to my managers of the Arch Street Theatre for giving me their friendly permission to play several weeks on the English stage as guest of the Theatre Guild in New York. I shall appear in English at the Garrick Theatre in New York in the leading lady's role in David Pinski's "The Treasure" under Immanuel Reicher's direction. I would never have allowed myself to leave a theatre in which I was engaged, even if only for a few brief weeks. But since, by coincidence, I am free from the operetta which will be produced as the second play at the Arch Street Theatre, the friendly management of the theatre has permitted me to play a role I love very much for a period of four weeks. Only then did I accept the Theatre Guild's invitation.

"I shall definitely return to Philadelphia after those performances. It seems that my first appearance in Philadelphia after coming back to the Arch Street Theatre will be in Peretz Hirshbein's famous play. 'The Abandoned Inn.'

"Very respectfully,

Celia Adler"

Schorr was right. The Philadelphia theatre public attested its faith in the veracity of my letter in various ways. Also Schorr assured me that the intake at the opening play in which I appeared was beyond his expectations, and the reception at every one of my appearances on the stage was unusually surcharged and warm. I also received a considerable number of letters from Philadelphia theatregoers wishing me success on Broadway. Others came backstage to do the same. But all wished me a safe return.

The premier of David Pinski's "Der oytser," under the English name of "The Treasure," was announced by the Theatre Guild for October third, 1920.

I needn't say that, in order to have a premiere on October third, the Theatre Guild began rehearsals at the beginning of September.

Indeed, I can only speak very favorably of the rehearsals of "The Treasure" at the Theatre Guild. I was certainly pleased to work again under Reicher's direction. I was also very much impressed by the unusually warm attitude both by the theatre's management and actors, among whom were such famous Guild actors with great reputations as Dudley Digges and Helen Westley. They played my parents, a Jewish gravedigger and his wife, plain, small-town, orthodox Jews—roles that were hard for them to master.

So they often beleaguered me and overwhelmed me with countless questions that troubled them about their roles.

As a literary work, Pinski's "Treasure" certainly fitted into the Guild's standard of domestic literature. The comic situations in the play are to some degree of universal scope. People's avarice for money, their headlong pursuit of hidden jewels are universal  weaknesses; but the environment in which the situation is enacted is so angularly Jewish, so wrapped in a foreign, old-fashioned Jewishness, that the broad American public couldn't digest it.

I don't want to take up too much space bringing you the compliments given me for my role of Tillie. I'll bring you only two excerpts. Thus, for example, the famous Burns Mantle wrote:

"Celia Adler brings much color and life into the Guild's production, 'The Treasure,' with her magnificent penchant for comedy, her rich talent and wonderful intuition and acting enthusiasm .... The high point of the evening was the playing of Celia Adler, the first lady of the Yiddish stage. Our English theatre is not always able to show such playing. It's pleasant to sit and enjoy her wonderful playing."

Robert Garland in "The World-Telegram":

"Celia Adler's art can be better appreciated in English than in Jewish. It's a more disciplined art. She can do nothing else but give an artistic performance throughout."

My personal female press agent, Bella Spivack, occupied herself with this; the woman who years later became very famous as one of the most successful dramatists of the pair, Bella and Samuel Spivack. In general, the institution of personal publicity agents is practically a must for a noted actor on the American stage. Most of them are blessed with a special genius for sensational news about those they serve in order constantly to keep them before the eyes and ears of the Broadway theatre world.

Thus I recall, for example, how worried I was when a friend brought me the unpleasant news that a member of my mixed-up family life was getting ready to initiate an open scandal about me in the theatre at a performance of "The Treasure." You can imagine the fear that grabbed me when I imagined what a scandal would mean for me. I tremblingly entrusted myself to Bella Spivack. Her face fairly beamed, her eyes virtually got on fire, and, as if she were already manifestly seeing the scandal in the theatre right before her eyes, she called out:

"Oh, God, let it happen. May he not regret it! Do you know, Celia, what I can do with such a scandal? This would indeed be front-page news in big letters in all the newspapers. Such publicity has tremendous value for you and your career ...."

I looked at her with scary eyes and wondered about what lies hidden in the minds of publicity agents to enable them so easily to make big publicity out of intimate and personal heartache. First then did I truly understand the curse of what they call "yellow journalism."

So I'm fortunate that her hope didn't materialize. She more than once later pitied me in our conversations:

"Celia, you have no luck. Your career would have been endlessly benefitted if that scandal had happened."

I'm indeed grateful to her with all my heart for not getting me the benefits I could have gotten.

If you'll pardon my lack of modesty, I shall tell you in full consciousness and with a clear conscience that I didn't shame my name and my profession, heaven forbid, with my fist appearance on the English stage. This was attested to not only by the compliments of the most important theatre critics of the press; the American theatrical profession, in general, received me with great enthusiasm.

I still remember how the great David Belasco, who was then one of the most important and recognized theatrical personalities in the Broadway theatrical world, came into my dressing room after a performance with overwhelming enthusiasm over my playing and kissing me, asked me several times to come and see him at the first opportunity. I shall also not forget the unusual joy and true warmth of heart that my beloved Bertha Kalich expressed to me in that same dressing room for playing that role. She predicted with certainty that my future was on Broadway. Other important theatrical personalities from the Broadway theatrical world asked me to come and see them. I can't understand clearly to this day how I practically ignored all these wonderful promises and invitations. Perhaps it was my innate pride, doubtlessly one of my weaknesses, that I constantly have the feeling that those that really need me know where to find me.

I think that if the role of Tillie had not been thoroughly characteristically Jewish and if it had not been of the comic genre, there would perhaps have been Broadway theatrical managers who would have wanted me and sought me.

The Theatre Guild directors very much wanted me for their next production of Bernard Shaw's "Heartbreak House." So I also  can't explain why my loyalty to Anshel Schorr didn't let me accept the Theatre Guild's proposal.

I came back to Philadelphia, keeping my word that I had openly given to the Philadelphia theatrical public in the "Jewish World."


Evidently Anshel Schorr was sure that I'd keep my word and return to his theatre as soon as "The Treasure" performances were over. He fed the Philadelphia theatrical public on my successes on Broadway and on the great compliments that were lavished on me there.

It again became evident how well he understood the theatrical public. When he announced my first appearance at the Arch Street Theatre, the Philadelphia public made for the box office. The play with which I again began in Philadelphia was Isidore Solotorefsky's "The Poor Rich Little Orphan," an overwhelmingly melodramatic thing, with a strongly dramatic youngster's role for me.
 

Celia in "Kleine oreme reykhe yesoyme'le" (Poor-Rich Little Orphan)

But then, in Philadelphia after my performances in the outstanding role of Tillie in Pinski's "Treasure," I became more and more tired of both the prose and the situations in that play. It seems to me that I'll better bring out what I now wish to express by means of the words spoken about me by a theatrical reviewer in a South American Jewish paper. Unfortunately, I can't find his name on the excerpt. I cite from his review after a performance of one of the melodramas such as "The Poor-Rich Little Orphan" that I happened to play on one of my tours years later in South America:

"No one doubts that Celia Adler is an artist of this endowment and is capable to stir her hearers on fire and enthuse them. She came to us with the aura of her artistic achievements in the New York Art Theatre, where she was the leading figure among the women. But it seems to me that she has first now undergone the great artistic temptation with us and has emerged the same Celia Adler, the great artist. Don't consider it a paradox. It was surely easier for Celia Adler, the person with the fine nerve-meshing, to take on the natural tremulousness of women naturally delineated by Peretz Hirshbein, Sholem Aleichem, and Sholem Asch, which she brought to life on the stage of the Art Theatre, rather than to infuse the breath of life—and, it must be said, real life—artistically created, into the unnatural, unreal, and just plain lifeless personages jerry-built by American writers of trash."

I can't omit a very funny incident that happened at the first performance of the "Abandoned Inn" at the Arch Street Theatre.

As Meite, the bride, I was dressed up in a village wedding dress at the wedding ceremony in the second act. In order that the little dress should look wider, the wardrobe mistress dressed me in several little petticoats. But she evidently forgot to secure one of the little petticoats properly. You're already guessing what happened. As I was dancing with my pals, the neglected little petticoat slowly slipped slowly down more and more, until I began to feel that it was tangling between my legs. Even before someone on the stage noticed the catastrophe, the audience could be heard issuing waves of laughter. Madame Waxman, who was playing my mother, was the first one on the stage to notice it. I felt I must do something here to undo the catastrophe. And instead of stealthily putting the little petticoat aside, I openly stepped out of it during the dance. Madame Waxman succeeded in making good use of this and helped transform the incident into part of the dance. She boldly lifted with both hands the lovely little petticoat before the audience and, while dancing, shoved a little chair out to the front of the stage and happily spread it out on the little chair with great aplomb. The audience took this scene in a joyful manner to be a natural part of the play.

Understandably, the next day, both the wardrobe mistress and I made quite sure that the little petticoat should not drop. But Gruber, one of the managers, ran on the stage with a terrible argument: "Holy smoke, what happened to the lovely scene with the petticoat? Why did you leave it out? It was really a wonderful scene."

The petticoat dropped just at the right time at all subsequent performances.....

Instead of telling about it myself, I wish to cite here a portion of what our beloved A. Frumkin wrote: "Aside from the great success that Celia Adler, together with the other actors, had last week in the "Abandoned Inn," she also appeared last Monday night in the leading role of Hauptmann's 'Lonesome People,' in which she was unsurpassed. She performed the play at her 'Evening-of-Honor,' and it's no exaggeration to say that the Arch Street Theatre has seldom seen such an outstandingly large audience that not only filled every seat up to the very top of the last balcony, but a great, very great many stood in thick rows in the back."

 

I can't say for sure on which day or even which month it was in the spring of 1921 that Schwartz again remembered me. But it must have been a considerable number of weeks before my season at the Philadelphia Arch Street Theatre was over. As the saying goes, it was on a lovely day that Maurice Schwartz announced to me that he was in Philadelphia and would like to see me; he would like to engage me for the following season at the Yiddish Art Theatre.

Unfortunately, I can't say that the news cheered me up very much, that I felt elevated. My clear head didn't permit me to devote myself to new dreams, joyful hopes, shining ideals as concerned my future in Schwartz's Art Theatre. I won't deny that I had the urge to live and create again in better plays, in the better theatre. But my feeling didn't expunge for one moment my memory of the bitter experiences Schwartz made me pass through at the Irving Place Theatre.

I went to meet Schwartz with sure, firm steps, not borne by wings of fantasy. As we had done some ten pr eleven years before, we again ate lunch in Philadelphia. The only difference between that lunch and the lunches of yesteryear was that we were both older by some eleven years and already knew each other better....

Instead of looking at each other with eyes of love and carrying on a conversation in the manner of girlhood and boyhood romance, we both observed each other with wiser eyes; and our talk was a sort of wrangling at trying to get the better business deals from each other. On the one hand a strong willingness, a yearning for better theatre was being fought out; on the other hand, there was the businessman, who, in addition to being a star performer was also blessed with a glib tongue and an understanding of how to excite my strong desire, my great yearning. I must admit that, if one of us had to be declared the winner in that talk, it was Schwartz. But I can clearly say that I lost, being fully aware nevertheless of what was going on.

Somehow it almost became a rigid law that the better theatre could not pay actors such wages as the so-called trash theatres could, so that I was ready to lower the salary I had received from Anshel Schorr. I was not impressed by the other beautifully portrayed theatrical dreams with which Schwartz tried to enthuse me about the new home of his Yiddish Art Theatre in the Garden Theatre, which he had taken over. How does one say it: "I took it with a grain of salt."

Schwartz also tried very strongly to prevail upon me at that conversation to accept his proposal to go with him on his prolonged tour over the provinces. He was leaving with Sholem Aleichem's "It's Hard to Be A Jew" and, since he hadn't engaged Bertha Gerstin for the coming season, he would like it better that I, his leading lady for the new season, should get the publicity that was wrapped up with the Art Theatre's tour over the provinces: "True, the role isn't so boilingly hot, but I'm sure that you'll appear to advantage in the role."

And so, it would seem that I allowed myself to be prevailed upon, but in this case it wasn't entirely Schwartz's strength that mastered me, but the financial gains the prospect offered. As a province-city, Philadelphia has no summer tour. Taking on Schwartz's proposition meant my earning about a thousand dollars—so that, all in all, I came away almost satisfied from that rendezvous with Schwartz....

I was happy over the prospect of a season of better theatre the chance to dig deep into roles of artistically conceived personages. And, in addition, the tour over the provinces that would give me the opportunity of being able to go with my child and Feige on a more comfortable summer vacation with a lighter heart. But evidently the little maxim, "There's a great gap between promising and giving," is a true little maxim, and the theatrical profession is certainly no exception.

Schwartz again met me in Philadelphia some two or three weeks before the departure for the tour over the provinces. Nothing had changed, heaven forbid, concerning my being with him the next season. What did change was the matter of the tour. That is, the tour had not changed but my going on it had. Just then, Muni Weisenfreund (Paul Muni), who had had such enormous success in "It's Hard To Be A Jew," married Emma Finkel's younger daughter, Bella, a very fine young actress. So Muni wanted to go on the tour with Schwartz only if Bella took part in it. There is no other women's role in "It's Hard To Be A Jew." Since the role is not so A-1, he has to take on Bella for the role—that's what Schwartz assured me.

Well now, who could argue with a pair of newlyweds who don't want to part during their honeymoon? I was a little shocked at the ease with which Schwartz dealt with the Yes and No, not even thinking about the fact that I had lost other opportunities, being sure of his tour. His only expression to quiet me was: "After all, Celia, that's really no role for you. The role is too small for you...."

He didn't know that he would have to meet up with those two phrases during the season because, when he was performing "It's Hard To Be A Jew" later in the season and gave me the role as a matter of course, I rejected it. I just repeated his words: "You yourself said that the role was not for me—the role was too small for me ...."
 

I decided not to break up my little home in Philadelphia. I went to New York and stayed with Lillie and Ludwig, my sister and brother-in-law, in their lovely and comfortable home on 110th Street, opposite Central Park. There was a many-sided reason for my not breaking up my home in Philadelphia. First, my residence had to remain in Philadelphia because of legal reasons anent my divorce from Lazar. That was the main reason. Second, my subconscious somehow told me that I would no doubt not stay with Schwartz more than one season at a time. Third, I didn't want my child to suffer from the actor's fate—peripatetics. Since my mother was engaged in Philadelphia the following season, she remained in my home with Feige and my child.

My motherly weakness urges me to tell you about one of my Zelik'l's little witticisms. He was then about five years old. I'm counting on the fact that everybody knows that everything his own child says is a witticism. Thus, I recall that, while playing with his little buddies, he boasted that three women took care of him: "My mother, my grandmother, and my Feige. My grandmother is the 'fixer'—if my toy gets broken, she's always ready to fix it. My Feige is the cooker—she's always cooking meals I like. My mother is the reader—she always reads the most beautiful stories to me; sometimes she even reads them without a book. But all three are working for me.... " So, that season, he often missed the third one, the reader—poor fellow.

The first play that season in Schwartz's Art Theatre was "The Dybbuk" by Sh. Ansky, a play that proved to be epoch-making for the Yiddish theatre all over the world. It seems to me that no play was performed so much; it can be said that it played in practically every nook and cranny where Jews can be found. I believe there isn't another play in Jewish dramatic literature that has been played in so many languages as "The Dybbuk."

Those most important and noted productions of the plays by the magnificent Habima Players, under their young, masterful director, I. B. Vachtangov, were considered as being in the first tier of greatness. And David Herman's finely wrought direction of the Vilna Troupe is to be placed in practically the same rank of importance. David Herman's production at the Elysium Theatre in Warsaw on December 19th, 1920, was the first performance of "The Dybbuk." The public and the great interest it showed in the play practically forced many theatres to produce it.

I've already mentioned that Schwartz took over the Garden Theatre on Twenty-Seventh Street for that season. The theatre needed considerable renovation; the stage was also occupied with "The Dybbuk" sets being built on it; so that we started rehearsals in the hall of the Manhattan Lyceum on Fourth Street. I recall how wonderfully Maurice Schwartz read "The Dybbuk" to the troupe. One could see that he had spent much time studying the play.

I recall very clearly the impression I had at my first reunion with Schwartz during a time period of two whole years.

One could feel a strong certainty in his approach to his work. In like manner, the authority with which he faced the troupe stood out stronger. After his magnificent reading, I awaited with longer curiosity a explanation, a lecture if you wish to call it that, about what the play purports to say in "The Dybbuk," about the mysticism lying hidden in the play, about the various implications that are in practically every role. Schwartz had surely gone into deep study, deep thought of all these things. He had weaved it all into a definite directorial plan, and he would hold the lecture any moment now so that every actor would feel what the direction expected him to bring out. Listening to his reading, I felt that this was very important for my role, for the roles of the others. The lecture didn't materialize. Perhaps at the rehearsals, I thought.

When "The Dybbuk" rehearsals started, most of us meandered around in a quandary. I rambled around, very much lost in my role. The role of Leah is extraordinarily complex: A young woman is smitten with love for a young man whom she hardly knows but who is destined for her by Divine Providence. There isn't one love scene, practically no single word with which to express her deep love for him. Leah and Chonon are seen together on the stage in only one scene in the synagogue. Hardly a word passes between them. She must show only with her eyes, with glances veiled from her grandmother and the others present in the synagogue, that her soul is tethered to the soul of her pre-destined Chonon. To effectuate this requires one's own deepening in the role and the director's indication and explanation of the right line of procedure.

Having been born in the United States, I seldom heard and certainly never saw a person who harbored a dybbuk. Leah receives her dybbuk from her prematurely dead, predestined Chonon. He must speak through her. I scarcely knew how to ingest the thing. So I missed not hearing the director's awaited lecture perhaps more than anyone else did. I tried to find an answer in the role, in the play, in the little dots that the author had so frequently put into the play.

I spoke to a number of people seeking the enlightenment I was missing. Ludwig, my brother-in-law, was brought up and spent his early youth in Galicia. Many stories and legends about dybbuks made the rounds there. Talking it over with me, he told me several stories. He also told me about a scene that he himself had witnessed in which a young fellow, who used to stay in the anteroom of a synagogue, thrashed around in all sorts of convulsions and that something like a strange voice seemed to crow out of him. People used to say that a dybbuk had entered him.

In my rambling, I shaped the role from all these words and conversations. I remember how physically difficult it was for me to bring forth my created fantasy voice when the dybbuk had to speak through me. I even recall that I once fainted from the physical strain and had to be carried off the stage. I wasn't sure of the correctness of my interpretation in those scenes in which the dybbuk spoke out of me. When I later saw the Habima do "The Dybbuk" with the wonderfully talented Hanna Rowina, who was blessed with so many virtues, in the role of Leah and heard her dybbuk tones of voice, I had strong arguments with myself.... I even envied her very much for part of her movements in the role while she struggles with the dybbuk. In Leah's scene, in which the Miropole Rabbi tries to hound the dybbuk out of her, and the dybbuk cries out of her in great spiritual pain: "She's my destined betrothed; I won't leave her.... "  Leah (Rowina) saying these words clasped herself with her own hands and wound her arms around her neck.

I was very much impressed by her scene. Knowing the role, I began to feel how accurately that expressed the feelings Leah was then experiencing. I was told about how much vision and understanding the young director Vachtangov expended in working on that scene and others similar to it.

Everyone knows that "The Dybbuk" has many mass scenes. So Schwartz got involved with the Art Circle, an amateur group with an ambition to make its own new attempts in the domain of the Yiddish theatre. Part of the group got on the professional Yiddish stage during the course of the years. Some of them dug roots in the Yiddish theatre with a considerable amount of success, among them being Jehuda Bleich, Zvi Scooler, Moishe Strassberg, Jacob Bergreen, Boris Weiner, the painter Jack Sobel, Sherman and others.

An unfortunate mistake, which became famous in the entire American-Yiddish theatrical profession, is worthy of mention here. The actor, who didn't satisfy Schwartz in the role of the Messenger, at last lived to see the day when he was later allowed to play it on our tour over the provinces. At the end of the second act, when the peculiar tones of voice of the so-called dybbuk begin to emanate from the bride, my role Leah, the Messenger concludes the act with the following phrase which he utters clearly, distinctly, practically counting each word: "Into the bride has entered a dybbuk! .... "

Before we left on tour, Schwartz sent the actor involved out ahead in order to find the needed number of people for the mass scenes in "The Dybbuk," and to study the scenes with them; after all, you can't bring along tens of extras. To take people on a tour is a very costly enterprise. Most of the extras in Chicago were Gentiles whom an agent had furnished for us. The last scene, when the dybbuk enters the bride is enacted at the marriage ceremony at which all the extras stand holding little candle lights in their hands. And when the Messenger utters his drawn-out last words, they must all express fear with the little lights in their hands, and call out—"Oh-h-h!.. .. " And since the stage is very dark—the wedding ceremony takes place in the street—an impressive effect is created when, together with their drawn-out "Oh," all the shining little lights make a move in a certain direction.

Knowing that they didn't know Yiddish, and that they wouldn't know when to enact their scene, he arranged with them to look at him constantly and he would give them the signal when to utter "Oh" and sway the little lights. It was evidently very much in his mind that the effect of the little lights come out as well as it should. And so it was that the distinct, clear, drawn-out phrase came through as: "Into the bride has entered a candle light...."

It's hard for me to relate how we all felt when the curtain fell on these unfortunate words. Ordinarily, in such cases, a sort of sympathy awakens among the actors for the one who has the misfortune of making such a terrible mistake on the stage. We were somewhat happy when he didn't want to believe by any manner or means that he had made the mistake. But this little story became a renowned byword in our theatrical profession ....

 

We rehearsed "The Dybbuk" at the Manhattan Lyceum for several weeks until we switched to the theatre—but not yet onto the stage. There was a rather spacious place behind the rows of seats in the balcony of the theatre—so we continued our rehearsals there. The stage was still occupied with the sets that were being built there.

It wasn't until the very last day before the premiere that we held the first and last rehearsal on the stage. We began the rehearsals at eight o'clock in the evening and, understandably went over many scenes. There were also long stops during which the various lighting effects were firmed up and punctiliously effectuated. The new sets were also set up then for the first time for the actors' use. And it is very often necessary in such cases to change something, to fit something here and there. This also took a lot of time. "The Dybbuk" has four acts and each one of the first three has a different set. You will thus first now understand when I tell you that we barely got through with the first three acts by six o'clock in the morning.

I won't try to tell you about how we all felt after going through such a difficult night vigil right on the eve of the premiere when that very evening. We had to be ready and full of energy to perform such a difficult play as "The Dybbuk" for the first time. Even Schwartz, who was famous in the profession for his unusual strength and endurance, even he was empty of energy and exhausted. So it was agreed among all of us that the few hours of rest were more worthwhile than to spend them in rehearsing the last act. So, as the saying goes, we left it to Heaven and to our long-time experience that we would somehow or other make it without rehearsing the last act.

Obviously, because Ansky's "Dybbuk" had held top place in the theatrical writing in the Jewish press all over the world and no less in the foreign-language newspapers all over the world, we were all filled with a lot of nervousness and trembling expectation over our first performance of the play. When we were already in our dressing rooms, getting makeup on and, in general getting ready for the performance, each of us was chockfull of nervous tension. There were some fifty or sixty people on the stage, counting actors and extras. You could almost slice the collective nervousness with a knife.

The first performance was not before the public at large, so to speak. There existed in those days in Jewish New York an  organization with the very curious name of "The Mockers." A group of intelligent young men and women, they were very much interested in Jewish culture, literature, and better Yiddish theatre.

Generally speaking, they awakened Jewish New York to all sorts of cultural happenings, and mixed into and helped bring out in the open, so to speak, matters that bore on Jewish culture and literature.

The chairman or president, as the office is usually known in Jewish organizations, called himself "King of the Mockers," a title he borrowed from one of Zangwill's famous books. Al Harris, the noted public reader of Sholem Aleichem's works and an artist, came out of "The Mockers" organization. And who doesn't remember the famous "Meier" of "The Mockers"? Artists, performers, everybody alike who had any relationship with Yiddish literature and culture often had to answer Meier-of-Mockers' "Arguments and Opinions."

And it was "The Mockers" who brought up the first performance of "The Dybbuk" from Schwartz.

It was not only a favor and an encouragement to Schwartz on the financial side of his theatre, but also a great favor to us actors to have such a fine audience on which to try out our research, our inchoate wandering, and before which to cover up our exhaustion from the previous night of vigil.

I sense the desire to utter my admiration here for Ansky's wonderful understanding of how to affect a theatre audience mystically. In his comments in the printed text of "The Dybbuk," he requests that, before the curtain goes up in total darkness, there shall be heard a quiet, mystical song from afar. I cannot forget how I trembled when I felt the song being intoned in the darkness: "Wherefore, wherefore, has the soul fallen from its exalted height into the lowest depths? In Falling lies the power for the Ascent ...." And I had no doubt that the theatre audience was deeply affected by the words and the melody; and this created the proper atmosphere in which to receive the tender mystical performance of "The Dybbuk."

It doubtless happens to many people that the memory of certain impressions remains engraved in their consciousness for many long years. My impression of how "The Dybbuk" play began is still in my memory to this day both as to the singing of "Wherefore, wherefore" before the curtain rose and the chant with which the Jewish civil and religious law (Talmud) is sung by the idlers attached to the synagogue (batlonim) the moment the curtain rose.

My friends have often told me that, at the rising of the curtain after the mystic intonations of the "wherefore, wherefore," the faint lighting of only parts of the synagogue called forth a feeling of holiness in the theatre's audience. The first scene, the conversation of the three batlonim of the synagogue, helped strengthen this very feeling.

The people in the Art Circle possessed considerable intelligence, were knowledgeable of Yiddish literature, knew "The Dybbuk" as a play, and executed with much love all the mass scenes and the more minor roles that a number of them were given.

The bridegroom with whom I was to be brought to the wedding ceremony in "The Dybbuk" was also a young fellow from the Art Circle. I say "I had to be brought to the wedding ceremony" because it was never to take place. Just when they bring him over to me for my veiling prior to the wedding ceremony, I suddenly jump up, tear the kerchief from his hands, and push him away, yelling: "You're not my bridegroom...." I remember that, sitting on the chair in that scene when the handsome young fellow who played the bridegroom comes near me with the kerchief, I said quietly to Bina Abramowitz who stood at my side, "What a sweet young fellow; it's a pity I have to treat him so badly...."

That was his first role on the stage. But he has created quite a notable spot for himself in the better Yiddish theatre since then. He has also created a great name for himself on radio station WEVD.

He's my beloved colleague and friend, whom everybody how knows, the truly talented Zvi Scooler, "the master of the poetic rhyme."

Curiously enough, as I was talking with Zvi Scooler only a few weeks ago about that "Dybbuk" time, and he confided a secret to me: He had heard my remark to Bina Abramowitz about him at the time and it remained in his memory to this day.

 

I've previously enumerated here a number of the young fellows from the Art Circle who, in time, created a name for themselves on the professional Yiddish stage. I do not wish to slight the young ladies of the Art Circle who then participated in "The Dybbuk." Several of them later also created a name for themselves in this or that manner, among them being: Clara Langsner, Malka Kornstein, Brontcha Bernstein, Miriam Goldberg who, in later years, also derived satisfaction at times on the Yiddish and the English stage. Among them was also the extremely fine present-day storyteller, Sarah Hammer-Jacklin. You can see for yourself that those young fellows and girls of the Art Circle possessed intelligence and fine talent.

Anna Spector was also among them. She later became famous as one of the first and best women-personalities on the Yiddish radio. She not only created for herself a great name with her activities on WEVD, but she also inspired and awakened many woman to devote themselves to organizational work; and a rather large women's organization shaped up around her that did a great deal to rescue Jewish orphans from devastated Europe through the Histadrut Campaign.

They all attached themselves to me, so to speak, and they used to spend most of their free time from a performance in my dressing room. I became close friends with a number of them, and I would often frequent their homes, especially Anna Spector, who later became the wife of Oscar Gorin, who held an important position in the Jewish radio world. Their home truly became in time a place where the most noted personalities of the artistic and literary world would meet.

I feel deep pain remembering them and their home that has as if been wiped off the earth, not leaving anybody to represent the virtue of hospitality to guests. Oscar Gorin and Anna Spector left the world prematurely. My pain deepens when I recall that three of the four have already been taken from us. Also gone are Malka Kornstein and Brontcha Bernstein. We were such close friends, and I now think I owe them gratitude.... They sweetened for me many a difficult, bitter day and night that I had to live through that season both in my life in the theatre and in my personal life. They lightened my burden a great deal with their joyfulness, with their devotion and love for their work and for me.

The arguments and questions that I, in my role as Leah in "The Dybbuk," pose for my grandmother now surface unwillingly to my memory: "Tell me, dearest grandma, doesn't a person get born for a big, long life? And, if he dies before his time, what happens to his life not lived, his happiness and his suffering—his thoughts that he didn't have time to think, his deeds that he didn't have time to accomplish?.... What happens to the children that he didn't have time to have—what happens to it all?"

So now I think and ruminate just as Leah does in "The Dybbuk": What really happens to foreshortened lives? These people really gave me so much of their love and devotion, at times lifting my spirits with their happiness and glee; and I really wasn't the only one in their circle. Anna Spector's and Oscar Gorin's lovely warm home received me with warmth so many times in difficult moments in the course of my life and consoled me and caressed me—really, now, why has this warm home, which was so filled with meaningfulness, been so brutally swept away, not leaving a stick or stone behind to mark its existence? Even a home has a soul—to where has that soul vanished?

Forgive me for my sad and perhaps foolish memories and ruminations. I felt like ventilating my yearning. I miss them so, those beloved chums of mine.

There is an accepted opinion around that certain happenings and occurrences can be much better and more clearly explained and appreciated the further one is removed from them. It is evidently a true opinion. Thus I now think that, at that time, when we were absorbed in "The Dybbuk" and each of us was occupied with his role and because some of the roles were very difficult, we could not properly appreciate the worth of "The Dybbuk," a play that was Ansky's masterful theatre piece. We also didn't grasp why this piece satisfied so many audiences, and called forth their enthusiasm. Now, after so many years, when I think of my role, of the play's personalities with whom I came in contact, when I look into and turn the pages of "The Dybbuk" and linger over certain scenes, it seems to me you don't have to be a great theatre buff or one who deeply understands literature to be able to touch and sense the power this piece harbors and the tremendous effort it must have on people in general and on Jews in particular.

"The Dybbuk" has all the elements with which to involve an audience, even if it is produced in a surface fashion, without deep understanding. It's much clearer to me how why the play could so enthuse and call forth so much depth in young Vachtangov, not a Jew, a close collaborator with the Russian Moscow Art Theatre, a student of the great Stanislavsky. He so penetrated and fathomed the mystic depths of "The Dybbuk" that he could create such a magnificent performance with a group of intelligent, ambitious, idealistic young lovers. Of course it's true that great talent lay in many of these young lovers which Vachtangov awakened and revealed in them. David Herman also achieved this in large measure with the Vilna Troupe, practically under the same circumstances.

No doubt many of you know that "Between Two Worlds" was the feature name of Ansky's play. "The Dybbuk" was an added name. With Ansky, the two worlds are this world and the next world. It could also be "Rich and Poor," "The Satisfied and the Aggrieved."

Take, for example, a little parable, a parable that Ansky tells through the Messenger's mouth; he tells it to the rich man,  Reb Sender Brinitzer. It's a concealed little parable; but everyone in the audience, even the most simpleminded, had the satisfaction of understanding the parable and what the Messenger wished to elucidate with it. Here's the little parable:

"A rabbinical devotee, a rich man but a miser, once came to the Rabbi, The Rabbi took him by the hand, led him over to the window and said:—Look .... So the rich man looked into the street. The Rabbi then asked him:—What do you see? He answered:—I see people .... The Rabbi again took him by the hand, led him over to the mirror and said:—Look, what do you see now? He answered:—Now I see myself .... So the Rabbi said to him:—Understandably, there's glass in the window and there's glass in the mirror, but the glass in the mirror is coated with a little silver; and no sooner is one silvered-over then he stops seeing people and begins to see only himself...."

As I've already previously indicated, the Messenger is a kind of symbolic figure in the play—Justice. He always enters just in time to fulfill his mission. It reminds me of my citing from my role of Leah that she was dumbfounding her grandmother with all sorts of questions about people who died before their time.

Leah takes her complaints even further—she releases her deeply buried feelings for the deceased young man, her intended mate: "Here was this young fellow, very much alive, who had a great soul and deep thoughts. A long life stood before him and yet, all at once, in an instant, his chain of life broke. Strangers came along and buried him in foreign soil. " And she calls out in despair:

"What became of his remaining life, his silenced words, his severed prayers? Grandmother, if a light goes out, you rekindle it and it goes on burning until it burns to the very end. How is it at all possible for a light of life that hasn't burned out to be put out forever—how is this possible?! ...."

People in the theatre must be overawed by such inexplicable questions that are nevertheless intelligible to nearly all of them. They've perhaps thought the same way at certain occurrences in their own lives.

And when the Messenger, practically standing over her, intones the words: "There are roaming, homeless souls that find no peace and force themselves as dybbuks into living, foreign bodies, thereby achieving their purification .... it is with these words that he has prepared Leah to receive the dybbuk, Chonon's soul, which enters her later. Every viewer can surely approach and understand all these clandestine, mystic professions of spiritual things ....

I wish to share a curious thought with you that came over me as I was digging into Ansky's play, "The Dybbuk." Why should the little bit of happiness destined for a person come so late? It would surely have been such a great joy and would perhaps have lengthened his life if he had witnessed the phenomenal success of his labor of love, "The Dybbuk." But the first performance of his play first came a month after his death. Isn't this some sort of mock-play dealt by fate? .....

I want to mention here that there were two Art Circle people playing the two rabbinical assistants at this religious law trial. The first, Moishe Strassberg, made a noted name for himself over a period of many years in the Art Theatre as a fine character actor and stage technician. He has lately been playing on the English stage.

But on my own responsibility, I wish to ascribe a considerable amount of success of "The Dybbuk" to one who in his own way reached a very high degree of excellence in that aspect of the Art Theatre with which he was most concerned. Without a doubt he then showed in great manner the rich musical talent he possessed. His wedding melodies and the music in general which, so to speak, embellished and lent beauty to "The Dybbuk" were transfused with Jewish charm, with Jewish warmth of heart and depth—that truly shining star of those years—Joseph Cherniavsky.

I cannot hold back and, true to my policy in this story, must indicate here that, not long after the opening of my second season with Schwartz, a "black cat" again ran between us. I've often wondered a great deal about the curious way I often noticed Schwartz behaving in his theatre that season. Right then and there, when his Art Theatre was very successful financially, right under those circumstances, he constantly walked around incensed and unfriendly. And, per contra, when the finances were not so good, he was pretty nearly always very friendly and even intimate with us. I puzzle over it to this day. Perhaps there are psychologists who could interpret it ....

It was only in "The Dancer" that Schwartz ever played with me on any of my "Evenings-of-Honor." It was he who actually recommended the play and gave it to me....

"The black cat" had already been whitened by that time.

I evidently can't avoid my feeling for boasting, which is part of everybody's nature in smaller or larger measure. So I want to cull for you some short citations which Ab. Cahan wrote about that evening under the heading of "Celia Adler's Talent": "....She evinced a great deal of imaginative power and artistic feeling and understanding in the role which confirmed the name she has achieved for herself on the Yiddish stage as one of our most important artists.... I followed her with the deepest attention in this particular role. In this role too she thoroughly passed the examination.... There can be no question but that she is a born artist with real talent and, in addition, with brains.... Her playing in 'The Dancer,' by H. Hengyel, has firmed up her name as an artist even more."

Meanwhile, they rehearsed apace a play that almost had a forced success that season; I mean "Rags," the famous play by our most noted and greatest poet, H. Leivick, a play that treats a corner of American productivity, to wit, rags. The employees of "Rags," the characters Leivick portrayed, could also be classified as rags.

Since I previously used the expression "a forced success," I wish to underscore here that what then came to be recognized by nearly everybody as the relatively considerable success of that play must be attributed to the stubbornness of Ab. Cahan in his conviction and deep faith that Leivick's "Rags" was a work of art and, as such merited being properly appreciated. Thus, the newspaper columns in "The Forward" were open to Leivick's "Rags." The play was printed in installments, and again and again articles with favorable opinions about "Rags" appeared very often. Certainly Leivick's "Rags" did indeed honestly deserve its success.

Schwartz took on as a challenge another part of theatrical art in his Art Theatre that season. With the help of his highly talented musician. Joseph Cherniavsky, and scripts which, it seems to me were written by our humorist, the magnificent, glowing writer, poet, raconteur, dramatist and what have you—Moishe Nadir—Schwartz executed two little art evenings under the name of "The Crooked Mirror." Understandably this was a broad field. Jewish life—the American Jewish street, American political life, our own Bohemia, the world of the writer, the world of the theatre, organizational people in general—these were wonderful themes for a "Crooked Mirror."

Moishe Nadir was certainly the proper person for this domain. He got out some "very charming pranks." Thus, for example, many people know that our "famous romantic actor," Samuel Goldinburg, liked to play the piano. Blessed with musical leanings, he played the piano on the stage every chance he had. There was a scene in a cemetery on "The Crooked Mirror," where the person playing Goldinburg came to pay his respects to his dead parents. A piano was standing amid the graves, and Goldinburg relieved his feelings in music on it. I've already mentioned many times Schwartz's adeptness at imitating The Great Three. So there was a scene there, a parody on the last acts of all melodramas—masterpieces on the Yiddish trash stage, Maurice Schwartz played the leading role, impersonating the play's hero whose name was "Tammug-Shefski"....These and other such artistic exaggerations and satires filled the program. But the Jewish public remained cold to it; they didn't take to it. So the attempt ended with a few evenings.

At that time, Jonah Rosenfeld was still a newcomer to our literature in Russia. Here, among us in America, the story was snapped up by "The Forward." Ab. Cahan printed the story for his "Forward" readers with an enthusiastic introduction, and he wrote a rather long literary appreciation in which he expressed his highest admiration and recognition of the writer's talent. When Jonah Rosenfeld came to America, he made a three-act drama from his story and Schwartz produced it. There isn't the least doubt that, as drama, "Competitors" had some wonderfully portrayed characters.... In it, a corner of life was revealed and human weaknesses were brought out that were of an unusual and singular kind.

It seems to me that a big part of the success of "Competitors" also has to be ascribed to Ab. Cahan's enthusiastic critique. And writing as if he sensed that, he said in his critique among other things: "A short time ago, I had the pleasure of greeting Leivick's marvelous drama of life, 'Rags'; today I have the similar pleasure of greeting Rosenfeld's drama of life, 'The Competitors'."

Understandably, added to the strong drama and to Cahan's praise were also the magnificent performances of the actors. Maurice Schwartz, Anna Appel, Jechiel Goldsmith—and may I count myself among them as well—brought out the play's deeply psychological  characters in a very successful way. The performance of an eight-year-old little boy was a great sensation in "The Competitors." The role is far from an ordinary children's role, and Motele Brand saw the role through very successfully. His playing almost made the impression on the Jewish theatrical world that the playing of little Jackie Coogan once did in a movie with Charlie Chaplin.

That season, for Passover, Schwartz wrestled with the production of a drama called "Oaks" by Fishel Bimko, another young dramatist. I say "wrestled" because Schwartz ran into two difficulties. The first difficulty was his own, that is, he wrestled with himself. There are two strong men's roles in it, the father's and the son's. So it was hard for Schwartz to decide which role to play.

And I also was mixed up in the second hassle. The leading women's role in the play is that of a young servant girl whom the father marries after becoming a widower. But his grown son falls in love with the young girl and is ready to take her away from his father. Schwartz had decided that I, with my slim figure, couldn't manifest the female temptation, which my father and son pursued. He engaged especially for the role a famous, very talented soubrette who had a few more pounds on her body.

I can't say with a clear conscience that this didn't displease (worry) me. But I consoled myself with the fact that I could spend all of Passover with my child at home in Philadelphia. You will recall that I hadn't given up my home in Philadelphia that season.

The premiere of "Oaks" was on Friday night. And so I left for Philadelphia that very Friday morning; but my happiness didn't last very long. I had barely had time to delight in my child a little when I received a telegram on Sunday morning that I must appear for rehearsal at eleven o'clock Monday morning.

I was virtually flabbergasted. What was the meaning of this? "Oaks" was supposed to be on through all of Passover. When I came to rehearsal on Monday, I discovered that the play had been taken off the boards, and the "The Treasure" by David Pinski had to be put on right then and there on the following Friday during the Second Group of Days of the Passover holiday. When I got on the stage, the very first person I met straight off was none other than Maurice Schwartz. I evidently couldn't avoid the temptation of having such a caustic question as this sort of roll off my tongue by itself: "What's the matter, weren't the soubrette's few extra pounds any help at all?"

Without speaking, with a hidden, guilty smile and with his characteristic little charm, Schwartz tightened his lips, stuck his tongue in his left cheek, and made a helpless gesture with his hands.

It seems, however, that the "little poison" in me still hadn't been satisfied. It didn't take long for a second opportunity to arise whereby to use something with which to fire off my chagrin again.

"The Treasure" is not an easy play to master. And although most of us actors were experienced in the play from the first season at the Irving Place Theatre, there were, however, many mass scenes in it. Continuous rehearsals were necessary during the few days until Friday. We had to rehearse for entire days. We only interrupted things to catch a bite of food brought in to us. Thus, we were once sitting and talking during recess about the banquet which Max Gabel's troupe was preparing for him. Schwartz was sitting with a bottle of milk in one hand and a sandwich in the other, and he spoke up: "Gabel is lucky—they make a banquet for him. Now I ask, would anyone make a banquet for me?...."

I was sitting with my back to him. As soon as he had spoken the last words, I spontaneously turned around to him quickly and, wagging a finger right in his face, yelled at him with laughing eyes backed up by my whole fiery temperament: "Wait, Schwartz, just you wait, I'll fix a banquet for you!"

Schwartz gagged so badly drinking from his bottle that he poured milk all over himself and splattered everybody, not being able to control his laughter. The entire troupe virtually laughed hysterically.

I needn't tell you that Schwartz didn't propose an engagement for me for the following season and—why deny it, I didn't expect it nor did I feel worried over it.

Philadelphia wanted me. Anshel Schorr made me an attractive proposition. I wanted to be in Philadelphia anyway, on account of my divorce.

I was pleased to get to my home in Philadelphia. Understandably, some not very pleasant meetings at the divorce hearings awaited me. My lawyer was the famous Morris Speiser, who was considered in Philadelphia to be one of the really great advocates. He was a personality in Jewish organizational life. He saw to it that I was to have as few of such unpleasant encounters as possible. Thus, I really obtained my divorce during the time of that season.

So far as my theatrical career was concerned , Philadelphia was almost always a restful haven for me; not, heaven forbid, a rest from work. In a city in the provinces—although Philadelphia is a big city, it is a city in the provinces, so far as the theatre is concerned—you have to change plays more often; thus, the work is not all easy. The rest was more of the spiritual kind— I rested from worry, from heartache, from disappointment.

The management of the theatre always treated me very nicely. The atmosphere around me was generally very pleasant. The Philadelphia public most assuredly surrounded me with warmth of heart and a generous attitude. And although I often had to appear in plays designated as trash, I very often had my thespian satisfaction even in such roles as were described by that fine journalist, M. Melamed, in the Philadelphia "Jewish World": "It's not only that better plays are put on at the Arch Street Theatre from time to time on account of Celia Adler, but what's important is mainly the presence of her own person among the local actors. She is not only blessed with great talent, with a special charm, but she also has the virtue of being able to get herself loved by her colleagues."

One who was a newcomer to me in the field of theatrical music sprouted at the time—a new talent as conductor and composer. He has since then risen to the highest rung in this field and remains to this day one of the few serious composers in our theatrical world. He's our own Sholem Secunda.

I must single out one production of that season because it was a curious achievement both for Sholem Secunda and me. William Siegel's and Sholem Secunda's operetta, "The American Rabbi's Wife," was produced. Understandably, there's nothing curious about that in itself. But an operetta built on Celia Adler as soubrette, with singing—a great deal of singing—and dancing, that was the curious thing.

Sholem Secunda had to brave the writing of such music as I could sing with my "enormous voice," really like a "regular songstress" singing with orchestral accompaniment.

For the first time that season I was recognized as a star attraction on tours over the provinces. No doubt many of you recall the name of Edwin A. Relkin, who was actually the inventor and organizer of regular tours over the provinces. Without him no Yiddish star could go on tour.

That season Relkin put me also on his roster of stars, stars who were getting a salary that comprised a considerable percentage of the total intake. He sent me to Boston for Passover that season. I thus appeared there in my success of that season, "The American Rabbi's Wife."

I thus consider it a happy coincidence that, right now, I'm in the process of telling about my experience in Boston, I'm in receipt of a personal letter from a man in Boston. In addition to being very charming, the letter has a certain reverence that reminds me of those happy days when the Yiddish theatre was part of the lives of many Jews. I shall bring you several citations from the letter:

"I want to reveal a secret to you that, when I hold out till Friday to see your article in 'The Forward,'  my eyes light up. I'm enveloped in happiness as I read your true story which you paint so vividly just exactly as if it happened yesterday and as I, an old Jew, witnessed it. And here I want to reveal another secret to you. I'm a man already eighty-two years old. I've seen a lot of Yiddish theatre in my day. And do you know when I first fell in love with you? It was when you portrayed Zine in 'The Green Fields.' I can't forget your shyness in the second act as you looked through the window while the rabbi was studying. I shall never forget those two beautiful eyes.

I'm sure you don't remember me. But here's how I got to know you. I was brought along to prompt at one of your performances in Boston. I recall that you came out in a mink coat and came right over to me and said:

" 'Tell me, please, can you read Yiddish?'

" 'Yes,' I said. 'I can read Yiddish.'

"So you told them to give me the play. You wanted to hear me read it. Well, I did prompt the play that night. You paid me and even tipped me a dollar, which I've kept to this day. I ask God to let me have a few more years of health to be able to hear from you, my dearest Celia Adler. I greet you from the utmost depth of my heart.

"From me,

Nathan Goldman"

So I'm so foolish of heart that, reading that sweet little letter from that eighty-two-year-old little man. I wiped away more than one tear. My heartfelt thanks, my dear Nathan Goldman.....

About that time, my mother wrote to me from London, where she was playing with Joseph Kessler in his Pavilion Theatre, to the effect that he wanted me to come to London for guest appearances. She also thought that it was time for me to make a general tour of Europe. Perhaps she would go along with me. My current independent success in Boston let me accept that proposal.

 

You know from my narrative that this was already my third visit to Europe. Germany was then still suffering considerably from the aftermath of the First World War, especially as regards the realm of economics. The German mark was very low at the time. I'm sure you've already heard countless stories, anecdotes, and jokes concerning this matter. So, I'll tell you still one more which I myself witnessed—or let's say rather my mother and I did.

There was then a group of actors in Berlin who were in trouble, poor things. When they discovered that my mother and I were in Berlin, they asked us to play several performances with them. This would assure them of a little money on which to get along. We couldn't refuse them.

I left all the arrangements to my mother.

I remember that when the performances were over, when we so-to-speak packed up and left the theatre, I noticed an endless amount of baggage. I knew that both our wardrobes for the performances could fit into one small suitcase. When we got home, I asked mother what was going on with all those suitcases. Instead of answering, she opened the suitcases. My breath almost failed. They were all packed with banknotes (money):

"What's the matter, mother; is it stage money?"

"No, daughter; those are German marks. It all amounts to more than twelve million."

"Is that how much we've earned?"

"Yes, daughter; but we must already spend it tomorrow morning; otherwise, it may drop to half its value."

"Well, what are we going to buy?"

"Don't worry so much, daughter. It may be enough to buy a pair of stockings if we add a few American pennies to it."

Just so you won't think this is an exaggeration, I'm going to tell you about a coat I saw in Berlin that I liked very much. The price read: two hundred million marks. Just as a matter of curiosity, I went in to ask how many American dollars I would have to give for the coat. I didn't believe my ears when she told me I'd be able to get it for thirty-five American dollars if I bought it right then. And so I had the pleasure of becoming a manifold millionairess for those few dollars.

That tour caused us much happiness then, as well as much trouble. Let's get rid of the trouble first.

Our first appearance in Romania was in Belz, the little city that Jews know well and love very much. I should like to believe that it was only during the time after the war that such dishonest theatrical impresarios as the one we happened to be associated with in Belz were to be found. Understandably, we gave performances on the basis of percentage of intake. The theatre was packed to the rafters night after night. But when the "impresarios" brought our percentage after a performance, it was, according to all calculations, a very trivial sum. When we remonstrated with him, he showed us the calculation that was a copy of the one the city government was to get for tax purposes.

Graft was very prevalent then in Romania. Thus, for example, the Belz city government demanded all the passports of expatriates. They retained my passport as the leader of the troupe, and they informed me a few days later that I must leave Belz, that I wasn't allowed to stay there. But they wouldn't return the passport to me. Their "reason" has remained inexplicable to me to this day. There was only one thing back of it all—graft. But they didn't ask you for it. They only hinted that you should offer it.

But I lived through some terrible weeks until I found out that it was a question of "paw-money." I sensed myself becoming frightfully helpless. I, the free American, suddenly found myself in a vise of police intrigues. I panicked. All sorts of stories about police persecution surfaced in my imagination. I was fortunate to at last find out that a few ten-dollar bills would free me from the vise and I could get my passport returned.

Until then, however, I made a vow in desperation that, if I ever got back to America alive, I would grab the first telephone pole and kiss it. So let me reveal my secret to you—I fulfilled my vow....

Before I finish with my troubles, I must still detain you awhile to acquaint you with my hotel in Belz. It was known no less than the Hotel Paris. But I very much doubt if there's a similar thrown-aside, abandoned corner anywhere in the world that could compare in its lack of comfort and dirtiness to the things we found in that so-called hotel. Even now, when I think of it, I almost shudder over and feel great pity for the Celia Adler of those few weeks.

These things are just plain unpleasant to talk about. Incidentally, I don't want to take away from you the pleasure you have when you hear the famous, hearty little song, "My Little City of Belz ".

But even troubles have their end. We at last got out of Belz and got to the magnificent, real European, beautiful city of Bucharest.

I recall a scene on the train as we were going from Belz to Bucharest. I won't try to picture for you the "luxurious" coaches. That scene took place between the conductor and our new manager, whose name was Ettinger.

It was a very hot debate in Romanian that we didn't understand at all but which sounded very war-like. It wasn't until later that the manager explained to us what was involved. The conductor argued with him and bawled him out about buying train tickets at the office of the train station. The conductor would have let us ride for much less money because we were so many people—money which would have remained in his pocket.

"I really can't get enough from my poor salary to live on," the conductor complained. "All you're concerned about is your comforts. Why don't you concern yourself with our plight...."

I really sympathized with him and had pity on him. 

Ettinger, the new impresario, advertised my guest appearances in Bucharest on a very large scale indeed. Thus, for example, my first and second names, which consist of nine letters (in Yiddish), appeared in huge print on billboards that took up very large walls. The city was virtually flooded with such billboards. Without exaggeration, each letter was almost as big as I was. I must truthfully say here that the advertising impressed me very much.

I was also excited over two articles about me and my career in "Rampa," a Romanian theatrical daily newspaper, which were written by A. Scheinfeld, a member of its writing staff. The articles were translated for me, and I liked the approach and manner of his writing.

A few days later, a young man announced himself to me in my hotel. He introduced himself as the writer of the Romanian articles in "Rampa." I was virtually astounded at his magnificent, hearty Yiddish speech. We got acquainted. I discovered that he had already been involved in the Yiddish theatre in Romania for a number of years. He was the business manager for the guest appearances of Molly Picon and Jacob Kalich, as well as for the Vilna Troupe. He generally showed himself to be a fine, heartwarming person; he gained my confidence. I offered and he gladly accepted becoming my business representative to protect my interests in my guest appearances in Romania. He became conscious of his duty in a very profession al and honest fashion. He was practically a jewel of a functionary for me, and I really called him such during the rest of my Romanian tour.

The Vilna Troupe was then concluding its last guest appearances in Bucharest. Understandably, I saw a few of their performances and they impressed me considerably. I was pleasantly surprised by a number of talented young actors. It was at one of those performances—I believe it was Andreyev's "The Days of Our Lives"—that the young Joseph Buloff shone forth with charming talent. He engraved himself in my memory. When I returned to America and was again engaged by Schwartz at his new theatrical home on Second Avenue and Twelfth Street, which he opened with his famous modernized production of Goldfaden's "Thou Shalt Not Covet." I praised Buloff very much to Schwartz, talking him into bringing him to America and engaging him for the role of Peretz.

Schwartz followed my advice. But I remember being a little troubled over it for awhile. At the rehearsals of the play, Buloff showed no signs of his talent. That's one of his characteristics, they say—to be reticent during the course of rehearsals. But Schwartz was desperate and threw it up to me for persuading him to take on Buloff. Understandably, Buloff showed later at the performances what he could do, and Schwartz had no further arguments with me.

At that time, I also got to know a young actor, a lover-singer in Romania. His slim figure and very expressive face were commanding. I was pleased when he told me that he was practically on his way to America. I had the feeling that he could benefit our theatre greatly. I'm glad my feeling didn't disappoint me. That very fine actor occupies an important place on the English stage as Muni Serebrov.

My performances in Bucharest created a sensation. And so, just as I've previously told you about my troubles, you will now permit me to share joy and happiness with you.

I've read a great many times just as you have of great, beloved personalities in all kinds of areas of endeavor who were given the outstanding honor in various parts of Europe of having people harness themselves to carriages and trundle them, their beloved, through the streets. I was fated to experience this in Bucharest. As I was leaving the theatre after the premiere, I ran into a group of young fellows who caught me up in their hands and placed me in a carriage. I was momentarily frightened. But my "treasured" Scheinfeld calmed me down, sat down with me in the carriage, and explained to me that these were students who wanted to express their enthusiasm at my playing in their own way.... I first noticed then that the carriage had no horse, but that the students harnessed themselves and pulled me all the way from the theatre to my hotel, a considerable stretch over the main streets of Bucharest—pulled and continuously yelled: "Se Traouske Celia Adler." It sounded to me like they were yelling: "See us trouncing Celia Adler!" So I protested to Scheinfeld: "What's going on? I don't like it!" He smiled and interpreted it for me from the Romanian. "Long live Celia Adler!"

One of the famous theatre critics on the greatest Romanian newspaper saw my premiere. It is customary in Romania for a review not to appear until the third day after the performance. The day after my premiere, critic Victor Eptima wrote a critique of the premiere at the National Theatre. He added the following observation after the critique:

"I cannot hold myself back—even though I shall not write my critique of the American actress, Celia Adler, until tomorrow, I wish to say right here and now that Celia Adler is a wonder of an artist—her playing, her facial expressions, her makeup, her every movement incorporate and implement truly great art. Her talent has no limit. I'm grateful for the great enjoyment she provided for me."

Scheinfeld expressed much surprise and happiness over this remark:

"See those few lines? They're more important than whole pages of advertisements. No artist from the greatest Romanian theatre—none—has ever had the good fortune of having Victor Eptima write that about him."

All the Romanian newspapers came out very enthusiastically for my playing and advised their readers to go see Celia Adler. That brought a large number of Gentiles into the theatre. Among those often present at the performances were cabinet members, government delegates, civil service officials, as well as the greatest actors on the Romanian stage.

Then I suddenly received an invitation from Tony Bulandro, the director of the great theatre Regina Maria (Queen Mary), asking if it were possible for me to come to his theatre at six o'clock in the evening. He wanted to talk to me about a very important matter. I accepted the invitation and, accompanied by Scheinfeld, I went to the Romanian director. I found him to be a very aristocratic and elegant man. He received us in a very friendly fashion and, after a considerable number of compliments, made me a very attractive offer. He wanted me to play the leading role with his troupe in his production of Ibsen's famous play "Nora." Of course I would play my role in Yiddish and the troupe in Romanian. It would be a sensational enterprise for the Romanian theatre, and a great honor for his own theatre.

It reminded me of my father's "Shylock" on the English stage. I was indeed greatly tempted to follow my great father in his achievement. But I had to refuse. I already had a contract to appear in Paris and Belgium. He was very sorry about that and, still hoping to talk me into it, took me back to my hotel continuously tempting me with his offer—perhaps, perhaps I could find a possibility of changing my itinerary. Several days later, I gave him my definite answer that I had to refuse this great honor in my behalf.

So, as you can see, my guest appearances in Bucharest paid me back with enough happiness and joy for my troubles in Belz. Our income rose a good deal thanks to Scheinfeld's professional control of things. My guest appearances in Galatz were no less successful.

After my tour of Romania, I stopped over in Paris to play at the Lankri Theatre for several weeks. I don't wish to dwell too long on my guest appearances there, although I had a colossal success both morally and financially. I just want to give you a summary few sentences from what N. Frank wrote about me in Paris under the heading: "How Celia Adler Laughs": "Celia Adler is very  economical with tears. On the contrary, she seeks to make the heavy, dark drama lighter with her fine, warm tone of voice, with her truly artistic intonation, with her touching, simple, naturalness that goes so far, so very far with her.... Those who'll miss seeing Celia Adler will be forever sorry."


I wish to tell you of another piece of happy news that happened to me while I was in Europe. Ludwig, my brother-in-law, wrote to me that he had bought a house in Sea Gate for himself, and that there was another one near his house that he advised me to buy. My mother talked me into taking Satz's advice. She even offered to become my partner. We sent Satz a telegram to see the transaction through, so that when I returned to New York around October, I would have my own home in Sea Gate. I had my lovely home for about ten years, in which I lived through many joyous and pleasant moments and also not a few sad ones. My earnings from the tour came in very handy for me both in the buying of the house and the proper furnishing of it.

Celia Adler and Ludwig Satz in "Tree of Life"


Celia Adler and Samuel Goldinburg in
"The Power of the Law" by the Shomer Sisters

 

The Yiddish theatrical season was then already in full swing. It so happened that Ludwig Satz was at liberty. That season he started in a new Yiddish theatre on Broadway, in which Rudolph Schildkraut, Boris Thomashevsky, and he appeared in "The Three Little Business Men," a comedy by Kartazhinsky. It didn't last more than three weeks. Nevertheless, it's a mystery to me to this day how it was possible for three such great actors to have had such a failure.

At any rate, Satz was at liberty, and when I returned from Europe, Edwin Relkin the agent, proposed that Satz and I go on a tour of the provinces. I wasn't too anxious to travel with the repertory Ludwig had at the time. But we didn't want to and couldn't spend much time looking for a play with suitable roles for both of us. So we meanwhile traveled around with two of his plays, "The Robber" and "The Madman" especially written for Satz by Harry Kalmanowitz, the very popular, talented dramatist.

The tour was a great financial success. We made much more in a few months than we would have made if separately engaged by any theatre for the entire season.

I recall something that happened in Boston. Sitting in a Jewish restaurant after a performance, we looked with admiration at a group of several men who were sitting at the next table and speaking Russian. We weren't wondering about the conversation but at the enormous portions of kapusta (cabbage) that one of them kept swallowing one after the other. It was virtually hard to believe that one human stomach could digest so much. Understandably, the table didn't lack drinks either.

At last I had to satisfy my curiosity, and when the owner of the restaurant came over to our table, I asked him who that Russian glutton was.

Instead of answering, the owner went over to the other table. He told him something. Smiling broadly, the Gentile raised his face from the dish of cabbage, and the owner introduced him to us: "That's the world-famous Russian basso, Fyodor Ivanowitsch Chaliapin!"

We were surprised and even felt bad at our inner laughter at him and his eating. Our tortured "dosvidanye" when we took our leave made him burst into laughter. He invited us to one of his concerts. I shall never forget one of the songs he sang about Blacha (a flea). I first then understood why his name called forth so much admiration, and I forgave him from the bottom of my heart for his exceptional appetite. I also felt the enthusiasm with which his Jewish listeners expressed their feelings. They applauded, and yelled in the loudest voice: "For heaven's sake, God Almighty, Chaliapin!"

We concluded our lengthy tour over the provinces with a few weeks at the Prospect Theatre in the Bronx. Instead of giving a play on the last weekend, we gave a program of a variety of acts and single numbers. Among them was a powerful act from Siegel and Steinberg's famous melodrama, "The Forgotten Mother." The act consisted of a scene in which the young doctor, who was really my own son (neither of us knew it), found me in a lunatic asylum where he was the doctor. He became convinced that I wasn't insane, took me out of the hospital, and brought me to his home. I lost my fear when I got there, and told everything that had happened to me. I also showed the blue marks on my body from the beating with which they had punished me at the hospital.

I had completely forgotten that my Zelik'l, who was then a child of seven, was sitting with my Feige in the loge. When I got off the stage after that act, he came running to me in a hysterical state and could barely sob out the words: "Why did they beat you like that, mother?" He fell on my bare chest which was covered with bruises and started to kiss the wounds.

I was barely able to calm him by showing him that this was part of the theatrical makeup and performance, and that it was easy to wipe away the painted-on marks. I'm not really certain that I completely convinced him or that he really grasped the meaning of its being a theatrical performance. I only know that, to this day, when I recall the panic and the chagrin it caused my child with that scene, my heart aches.

After our tour, both Satz and I quietly and with a light spirit spent time in and enjoyed our lovely homes as each other's neighbors in Sea Gate. We cooled off in the magnificent ocean and let ourselves bake in the sand under the hot sun. Many guests from the theatrical and literary family spent their summers there. We would often meet the joyous and always interesting great actress Bessie Thomashevsky, who was then staying at the Half-Moon Hotel on the boardwalk, and we spent many magnificent evenings together.

Right there on the island at Sea Gate that summer began a new theatrical partnership in the form of a firm that occupied a noted place in the theatrical provinces for several years, a partnership that was transformed into an intimate friendship for a number of years. That was the firm of Samuel Goldinburg and Celia Adler.

I had hardly known Samuel Goldinburg until that summer. We met each other and first got to know each other better at Sea Gate where he was spending that summer.

Right at the beginning of the summer, he told me about a theatrical business proposed to him by Mike Thomashevsky. Mike had a lease on the Garden Theatre in Philadelphia. He wanted him as partner. He proposed that I join up as a third partner. He very firmly believed that Philadelphia had possibilities. The business would gain greater strength if I, being so popular in Philadelphia, were to join the business. The firm of "Goldinburg and Celia Adler" was a "natural," as American slang would have it.

The following year, the Augenblick brothers rented a theatre on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg—the Amphion Theatre—and were looking for a theatrical combine which might possibly be financially successful in that region. They were impressed by the Samuel Goldinburg-Celia Adler combine. Our success in Philadelphia convinced them that we would be a good force of attraction for their theatre.

That was a difficult season for us at the Amphion Theatre. The theatre was located at the very beginning of Williamsburg, near the East River. I lived in faraway Sea Gate. Thus, it is known to everybody, especially Brooklyn inhabitants, that traveling from Brooklyn to certain other areas in Brooklyn is more difficult than going to New York. You really first have to go to New York and from there first drag yourself to Williamsburg, unless you go in your own car or in a taxi. I didn't own a car, and I wasn't financially strong enough to spend thirty-five dollars a week on taxis. Thus, dragging myself from Sea Gate to the theatre and back home late at night was a hardship.

There were then about twelve or thirteen theatres playing in Greater New York. Three theatres were operating in Brooklyn alone. So the competition was strong. We had to change plays very often. I've counted more than twenty plays that we performed in the some thirty-odd weeks that season.

I am tempted to tell you that, for my "Evening-of-Honor" at the Amphion Theatre in Williamsburg, I chose one of the most famous plays and roles in world literature, to wit Dumas' "The Lady of the Camellias," a role that every actress who had risen to a noted position in her career wished and sought to master. Sad to say I haven't succeeded in finding even one of the fine reviews that were written about my "Evening-of-Honor." So you and I will have to be satisfied with my assuring you that I gave "The Lady of the Camellias" as much of myself as I had in me to give.

As a general summary of my season's work at the Amphion Theatre I wish to put in here only an excerpt from one of the very noted current journalists in "The Forward," namely my beloved friend Leon Chrystal who once sinned by his closer affiliation with the better Yiddish theatre. In October, 1925, under the heading, "Mostly About Actors," he wrote about a line of actors who were at certain times associated with the Art Theatre and better theatres in general and who are now dispersed far and wide over all sorts of theatres in New York and Brooklyn. He wrote about a stroll he took through these theatres and this is how he gave his impressions about the various plays in those theatres:

"Shadows, empty space, and pools of light—these fan out across your memory when you recall the performances in those theatres. The emptiness remains a dark void where the actor hasn't filled it in with his own personality, with his own art. But if an actor appears on the stage bringing some individuality, which is in itself and for itself alone something of a substantially artistic entity, it's as if a circled of light were radiating and beaming out across the atmosphere."

"Following Celia Adler's artistic career and sometimes thinking of that marvelous actress, I immediately recall her little Rebecca in Sholem Asch's 'A String of Pearls'. As tragedienne, Celia Adler engraved and pushed herself into my memory with fiery letters. Her masterful playing in Dymow's 'Eternal Wanderer,' in Hirshbein's 'Village Girls,' her Katie in Hauptmann's 'Lonesome People,' wherein she showed that she can be one of the most profound and finest dramatic actresses even on the best of stages—if you come across her at the Amphion Theatre you experience resentment at the fact that she and other comrades of hers roll around in such theatres where their main task is that they might as well observe the 'what's to be done if there's nothing to play'."

I would, generally speaking, have no quarrel with that season at the Amphion Theatre. Hard work in the theatre never frightened me.

I lovingly accepted the work and even the fatigue, if only there was no chagrin and no heartache. At times, when I came home late at night, I also missed my beloved Feige looking out for me and her waiting on me, because she was ailing very frequently during that season. I was barely able to prevail upon her not to wait up for me coming home, that she not get off the bed to wait on me. Neither the doctor who treated her nor I had the slightest notion that Feige would leave us so soon.

I recall my Zelik waking me up very early one morning:—"I'm hungry, mother."

—"Where's Feige?"

—"Feige is sick...."

I went to her. She tried to get up; I didn't permit her. I called the doctor. The doctor came. He calmed me down a little. I called my sister Lillie over to take care of Feige while I ran to rehearsal.

Feige never got off that sick bed. Looking quietly at Zelik'l and me with her loving, tender eyes, she said a permanent farewell to the world that had treated her so like a stepchild and to us who were her only possessions. Her death on March ninth, 1926, upset me very much. In the web of my family mix-up, I don't know what Feige really was to me. I only felt that with her death, something died within me also. She had no majestic funeral. But she was buried as being of the theatrical family in the cemetery of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance.

I shall always think gratefully of Sholem Perlmutter, that wonderful theatre buff. He showed his love for and his interest in the Yiddish theatre in his many years of association with it as prompter and playwright. But his crowning work is the theatre archive he left behind; it is a veritable jewel of our theatrical history and was selected by him with effort. His archive is now in YIVO.

He sympathized with me in such heartfelt fashion. He too was a resident of Sea Gate. He often talked to me about Feige, consoling me and, as if reading my sentiments, he wrote an epitaph for her gravestone. And now, when I visit the cemetery where I already have a considerable family, I very often cry anew over Feige's death reading the engraved lines by the empathic Sholem Perlmutter:

"You died in solitude—your life passed like the wind—On your grave rain pours—not the tears of a child—This stone with your name—on your grave now I place—I shall also observe the anniversary of your death, as if I were your child." Celia.

 

Schwartz was getting ready to open the new home of his Art Theatre on Second Avenue and Twelfth Street for the following season, a new theatre especially built for him. So he again longed for me. I again yearned for definitively better theatre. As Chrystal had put it:

"You also yearned to have something to play in."

Neither Goldinburg nor I wanted to go out over the provinces somewhere for a season. We both sensed that our partnership would have to be dissolved for the time being.

And so I weighed the grief and chagrin that were my constant lot when I was with Schwartz against the desire to again create roles in plays written by playwrights with artistic vision and beautiful literary language. The latter won.

That was really the bitter fate of the better-type actor; he had to resort to Schwartz if he longed for better theatre.

I undertook with everything in my power not to allow grief and chagrin to get the upper hand or, as far as possible, not to take them too seriously or too deeply. I never convinced myself that things between Schwartz and me would suddenly take a turn for the better and keep up appearances, so to speak.

But, as I've said, I longed for a season in New York under the sharp eyes of the New York press. And so it happened that before our tour over the provinces began at the conclusion of the season at the Amphion Theatre, both Goldinburg and I were already engaged by different theatres.

We had also decided at the end of that season that it would benefit us more financially if Relkin gave us separate tours over the provinces.

My tour consisted mostly of Detroit and several other cities around that area. The city of Detroit received me wonderfully well. I had a significant financial and acting success in Littman's theatre in Detroit. To that period I can credit my acquisition of several heartfelt and loyal friends, especially those two lovely people, Joshua Weinberg and his wife Rosa. I generally consider myself very fortunate in the realm of friendship. I actually seem to hit on the kind of people who have a talent for giving and returning true friendship. If you won't consider it immodest of me, I must come to the conclusion that I too possess something of that talent. And so, I can count on a considerable number of long-standing, devoted friends. Joshua Weinberg was the city editor of "The Forward" for Detroit and adjacent areas.

Well, now, here I was in Detroit and had come to the beautiful Booke-Cadillac Hotel. I had no sooner tried to get myself settled in my room than someone knocked on the door. A charming, beautiful lady entered.

She introduced herself to me: Rosa Weinberg. She reminded me of having seen me in London some seventeen to eighteen years before. She was then a young lady living in London. She dearly loved my mother. Dina Feinman was and forever remained her goddess. When I played at that Pavilion Theatre that season, she saw me and now remembered me. In addition, she had received a letter from Sioma (Goldinburg) in which he requested them to show me as much friendship as they possibly could. So she had come to take me to her home.

I thanked her very kindly and assured her as much as I could that I deeply valued her proffered hospitality, but that I didn't want to burden them at all by becoming their guest during my stay in Detroit. But under no circumstances did she want to accept my refusal. She immediately called in the bellboy and told him to take my luggage down and to order a cab. My arguments were of no avail. She took me to her beautiful, comfortable house.

I don't know if a mother could take better care of her beloved child than Rosa Weinberg did of me. She pampered me and nursed me. To this day, I marvel at her receiving me with such devotion—for she was then practically a stranger, an unknown to me and I to her. And this was just as true of her husband, Joshua, who, unfortunately, most unfortunately, was torn from her very early in their life together. She passed away recently.

That spring I was destined to go through another very difficult experience. On Friday, April thirtieth, 1926, I was deeply moved by the announcement that Jacob Adler had died. Although I knew that his state of health during the previous two years was not good at all, the announcement made a strong impression on me.

Actually, only a few months before, my brother, Abe Adler, had brought my father to the Amphion Theatre for one of his yearly benefit performances, the only source of income he had the last few years of his life. He played the last act of Gordin's "The Stranger." My father's state of being at that time didn't shock me any less than the immediate announcement of his death.

Perhaps many of you know that Naftalie Hertz dies in the last act of "The Stranger."  So it goes without saying that my father's imposing appearance in that role on the stage had always made a tremendous impression on the public.

The public had that satisfaction this time also. But it didn't know that it wasn't at all easy for us to show that imposing figure to the public. Before the curtain rose, he was put in front of his chair and so propped up that his made-up face and head should proudly remain raised.

When it came to the scene in which he had to collapse on the chair and die, he didn't do it. The prompter whispered to him: "Mr. Adler, you must die." But he remained standing and, as if crying in a somewhat childlike tone of voice, repeated several times: If I don't want to die. I don't want to die...."

That's why I say that the announcement greatly surprised me. But tears automatically started to run from my eyes. My first natural impulse was to go to New York for the funeral. But an actor is not always in his own hands.

This is how a newspaper gave the announcement:

"It looked pretty nearly as if Celia Adler would suddenly leave us on account of the death of her great father, Jacob Adler. You will read a statement by Celia Adler in today's 'Forward'."

Here is part of that statement.

"I first sensed today how an actor's situation should be deplored. I found out about my father's death while I was on guest appearances in Detroit. I can't see him any more. The theatre cannot be closed. It's a question of bread for thirty to forty families. So, at their request, I went to Reb Joseph Toomim, the noted rabbi, who told me that, since it was a holiday and one wasn't allowed to sit shiva (seven days of mourning over a close relative), and since it was a question of the livelihood of so many people, I had to go on with my performances. I was to tear my clothes in mourning on the following Wednesday, the day after Passover.

"Sad is the fate of an actor in case of such a misfortune. The magnificent image of my great father will always live in my heart.

"With respect,

Celia Adler." 


I want to begin my story about Schwartz's Art Theatre during the 1926- 1927 season with an expression that that season left in my memory—"Lightning did not strike." It seems to me that that phrase truly expresses the overall summary of that season. It was supposed to have been a renewal, a spiritual uplifting, a broader scope of festive mien. But it somehow slipped through our fingers.

First, the moving into a building that was built especially for Schwartz's Art Theatre in the very heart of Jewish New York. But the building wasn't ready for the opening of the season. So we, the so-called Art Theatre troupe rolled around for several weeks all the way out in the Amphion Theatre in Williamsburg. That in itself somehow darkened the glitter of the season's gala opening.

Also, the curiosity, the impatience of at last moving into the new home led to the fact that, even though the opening first took place on November eighteenth, more than two months later than the usual opening of the theatrical season, the theatre still wasn't completely ready. Thus, the long-awaited, much-publicized premiere of Goldfaden's modernized operetta, "Thou Shalt Not Covet" (the Tenth Commandment) dragged along and went on until nearly two o'clock at night, thereby spoiling both the lofty holiday of opening the new home and the production itself. Both the audience and the critics were greatly fatigued. The reviewer from "The Dkunous" very successfully described it under the heading, "Butchery Without A Knife," in which he argued that the critics had been invited to a raw performance.

In addition, Schwartz wanted to play around with futuristic direction- lopsided furniture, green beards, clumsy noses.

So one of the critics summed it all up in the following manner: "The production is a forest; you can get lost in it; you can't accept it as a complete presentation; as of now, you have to look upon it as a collection of presentations."

Thus, heaven forbid that I take a chance on expressing an opinion about his type of theatre. I only know that I incline toward and find greater appeal in what is called realistic theatre. I imagine that Schwartz seriously took on the challenge of fructifying some new "out-of-the-way" approaches that were sprouting at the time. But it was a labyrinth. Our audiences didn't take to it. And so, this also added its part to the lackluster season.

In addition to the troupe, the very cream of our theatrical family, the production of "Thou Shalt Not Covet," was enriched by Joseph Achron's wonderful music under Lazar Weiner's fine direction.

Despite the big effort, despite the costly, colossal production, "Thou Shalt Not Covet" barely survived for about five weeks. After that, until the end of the season, there was a long period of up-and-down plays, among them: "Mendel Spivack" by Yuskevich, "Yekaterina Ivanovna" by Andreyev, "Her  Crime" by M. Olgin, "Yoshke, the Musician" by Dymow, "The Chalk Circle" by Klabund, "God of Vengeance" by Sholem Asch, and "Human Dust" by Dymow.

My weakness urges me to do some boasting here, to pass along two opinions by reviewers about my role in "Thou Shalt Not Covet":

"Celia Adler as the pious woman.... I've never seen such a beautiful, deeply realized, and tenderly executed performance of a chaste Jewish daughter. It's something that can only be appreciated with the purest feelings. She was truly what is called ingenious, She hovered on the stage, the portrait of a chaste Jewish woman of long ago, like an incarnation of Heine's 'Princess Sabbath'."

Another one wrote:

"Celia Adler brings out the sharpest grotesque of exaggerated piety and orthodoxy in her role of 'Frume.'" Jewish women's piety with its great sanctity that spills over into risibility has received realistic portraiture from her. With what finesse of whittling she carves this grotesque! Celia Adler has shown the finest flair for the art of acting.

And so, you'll have to forgive me some more for my boasting over Ab. Cahan's opinion about my playing in "Mendel Spivack," the second play: "As the woman in childbirth, Celia Adler actually had little dialogue. But it's the sort of role wherein many words are unnecessary, It can be played without words. And she played it wonderfully, played well. Her mimicry as she lay in bed, her sickly smile, her tenderness, hysterical joy and hysterical tears, her exhausted look, her eavesdropping on the dances and the music with a turned head and closed eyes—tired out, languid—everything was art projected by a born artist. I kept thinking again and again, no wonder she's Jacob Adler's daughter."

Before leaving for the tour over the provinces, I made up with Schwartz in Guskin's presence that my name had to be announced in all the advertisements.

When we got to Philadelphia, a city where I was known, a city in which for a number of years I had been considered the leading actress in the theatre, no other name appeared on the billboards except Schwartz's. Everyone felt aggrieved. But I was the only one who voiced my grievance aloud. Just by coincidence, Mr. Guskin happened to be in the theatre in Philadelphia when I sounded my arguments.

I overlooked all the other answers Schwartz gave, for example: "That 's the way I want it. I'm the little horse. I myself draw the crowds. From this day forward I want to be a Max Gabel and a Molly Picon," and other such answers that harmonize very well with the principles of the Art Theatre.... So, as I've said, I reacted in my own way to all the answers. But when he finally said: "Whoever doesn't like it, can go," I didn't want to swallow that, even though Guskin then answered him: "Mr. Schwartz, I take you at your word. I can dissolve the entire troupe for you right now."

It was agreed that, when we got to New York, we would deal with this thing. I broke my engagement with Schwartz for the following season.

Max Wilner had Max Rosenthal for his star at the Irving Place Theatre that season. Wilner engaged me as Max Rosenthal's leading lady.

I was pleased to find that my youngest sister, Stella, was with the troupe at the Irving Place Theatre.

I recall several happy performances which included, "The Blacksmith's Daughters" with my sister, Stella, as my twin sister. I also recall a moment that season that brought back to my mind a shock of years before.

That season another Adler daughter had to go through the not-very-pleasant procedure of trying out before the Actors' Union so she could acquire the right to play in the theatre. It was my sister Stella. As I was sitting at that tryout, the time when I was in her boots struck my mind.

Much has been written about the union's procedure. I just want to record here some short excerpts from Chaim Ehrenreich's article of March, 1927, under the heading, "Laughter, Tears and Jokes From Examinations at the Actors' Union." I very much liked his approach and the deep, penetrating look with which he reacted to this matter.

"The female candidate is transfixed by one hundred and fifty pairs of eyes that pierce her. There are all kinds of eyes here—eyes that look on with contempt, with sympathy, with indifference, with irony, with a smile, with interest. You notice eyes that look sideways, as if laden with guilt. Those are the eyes of the honest stars. They know beforehand that the female candidate will not be accepted, and their conscience hurts a little over her having to endure the heartache in vain—the indignity of a failure. Thus, for example, a manager stands and listens to a tryout of a young actress who is now playing in his theatre on a point of privileged favor granted by him. She executes a strong dramatic scene. He sheds tears. Kasten suddenly pours into my ear: 'Know why he's crying? Next week, he'll already have to pay her union wages, a considerable number of dollars over what he does now."

At her tryout, my sister Stella did Ophelia's Mad Scene from Shakespeare's "Hamlet." Her slender figure that was so graceful in her white dress, her blonde head of hair, her lovely pale face virtually flabbergasted (distracted) the audience. Evidently the whole procedure had a difficult effect on her. She really fainted at the end of the tryout. It's hard to ascertain to this very day what counted more toward her being accepted as a member by such a large majority, almost unanimously—her looks, her name, her playing, or her fainting....

That season I relinquished the opportunity of going on a tour of the provinces. That ridiculous season with its still more ridiculous plays and roles called forth a strong repugnance, a spiritual and physical fatigue in me. I decided to be good to myself, to spend time in my beautiful home in Sea Gate and to rest at the ocean.

I was suddenly surprised one summer day by a phone call from Rubin Guskin, the manager of our theatre union.

"Miss Adler, Maurice Schwartz wants to engage you for the coming season. Please come to my office so we can talk it over."

Guskin used to finalize all engagements. I virtually didn't believe my ears and momentarily lost my speech. But I answered him:

"Mr. Guskin, if Schwartz wants to engage me, he'll have to talk to me personally."

"Good. I'll tell him."

The poor mood I was in after that theatrical season made me really happy at Guskin's news. I therefore decided to forget my anger and  let myself be talked into another engagement by Schwartz.

I hadn't had much time to think about it when my phone rang again and—but I wish it were possible to put sound and tone into written language for you!

A very deep bass voice answered my hello; it was in Schwartz's deepest chest tones:

"Hello, Schwartz speaking.... I want to talk to you about something."

And I in my highest soprano tone:

"Oh, with the greatest pleasure...."

BASS—"When and where can we meet?"

SOP.—"Whenever and wherever you want—perhaps here in my house?"

BASS—"No, I'll come over in my car and we'll talk things over on the way."

Schwartz also lived in Sea Gate. So, a few minutes later, I saw his car drive in. I went down. The door of the car stood open for me. But he didn't greet or look at me. Smiling, I got into the car, sat down without a hello, and closed the door. The car drove off.

And so, we rode along street after street. We had already left Sea Gate and ridden all through Coney Island. Not a word had been spoken. So we turned into street after street. He was evidently waiting for me to say something. I also waited, he got tired. When we had gotten to the very end of Brighton, all the way to Manhattan Beach, he drove the car over to the edge of the ocean and stopped. He slowly turned his head to me, and his first words were:

"Oh, I sure would like to give you a beating! Why do you write letters in the newspapers? Why do you write them?"

"What letters are you talking about?"

"Your letter in 'The Forward' about Philadelphia. You can argue with me all right, but if you write to a newspaper, everybody reads it."

It was as if a (stone had rolled off) our hearts and we burst into hearty laughter.

"Now then, there will be no more such arguments. I now feel more secure. I feel strongly rooted in my position. I now want to engage a more-or-less steady troupe to stay with me year-in, year-out. Everybody will get the place he's entitled to. In short, things won't be what they once were," he said.

I looked at him, holding myself in check with all my strength so as not to show a smile on my face. My, oh my, how I wanted to believe him!

Schwartz's logic always dictated good things to him and he could give them such beautiful utterances. The only trouble was that his heart wouldn't let him do them.

Thus, I constantly hoped and wished that the time would at last come when his head and heart would be in harmony. What a blessing that would be for him, for all of us and for the better theatre in general!

I don't know if it was Providence mixing in, or if it was only the play of circumstance, that we opened a new home for the theatre for each of the four seasons that I happened to be with Schwartz in the Art Theatre. I was the first one in his troupe—whether it was on Irving Place or at the Garden; also on Twelfth Street and Second Avenue; and now at the City Theatre on Fourteenth Street. I won't attempt to interpret the Why and Wherefore of that coincidence. But the mentioning of it has, so to speak, sort of escaped from my pen.

That season opened on the fifteenth of September at the City Theatre with Sholem Asch's "Jewish Martyrdom" (Kiddush Hashem), Schwartz's adaptation from the historical novel. But before I get to talking about the play and that season, I must share with you a rude awakening I now experienced as I looked at the printed program for the drama, "Jewish Martyrdom." The following lines were printed right under the name: "We're constrained not to tell all that the Cossacks and Tartars did to the Jews so as not to shame the human species born in the image of God (copied from an old religious volume.)"

When I read over those cited lines, my trembling soul didn't let me come to myself for a long time.... My brain kept boring into what that old religious tome would have said about what our people lived through during Europe's last debacle. It had to consider the eternal sorrow-filled, tear-choked Jewish question of Why, Why.... you will thus understand from those lines what the drama, "Jewish Martyrdom" is about.

It was an enormous production, a mass spectacle; the play had forty-two speaking roles; there were at least fifty people in the mass scenes. You can imagine the enormous scope of the production. So a huge amount of work went into it. Besides Schwartz, those adding much to it were Joseph Achron, the composer; S. Ostrovsky, the scenic designer; and my brother Charles Adler, the choreographer.

Although there were forty-two roles in the play, as I've said, you will understand that only those were in good hands. Thus, all in all, "Jewish Martyrdom" was a big success both artistically and financially.

I feel like recording here what is perhaps a saucy, risky thought: From my own foolish theatrical viewpoint, the success of "Jewish Martyrdom" hurt the Art Theatre a great deal. After that, Schwartz became a slave to spectacles and stage sets. He overlooked the main attraction of the theatrical art—the actor. No longer did the play matter, or the delicately etched roles—things that gave the actor the opportunity to create. Perhaps, to satisfy its sweet tooth for honeybuns, the public may want to see a spectacle or enjoy a lovely stage set from time to time. But above all, what rivets the public to the theatre, what calls forth in it a close familial relationship to the theatre, what becomes part of it is—the actor. In time, that element disappeared completely, and with it, a big part of the public.

Heaven forbid that I should wish to state here categorically that Schwarz's directorial ambition drove him to it. But that he was seduced by the pursuit of spectacles of great scope—of that there's no doubt at all. It even reached the point that the stage sets in certain productions took away from the actor the stage area that should have belonged to him. He just had no place to stand and where to move around.

And my foolish theatrical sense tells me something else, although many theatrical and literary critics have said it from time to time. You have to be an unusually great writing artist to be able to create a piece of theatre from a rather lengthy novel or novella. The success of "Jewish Martyrdom" misled Schwartz in that respect, too. And so there was a considerable number of productions that season in which spectacle and stage sets usurped the place of the actors.

A varied selection of Yiddish and world plays was produced that season: Anton Chekov's "The Cherry Orchard," directed by Leo Bulgakov, according to Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theatre production; Jacob Gordin's "God, Man, and Devil," adapted and directed by Maurice Schwartz; Mark Schweid's translation of Shakespeare's "Othello," directed by Boris Glagolin, with the assistance of Anatol Winogradoff; H. Sackler's Yiddish-American comedy, "Major Noah," directed by Maurice Schwartz; and Sholem Aleichem's wonderfully romantic novella, "Stempeniu," adapted and directed by Maurice Schwartz.

All the productions called forth a variety of opinions in the Yiddish press. As usual, there were argumentative points. But it can be said that it was generally a fruitful season of artistic theatre.

So I want to winnow only a selected few lines which underscore my previously stated saucy opinions. Thus, for instance, Ab, Cahan wrote: "Maurice Schwartz himself has talent, and he has an outstanding troupe; but he and his actors need roles."

I cite from reviewer B. I. Goldstein: "It seems to me this is the first time I have seen an ensemble on the stage that plays as little as the Yiddish Art Theatre does in performing Sholem Aleichem's 'Stempeniu.' Only three or four selected actors give theatrical service. The rest get it over with—one with a shrug of his shoulders, another with a word or maxim, and still another smoothly slides across the stage boards."

A. Glantz wrote: "And so we witness a series of pleasant episodes that roll around not unpleasantly and fill an evening with an ethnic community of Sholem Aleichem-like personages. No drama, not even any comedy emerged."

Some of the reviewers even opined that the actors had no place to move around in because of the superabundance of the stage sets. Nevertheless, much praise was given to individual actors.

I wish to note here that Abraham Morevsky, the famous European actor, made his American appearance with us that season and called forth great recognition.

And here are a few opinions about my playing that season:

"Celia Adler has very deeply understood Ruchelle, has very artistically rendered Sholem Aleichem's pious woman in love. She is an artistically carved figure from a Mazepevker album. She is so close to communicating the Sholem Aleichem book to the reader that he has to feel every word, every movement."

Another writes about my role in Chekov's "The Cherry Orchard": "The unfortunate, homeless, confused old maid is an ordinary grotesque character, and Celia Adler deftly and with a flair for measured proportion when projecting character has brought this piece of grotesque to life and breath."

For my "Evening-of-Honor" that season, I allowed myself a big luxury. I resurrected for myself the sweet memories of the actual beginnings of the better Yiddish theatre. I put on Peretz Hirshbein's "A Secluded Corner'" with pretty nearly the original troupe. The only one missing was Jacob Ben Ami, who was then away from the United States. My brother-in-law, Ludwig Satz, came along to appear in his highly successful creation in the role of Todres. According to the public's response, it too refreshed itself though the recollection of that miracle.

It is entirely possible that that performance of "A Secluded Corner" at which the glorious beginnings sort of came to life again, called forth a recollection in me that I'm now going to tell about.

In February of that year, a few remarks of mine appeared in "The Day," which I now wish to cite here:

"When I think of myself and the public, my thoughts unwittingly must go back to the beginnings of the better Yiddish theatre It was a time for achievement, and the public took just as much part in it as we actors did; it was a creative public; love was projected from the viewers to us, not necessarily to this or that actor. The public loved the theatre as a whole. It was truly an artistic public."

In view of the present sad reality surrounding the Yiddish theatre, one still somehow wants to believe that all this can be brought to life again.... A dream!.... A dream!....

 

The season I'm now in the process of describing was my last one in Schwartz's Art Theatre and, somewhere deep in my subconscious, there is now running around something like an admission that it was practically the end of my career. Perhaps this admission will clarify for you why the biggest part of my story about my career since 1918, when that hopeful beginning came to life, why since then the biggest part of my story is taken up with the seasons during that I played in Schwartz's Art Theatre.

Certainly my name, my status in the Yiddish theatrical world were established even before 1918 when I had my successes in Thomashevsky's theatres, in plays by Libin, Dymow, and others, when such great and famous talents as Rudolph Schildkraut and David Kessler recognized me as leading actress.

But I instinctively feel with all my senses that my career reached its very highest point during those few seasons at the Art Theatre because, in addition to the satisfaction from some artistic achievements, there was the joy, the hope that our Yiddish theatre as a whole was being purified, was being raised to the top rung of worldwide theatrical scope. That's why I'm putting so much emphasis in my story on those four seasons. That's why I find it necessary to cite the smallest details of those years. That's why I have such a smarting pain within me over those disappointments, those evaporated hopes.

You can see for yourself that the thought that my career sort of ended during that season was not a mere phrase. When I now think of the years in my career since that season in 1929, I can obviously see that with my decision never to play with Schwartz also unconsciously came a definite change in my attitude toward the theatre. The future path of my career changed as if by itself into a "trade" for making a living. This doesn't mean that my attitude toward playing in the theatre changed. I gave my all, all that I possessed to my playing, to my roles, no matter how foolish they were. On many occasions, I tried to perform a better play, a well-painted character. Overall, however, the theatre became no more than a trade for me. That's why at the end of the 1928-29 season I very gladly accepted the offer by Jacob Cone, the representative of the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, to become the star of that theatre. Neither he nor I had the slightest inkling that that theatrical liaison between us would metamorphose into our life together for twenty-five years as husband and wife.

It is doubtless a sheer coincidence that the city of Philadelphia directly and indirectly played an important role both in my theatrical life and in my personal life.... I not only had great success there as a leading actress for a number of years under the direction of Anshel Schorr, carrying a theatre on my shoulders, so to speak, but also several love tangles and even a marriage match which, as you can see, Philadelphia provided for me.

Understandably, Jacob Cone was no stranger to me. I had often had the chance to play with him ever since my first steps on the stage as Celia Feinman playing children's roles. Cone was constantly busy in the dramatic theatres ever since the first years of the Yiddish theatre in America. He played with Kessler, Adler, Feinman, Mogulesco, Moskowitz, and the other giants of that generation.

When we met in Philadelphia during that season of 1929-1930, it was the first time I had come in touch with Cone as an adult actress. Cone was hardly ever connected with what I'm labeling the Second Golden Epoch of the Yiddish Theatre. But Cone had the theatre in his blood; he lived and breathed Yiddish theatre. He maintained that the Yiddish theatre had to satisfy the big, broad public because Yiddish theatre was part of their lives.

From time to time, in his career on the stage, he had played leading roles with the great Yiddish women stars, such as Bertha Kalich, Keni Lipzin, Sara Adler, and others. He always served the women stars with whom he played loyally and indeed with a very great measure of respect. He felt a kind of gratitude to them for bringing their sincere talent and lofty acting to the theatre—as if they were serving and helping his theatre. He gathered considerable experience both in stage and business leadership during his long years on the stage.

He was the actual boss of the theatre during that season in Philadelphia.

It was really he who engaged me. First there I got to know Jacob Cone closely. I already sensed during the first weeks of the season that he was devoted to me and respected me. In time, he relieved me of all my worries. I no longer felt alone, subject to theatrical politics and theatrical gossip. Cone shielded me from all of it.

He was not a romantic lover. He did not have a love affair with me. But I suddenly sensed that, in my situation as a lone woman, he was the most suitable person to whom I could entrust my life. It was only toward the end of that season that, without any protestations of love, we were hit practically simultaneously by the consciousness that we wanted each other.

So, it is rather curious and interesting how it happened that our match was tied.

At then end of that season, I suddenly received a telegram from Buenos Aires making me an offer to come there as guest artist at the Excelsior Theatre during the winter season. The terms were very good but, since I am a poor traveler, I was not enthusiastic over it. I consulted Cone and he again proved the meaning of theatrical business:

"It wouldn't look good for you to refuse. We'll try to do it in such a way that they'll lose their desire."

A telegram was dispatched that I wanted twenty-five instead of the twenty per cent of the gross intake they offered. They would never go along with that, he said. But really on the following morning there was a return telegram of one word: "Agreed...."

I was in an immediate quandary: "Well, smarty, what do we do now? How do I get out of it? I won't go under any circumstances!"

Cone said: "Don't worry. They've offered one-way traveling expenses; so you'll ask for round-trip expenses. They'll surely not give in to that."

The next day came the answer: "Paying for both ways. But I must be on board ship on the appointed day."

I asked dejectedly: "What's going to happen now? How will you extricate yourself from this now?"

So he looked at me:

"Do you really mean to refuse such an offer? Nobody ever got such terms. You dare not refuse it. But listen here now—since you're such a poor traveler and I don't want you to go by yourself—well, let's get married, and we'll go together...."

Although this was far from a romantic proposal, I liked it. We got married.

 

My Zelik'l was then thirteen years old. I knew that he often stated to my sister Lillie's children that when he got older, when he'd gotten to be sixteen years of age, he would make an effort to get his parents together again. That's why it was with a trembling heart that I was preparing to tell him about my marrying Jacob Cone.

I recall it was on a Friday, after we had just left the marriage ceremony. Coming home I found myself alone in the house with Zelik. I said to him with some perplexity:

"Zelik'l, I want you to be the first to know that I've married Jacob Cone."

I could read surprise, astonishment, and even signs of disappointment in his eyes. He looked at me a long time without saying a word. I understood what went on in his young brain. Nevertheless, I took courage to ask him:

"Haven't you anything to say to me?"
 

Jacob Cone and I


He warmly embraced me, kissed me. I felt his little heart beating, and at last he said:

"Mother, I hope you'll be very happy. You deserve to be happy."

Right after our wedding, we took a tour through the South American countries. Our plan was to return to New York at the beginning of the theatrical season, about twelve to fifteen months later. So we partially kept our word.

We returned to New York at the beginning of the theatrical season—but it was two whole years later. We got so locked in tie-ups that, after a considerably long tour in South America, we left for Europe, where we spent nearly two years in Central Europe, Romania, and Poland.

I want to relate to you an episode on board ship as our first experience as travelers in Spanish-American countries.

My Jack couldn't stomach the meals aboard ship. He practically lived on fruit and bread for three weeks. At the end of the trip, we happened to stop at the port city of Santos. They were loading and unloading certain freight. My hungering Jack was very anxious to have a good Jewish meal. So, together with a Jewish couple that shared the table with us in the ship's dining room, we got going as a foursome over the city to look for a good Jewish restaurant.

We went along until we got to the heart of the business center of the city. We were looking for a Jewish name on one of the businesses—looking but not finding. The people's appearance there is very similar to that of Jews. So we made several attempts to inquire. They looked at us—gestured with their hands—we surmised that they didn't understand us. So Jack tried another expedient. Seeing a man near a business, he spoke up:

"And still no Jews?!"

This didn't help either. Evidently, there were really no Jews there. And so, wandering around broadly at random, we sort of chanced on a beautiful blonde young lady who looked completely Aryan. So Cone spoke up: "If she were only Jewish!"

To the astonishment of us all, the woman suddenly turned around to us and said:

"I am Jewish. Well now, is there anything you want?"

We all embraced her warmly, as if she were close kin. We almost wanted to kiss her. She told us she came from London and lovingly recalled Dina Feinman. When we told her what we were looking for, she told us where we could get a good meal. She called a taxi and told the driver where to take us.

We stopped at a magnificently beautiful, very modern hotel. Going inside, we were virtually overcome by the luxurious appearance and the colorful uniforms of the staff. Besides being tasty, the meal was very lavish, splendidly served, and abundant. When we had finished, Cone said:

"This meal will cost plenty, but whatever they charge, it's worth it."

When he got the bill for the two parties, he wasn't able to figure out how much it was in American money. He took a chance and gave the waiter a ten-dollar bill, hiding two more ten-spots in his hand, if needed. His mind was eased when the waiter asked him in his mixed English if he wanted the change in American dollars.

We were virtually flabbergasted when he brought us back all of seven dollars and a considerable amount of their small change. When he had given the waiter the small change, the waiter virtually doubled up with gratitude.

I can't understand to this day how they could have charged so little for so much luxury.

We played for more than four whole months in South America, mostly of course in Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina. We also didn't overlook a considerable number of the provincial cities—Rosario, Cordova, Mosesville, Bassa vile Bassa, Capizhu, and others.

Lying before me now are, without exaggeration, tens of columns from all sorts of newspapers from those areas—columns taken up altogether with me and my playing. In all those reviews and treatments there's really nothing new that's different from the opinions given in the New York newspapers. I think I've already boasted enough with praise written about me.

And so, out of the entire mass of reviews, I shall dwell on and bring to light only selected citations wherein what was said had a curious approach, something that greatly pleased me.

Thus, for example, Samuel Rozhansky wrote in "The Jewish Newspaper":

"We are used to having stars make a strong impression in their first appearance on the stage. They concentrate on the moment. This is of the greatest significance for them. Celia Adler doesn't belong to that type. Let's even confess and say that Celia Adler's appearance last night almost didn't disappoint. Somehow she came on so simply, without special pretense, without indulging in theatrical pomp. And it was really this simplicity of hers that grew so high through her workaday naturalness in the not-very-lofty prose of the melodrama that you completely forgot it was Celia Adler speaking from the stage. You imagined that, walking among us, was a woman named Mascha whose whole life passed by us in a matter of three acts. What marvelous naturalness; such wonderful realism; emotion from the most crystal-clear sources that moved to tears with artistic joy. She is doubtless among the select few in the Yiddish theatre of all the countries that have Jewish artists."

Another one, signing himself "Z." wrote: "Celia Adler can justly repeat Julius Caesar's words: 'I came, I saw, I conquered." Only one small change— her words should be: 'I came, they saw me, and I conquered." She can say it proudly. But Celia Adler is not proud. She is the simplest and most heart-warming woman you can ever imagine. But Celia Adler, the artist, is of the greatest. Her art is so delicate, so honest, that she has virtually raised a melodrama to a higher state of art."

I also wish to record a reception given me by the "Naumberg Writers' Association." That evening, an ordinary Monday, has perpetually engraved itself in my memory. First, the large audience that didn't get tired sitting up until half past three in the morning and—no less—the hearty warmth of the greetings that deeply moved me. For example, this is how one of the greeters expressed himself: "We are welcoming Celia Adler in such an intimate way—just as if we had known her and seen her play for a long time. Her name has gone before her, because the name of Celia Adler has been connected at various times with the best artistic activities on the Yiddish stage in North America."

Another said: "Celia Adler bears the credit for artistic achievement she has earned over a varied number of years. May this reception serve to stimulate her to keep up both her lofty playing and the lofty word, as the real inheritor of her great father, Jacob Adler and her great mother Dina Feinman."

Itzchok Deitsch, the famous theatrical director, charmingly and wittily expressed himself: "I've never seen Celia Adler play. I believe in her big name, just as I'm convinced that New York is a big city, although I've never seen it."

And so, I want to end my tour over those areas with some curious episodes. It happened in faraway Montevideo, Uruguay and always comes back to my mind with a smile. A group of Jewish young men and women from one of the surrounding Jewish colonies came to one of my performances. After the performance, we remained sitting in the half-lit theatre. They simply refused to leave. They were eager to hear more and still more about the far-flung Jewish world, about the Yiddish theatre in the United States, about me: "God knows if we shall ever have the good fortune of seeing a Celia Adler and spend time with her and talk to her in such intimacy.

"I looked into their bright faces, into the burning eyes that sort of lit up the half-dark theatrical hall for me and said to them: "If you will teach your children Yiddish, they will never be ashamed of you, nor will you have to hide your Jewishness from them; so I'll still have a Jewish audience here to come to twenty years from now."

I was rather greatly impressed by the scattered settlements, colonies, and small villages that are strewn around miles away from the big cities. There are countless such points over an area of hundreds of miles. The Jews there are ravenous for a Yiddish word, for Yiddish theatre. Several tens of settlements consult with one another from time to time and make an effort to bring down a Yiddish performance; And so such special hutches in central points were built up and a Yiddish performance was brought there.

A recognized proprietor is the chief provider of such types of performances for the village. So he considers it his duty to provide sleeping quarters for the troupe. Our troupe consisted of about ten actors as well as two stage technicians. It was thus not an easy thing to accommodate twelve new people in such a small village.

The house there consisted of three or at the most four rooms. The provider gave me, as the leading actress, his bedroom. When Jack and I got up in the manning, we saw the whole family, consisting of husband and wife and five or six children of various ages, stretched out on the ground.

There were also several centers that you could already consider a small township and, in one or two of them, there was even something you could call a hotel.

I must ask that you believe that what I'm telling you now is the unequivocal truth. The provider asked the owner of one such hotel for his best room for Jack and me. The owner said he had one room with a bath. We insisted he give us that room. We had got there late in the afternoon. Jack had gone to the theatre to see that everything was shipshape. I decided to take a bath. I was looking for but couldn't find a faucet that released water. I called the owner and said to him somewhat shamefacedly that I couldn't find the water faucet.

"What you mean water?" he said. "There's no faucets and no water."

"l fell. how do you take a bath?"

"It's not for taking a bath. But you insisted you wanted a room with a bath."

"Well, what's a bath without water?"

He kept on going in his own vein: "But you wanted a room with a bath."

"But why are you charging double?"

His answer was still the same: "But you wanted.... "

 

The crowning episode of that tour in South America occurred at a performance in a settlement called Kapiszha. There was a big metal building standing there that was used for theatrical performances for all the settlements in that area. I'm going to omit the particulars of our trip in a big, open wagon. You can understand that shaking over soft, unpaved dirt roads for a couple of hours in such a wagon was not a pleasant trip. But we got to Kapiszha safely. Here I was at last sitting in my dressing room, if  you'll pardon the expression, and getting ready for my role. Suddenly the arranger of the performance came in—he was the most outstanding farmer in Kapiszha—and spoke to me somewhat as follows:

"Excuse me, Madame Adler, for disturbing you, but I must tell you about a very curious situation we have to submit to here. When the doors open to let the public in, a huge dog also enters. He stretches out to his full length in the center aisle and watches all that happens on the stage. For heaven's sake, Madame Adler, don't be afraid, the dog won't bother you. He lies quietly and peacefully. There can be singing, dancing, laughing, quarreling, even fighting on the stage; he'll be lying peacefully and won't let out a peep. But, somehow, this dog possesses one characteristic, to wit, he cries right along with the main heroine when she cries."

I began to tremble: "My dear man, what are you saying; do you know what you're saying? I'm a dramatic actress. I'm playing in a strong drama here today; I'm playing the role of an unfortunate woman. At the climax of each act, I get hysterical and cry. I'm proud of the fact that the audience cries with me. Rivers of tears are shed in the theatre. If the audience hears the dog cry, they'll burst out laughing. He will do away with my best scenes; my whole performance will be ruined. Oh , no, my dear man, I've dragged myself eight thousand miles from New York to get to you people, and I won't allow your cur to decimate my whole reputation. I want to please your audience. I want them to love me for my playing, to remember me...."

The man stood. there guilt-ridden. He only said: "What can I do, Madame Adler?!"

"What do you mean what can you do?" I yelled at him. "Don't let that cur get into the theatre today!"

"You don't understand, Madame Adler. We tried that too; but the cur scratches and bangs on the walls with his huge paws. The building is made of tin.... it's no use....It's much worse...."

"So chase him away somewhere—to hell with him—lock him up."

The man sighed deeply: "That's easy to say. But you don't understand, my dear; he's not my dog. His owner is an unfriendly fellow, in fact a curious character who walks around speechless, with a pipe in his mouth and a loaded gun under his arm. Woe to him who tangles with his dog. After all, I and my family have to go on living here. Do you understand the situation, Madame Adler?"

I did indeed understand. How goes the saying—"The show must go on...." You can imagine with what kind of feeling I went on the stage to play and what my thoughts were. I didn't get that dog out of my mind for a minute.

I was to be conducted to the wedding ceremony at the end of the first act. Right there the writer of the play wanted my beloved mother to have a heart attack and die—I pray it does not happen to any mother. Understandably, it was here that I had to give out with a real sharp scream and go into a fit of crying. But I had the dog on my mind. I must not cry; the dog would cry with me; the people would laugh; the end of the act would be ruined. So I had to receive my mother's death coldly and nonchalantly....

Ordinarily, I would have received tremendous applause when the act ended; the curtain would rise many, many times. But here and now the public received me just as coldly as I received my mother's death. Barely a few hand claps.... They surely thought: "Gad, what an actress; her mother dies at the ceremony, and she—nothing...." It certainly worried me. But I comforted myself with the fact that I had succeeded in not giving the cur an opportunity to get the people laughing.

And so I safely but tortuously got through the second act; had the dog more in mind than the drama and the audience.... But in the last act the tragedy becomes deadly dangerous.... I tried to utter a little bit of a cry while I trained my ear on the dog. Psst, quiet, I didn't hear a thing. So I allowed myself a stronger cry. Than God, the cur kept quiet. So I took courage and gave out with all I had in me.... I sensed the audience's empathy; they wept with me; women were sobbing, men were stealthily touching their white handkerchiefs to their eyes.... This was the best sign that the performance was going over....

But right there another matter began to trouble me. How come the dog wasn't crying?!.... He had cried along with other women stars; well, now, why wasn't he crying with me?! It may be hard to understand, but I suddenly felt myself resenting that my crying didn't move that dog.... it irritated me. I wasn't able to accomplish what others had done successfully. So I stiffened up with ambition.... I must make that dog cry.... So I let go in the loudest tones.... went into utmost hysterics.... made good on all I ever owed the audience from the first and second acts.

At last, when the curtain fell, the theatre virtually shook with thunderous applause and the stamping of feet. The people there are very demonstrative, stormy. The cries of Bravo, the yelling of Celia Adler! and the throwing of hats in the air.... The ovation kept on without cessation....

I stood bowing to the public. But I didn't feel the deep joy that such an ovation usually evokes in me. The stormy reception didn't sit well with me. I felt a gnawing feeling, chagrin deep in my heart.... My mind kept drilling—really and honestly now?!.... That dog had remained nonchalant! My playing had had no effect on him! Why? Why?.... Curious—right? The tremendous enthusiasm of the audience hadn't touched me because I hadn't please that dog.... My playing hadn't touched him....

I went to my dressing room practically crestfallen. Already standing there was the arranger of the performance with tearful eyes, happy and contented: "Oh, Oh, Madame Adler! The audience just went mad over your playing. They're all beside themselves. I first now understand why you have such a name. We've never had such a large audience before. They've come from the farthest settlements. We've never seen such playing here before. May God give you the strength for many, many more years to come....

I put on an act, to wit, that I was moved by his praise, by his enthusiasm. But I really kept thinking about that dog. At last, I really couldn't hold out any longer and said, as it were nonchalantly:

"That dog behaved well. I had no cause to be afraid."

"Oh, Madame Adler, it almost slipped my mind. I was so busy seating the audience that I didn't have time to tell you.... The dog didn't come to the performance today for the first time in the existence of this theatre....

I looked at the man with wide-open eyes. My thespian vexation was becalmed.... My honor, my name had been saved....

 

Jack had already decided that we would not play in the theatre that year. He wanted us to make a longer tour of Europe. I ... on his theatrical savoir-faire.

"The Atlantic," a magnificent, new, just-completed French ship, was then making her first trip from France to Argentina. So reservations were made for us on her for our return to Europe via her itinerary of returning from Rio de Janeiro. The Chief Rabbi of Brazil, whom we had got to know well on our guest appearances in that country, helped us to get reservations. He even managed to get a magnificent first-class cabin for us, even though we had paid only for a second-class one. And so our trip was truly luxurious, pleasurable.

You already know from before that I'm a bad traveler by ship. That was the first time in my whole life that seasickness didn't bother me at all. I didn't even miss one meal and didn't even suffer for one minute. That magnificently luxurious ship had pleasures and entertainment aplenty, and I enjoyed them all.

I remember that I virtually didn't believe my eyes when I walked out on the first-class promenade, which almost literally extended the entire length of the ship, and found myself among the loveliest ships on a sort of avenue akin to our Fifth Avenue. There were all kinds of goods, dresses, shoes, hats, diamonds—anything and everything you can imagine. I don't.... such a thing on a ship. There was entertainment with a magnificent orchestra every evening.

I want to boast not only about dancing, about my winning first prize at a dancing contest. Perhaps you'll want to know that, even though I had won first prize, I had to be satisfied with the second prize. The first prize was a beautiful, golden, gem-studded cross.... I was happy that the winner of the second prize wanted the cross; so we exchanged.

The train brought us from Cherbourg to Paris late after midnight. We had no hotel reservation; so a young couple that had come with us from Rio suggested we go with them to the same hotel where they had reservations. We accepted their offer. Thus, we got to quite a beautiful, small, but neat, hotel—far from the center of Paris.

Evidently the six-hour train trip to Paris so exhausted me that I fell into a deep sleep. When I awoke about nine o'clock in the morning, I was alone in the room. A note written by Jack lay on the little table near the bed. He had left to look for some tie-up with Yiddish theatre. Breakfast had also been ordered for me; "All you have to do is ring for it."

I needn't tell you how comfortable I felt at my Jack's seeing to it that I shouldn't feel lost or lonesome away from home. Jack showered me with this and similar kinds of devotion during all the years of [our marriage.]  I first had the chance to really recognize and appreciate .... the business of the theatre several hours later. Being in Paris [during this] time and without speaking the language, he accomplished what he wanted in only a few hours. It certainly wasn't easy for him. At last, he was barely able to communicate his desire to a French taxi driver to be taken to a Jewish restaurant. When the latter had at last understood what Jack wanted, he took him to Flammenbaum's, the most renowned Jewish restaurant in Paris.

The rest was quite easy. From there, they took him to the famous theatrical director Kompanietz who, together with his considerable, many-branched family, made the Yiddish theatre function in Paris. When Jack had told him with whom he had come, it didn't take long for a contract to be signed with the best terms for a few weeks at the Lancri Theatre.

Jack now hastily returned to the hotel because, that very day, he had to bring back all the necessary materials so that the billboards could be ordered and the newspaper advertisements could be mapped out.

I virtually didn't believe my eyes when I saw what he had succeeded in doing in those few hours. He not only had the signed contract in his pocket, but had also reserved a room for us at the Boulevard Haussmann Hotel, one of the very finest hotels in those days in the very center [of Paris. We] had to pack quickly; a taxi to move us over was already ... to be back at the theatre one hour later, not only with "cuts ..." of Kalmanowitz's very fine portrait of life, "Be a Mother," was scheduled for the following morning. The premiere would be as early as Friday. It's hard to tell and even harder for people outside the profession to understand what it means for an experienced hand to remove the worries a leading actress ordinarily has to go through when she begins guest appearances in a foreign country.

Jack succeeded in doing all these things so easily during our entire tour of almost two years over Europe that I had no worries whatever about the productions. I felt that I was in sure hands for the first time; and although we experienced many difficult and bitter times in the twenty-five years of our life together, my confidence in Jack's theatre expertise never diminished.

Our guest appearances at the Lancri Theatre were enormously successful. I don't wish to burden you with all that was written about me in the French, as well as in the limited Jewish press in Paris. I only want to tell you that, during those few weeks there, we felt very uplifted both by financial and artistic success and, especially by the circle of intelligent, warm-hearted people with whom we often had the occasion to spend our time.

By the way, it's worth mentioning here that the Parisian theatrical modus operandi is such that you don't play in one theatre all the time. Parisian Jews are scattered over various areas, so that the theatre is brought to them. Thus, the same troupe has to play two or three theatres a week.

We were pleasantly surprised one morning when our phone rang in our hotel room. To my hello came the happy answer by Ludwig Satz, followed by my sister, Lillie. They were on their way from London to Warsaw. They had purposely stopped in Paris to spend a few weeks with us. So I needn't tell you what a good, pleasant time we had with our three little nieces—Zirele, Mirele, and Feigele.
 

Left to right: Mirele, Ludwig Satz, Lillie, Feigele,  and Zirele.
 

And so, I shall close our guest appearances in Paris with an episode that will again remind you of Celia, the absent-minded angel.

You've surely heard of the Parisian "metro." In our American Yiddish it's simply the subway—only the metro is somehow interconnected differently from our subway. When you get off, you find yourself in front of several descending stairs that lead to trains to various places in the city with labeling signs before each descent of the various stations where the trains stop. When I saw the labeling and the name of the station we wanted, I got off the stairs without looking behind me to see if Jack was following me. He had been held up for several minutes buying the tickets. When he had finished, he couldn't find me. Suddenly, I heard a curious outcry from below that re-echoed in many voices all over the station. I recognized my Jack's voice yelling: "God in heaven, where are you?!" Laughing hysterically, I ran up the stairs again and fell into his arms.

Our success in Paris made my Jack's ambition soar, and he decided that we should stop over in Berlin, Germany before we went to Romania. So we left Paris in a very fine mood. The good mood also prevailed during the train trip through France and until we crossed the border into Germany. That was in February, 1932, when the world still wasn't deeply disturbed about the happenings in Germany, even though here and there writings had appeared about the beginnings of Hitler, may his named be erased, and of his Nazi Movement with its swastika. So we were virtually shocked when, riding past various German cities on our way from France to Berlin, we saw swastika flags flying from every window.

A curious, disturbed feeling began to grow in our hearts. The disturbances virtually changed into fear when getting off the train and leaving the station at the city of Berlin, we met storm troopers virtually every step of the way who clinked alms boxes with impertinence and bitter hate, and kept calling out: "Help us send the Jews to Palestine." I virtually didn't believe my ears. Just then, one of them brought his rattling alms box right over to me and, as if recognizing me as a Jewess, put special impertinence into his outcry. I fixed my eyes on him; I took a cue from my acting experience and put into my look as much contempt as I could only feel and express. My look hit the target. I sensed what I wanted him to feel, and to answer me he repeated his outcry with more madness and more hatred. We understood each other....

The hotel in Berlin received us very cordially. Jack immediately got in touch with the theatre manager who was to arrange our guest appearances in Berlin. He told him candidly that, because of the atmosphere we had met in Germany, we didn't want to make guest appearances there. Heaven forbid that the manager should have an argument with us. On the contrary, he complimented Jack very much on his decision and told him they were afraid of the responsibilities they were currently taking on themselves to give strongly advertised Yiddish performances. There had already been cases of open scandal. Hoping that their difficult times would be over quickly, he wished us a successful tour in Romania and Poland. He would keep in touch with us.

The next morning we left Berlin with a heavy heart, hoping, like the manager did, that it would all pass like a bad dream. But, to our great misfortune, it turned out quite differently.

It is with painful feelings that I now approach the telling about our tour in Romania and Poland. Drawing on my memories of that time for the happy occasions in the various cities and townships where we happened to be making guest appearances, I descend into gloom and my heart aches as I think about what has now become of all that now.

Cities and townships chockfull of Jews and the Jewish manner of living, with Jewish traditions and age-old, deeply rooted Jewish institutions—all have been so gruesomely wiped away.

You doubtless remember that, at my guest appearances in Romania several years before that, I had had not a few unpleasantnesses from managers who had not been careful with our earnings; that there were policemen's pursuits of graft, that the hotels were uncomfortable. On this tour, I didn't suffer from any of these things, due to Jack's expertness. However, I would gladly have again undergone all these things if only those cities and townships and those Jews were still in their places.

Our second tour in Romania was no less successful in every respect than our guest appearances in France.

Jack had planned for us to be in Warsaw for Passover. We thus left Romania with a very fine feeling. How does the expression go?- -We had "both honor and money" there. But I must give here a border incident that caused us both worry and jocularity for a time.

When we were leaving Romania, the official at the border custom-controls opened our luggage, and his eyes popped open when he saw one of my dresses, a velvet black ball dress with a lot of shiny little stones. They sparkled like true diamonds. The dress had cost a lot of money. The ball dress was from the wardrobe of Camille. The little stones were a cheap ornamentation. The official got sort of confused. He called over several more officials. These brought still others, and before we looked around, we were surrounded by tens of government employees. They evidently suspected that we were diamond smugglers, and their policemen's brain convinced them that we were smuggling diamonds in such a simple fashion. Jack and I had quite a time of it convincing them that these were simple rhinestones. But, anyway, we did succeed in removing their suspicion that we were diamond smugglers.

We got to the beautiful, heart-warming Jewish city of Warsaw a few weeks before Passover. Perhaps you will recall that I had been to Warsaw for a short visit in 1916 with my mother and sister Lillie, when we were coming from Lodz, after laying the gravestone on Sigmund Feinman's grave. At that time, I saw Warsaw only from my hotel room window. I was an American young lady on whom the overdriven, inflated discipline of uniformed military men left a deep impression.

But now, in the year of 1932, I had a chance to see Jewish Warsaw, the city that was so chockfull both of religious Jewishness and literary, cultural and highly modern Jewish intelligentsia. I shall all my life owe my deepest thanks to Ida Kaminska and Sigmund Turkow, those truly heartwarming, friendly colleagues who were an extraordinarily talented pair.

The first night we slept in Warsaw and, immediately on the following morning, we were surprised by a phone call from Ida Kaminska. She greeted us very warmly and invited us to their home for dinner. We joyfully accepted. They came for us a short time later. We became close friends. Thanks to them, I had the chance to get in on all that was worth seeing and knowing in Warsaw. They very often drove us around the city, and I was virtually astounded to see Jewish families en promenade—husband, wife and children—the men and the boys dressed in thoroughly religious, old-fashioned garments; the men, understandably, with beards and sideburns, the boys with long little side curls. But the women, and the girls, too, were dressed very modern, according to the very latest Paris fashions.

I expressed my wonderment to Ida Kaminska and she interpreted that phenomenon for me. Besides being intelligent, besides being a great, gifted actress, she is very wise. In Warsaw, she was called "Napoleon in a dress." I was also impressed by the Warsaw Jewish Artists' Association when we went there on one of my visits with them. Its name was completely justified. Assembled there were all sorts of actors and artists: literati, actors, painters, musicians—all that Art possesses. Besides our successful performing, it was Ida and Sigmund who made our visit to Warsaw extremely pleasant and joyful.

I recall that we often discussed roles that both of us had played, both child and adult roles. Thanks to her mother, Esther-Rachel Kaminska, who had played practically the entire Gordin repertory, she, Ida Kaminska, enacted all the children's roles in those plays, which pretty nearly comprised the beginning of my career as well.

I met Sigmund Turkow twenty-four years later, in 1956, on my short trip to Israel, a visit I had the poor luck to select at an inappropriate time.

He and Ida had separated—he married again. He died a few years ago. Ida was married to Mayer Melman in Russia (or Poland?)

As I dig around in my memories of that visit in Warsaw, it is the Warsaw intelligentsia circle and the literary-cultural circles in which I often passed the time thanks to Ida Kaminska. I am tempted to boast to you about another virtue those circles were wont to ascribe to me. They always praised and marveled at my pure, hearty Yiddish speech every time we met. They couldn't believe that I could possibly have been born in the United States. All the American Jewish actors who made guest appearances in Warsaw, even European Jewish actors who had played in America for a lengthy time period and then returned, used many Americanisms in their Yiddish. They said that this was the first time they saw an American actress, one born in the United States, who spoke such a magnificently beautiful, pure Yiddish lexicon.

They told me about many curious things occurring on the stage when the American guest would suddenly say: "There's a chair (benkel) missing here; see to it that the curtain (forhang) falls thus and so.... "

So it seemed I harbored another virtue I never knew I had. I remember this virtue causing me embarrassment. It happened in a restaurant where I ordered a baked potato. The waiter looked at curiously. I first then realized that "potato" was not a Yiddish word. I looked around to see if anybody from those circles had heard me. I didn't want to lose my reputation!

I remember another odd curiosity. There were countless beggars in the streets of Warsaw. I imagine it's the scourge of the country. Many of them were very insistent, especially when they sense—and they have a special talent for it—that the passerby is an American. My Jack wore a light topcoat. It gave a sedate, prosperous appearance, especially to such a considerable figure as my Jack had.

So row after row of all kinds of beggars dogged our footsteps. They not only put out their hands, but they asked for a specific sum—and asked not, heaven forbid, for groschen (small coins) or for zlotes (higher denominations). But here now is the phrase they kept repeating: "Give a Jew a dollar. You surely won't miss it ...." But, obviously, Jack would miss so many dollars given away day after day. He decided he'd better not wear the topcoat anymore; it was too rich for his pocket.

I recall toying with the idea of not giving the wrong impression that I acted only in plays of literary merit.

I therefore understood only too well when Elchanon Zeitlin wrote about my first appearance at the Skala Theatre in Warsaw: "I must admit that I somehow felt a twinge in my heart when I heard that 'The Eternal Bride' was the name of the play Celia Adler was preparing to do on her first appearance in Warsaw. Et tu Brute? Celia Adler too? 'Our Celia' as she is known in America with so much love and devotion—she too?"

But that's why it was more welcome to me to have him say in his review: "Celia Adler possesses a great talent, true theatrical blood at her hereditary core. You can see this in her every movement, in every word she utters on the stage. She is tender, delicate, charming, clever, and full of temperament and refinement. She executes in a truly masterful manner the transitions from one situation to another, from one mood to another."

Jacob Pat wrote: "I watched Celia Adler for two hours straight on the scene at Skala, and I heard and felt during that whole time a crushing accusation by the Jewish artist hurled against Yiddish literature. The artist stands higher than the dramatist by a hundred heads; and the more talented the artist and the greater his powers, the stronger the accusation cries out against the literature."

I must admit that I virtually hovered in the heavens as I continued to read his review, really his opinion of me in the melodrama: "Celia Adler is a master, an artist head to toe—in her every turn and twist, in the nails of her hands, in her whole soul, her mouth and looks, hands and body, in her weeping and laughter—all. She's like a rare musical instrument; she's full of heart, temperament, and wisdom—fine wisdom. She is for real. Emanating from her is a style of acting, direction, arid mimicry that are redolent with culture and refined performing. And not only is her playing genuine and neat but her speech is also. The words and sentences coming out of her mouth are pure and rounded. The words, the letters, even the 'throw-away' words play in the sentences."

I had a hearty laugh when I. Perle remarked in his review: "According to the posters hanging in the windows, I imagined Celia Adler as 'being big,' expansive...." Understandably, seeing me on the stage, he changed his view of me, and he too granted me a considerable portion of praise.

Both the outspoken opinions about me in the Warsaw press and by the literary-cultural circles among which we often found ourselves inflamed my desire to appear in several of my roles from the better Yiddish repertory. And so for the second performance we prepared Hirshbein's "Green Fields." 

Joshua Perle wrote (in "The Moment" or "Today"): "To make a distinction, the ensemble plays quite differently in 'The Green Fields' than in 'The Constant Bride.' The young Oppenheim, especially. He renders a flesh-and-blood character. This Oppenheim is indeed a gifted man. And to whom do we owe thanks for all this? Peretz Hirshbein and Celia Adler."

I shall conclude my guest appearances in Warsaw with one of my joyful surprises. I was shown an article about me in which had been printed almost a year before in "The Literary Papers," edited by Nachman Maisel. The article was an interview with my heartwarming colleague, who, together with me, was at the very top of the better Yiddish theatre in the course of my career—that extremely fine artist, Bertha Gerstin, who was then making guest appearances in Warsaw.

It happens very seldom that an actress should treat one of her "competitors" with such warmth and deep admiration. Nachman Maisel began his review about me with a phrase with which Bertha Gerstin concluded her appraisal: ''What can you say—all you have to do is see Celia Adler play."

And, after he asked everyone to go see Celia Adler play, he summed up in the following phrases: "Celia Adler doesn't play a role; she lives the role; infuses it with blood; with vital strength; with ebullient life. Everything is alive in her: her eyes, hands, feet—her whole body. She best embodies the Hebrew expression—she plays with every fiber of her being."

 

I could easily write several chapters about our tour over Europe then. As you will see later, our tour extended for an additional year. Thus I remember that Bialystok was the last Polish city we played in. There's a bit of a sentimental incident connected with that. Two managers came to us proposing terms for their cities: one from Lemberg, with a very enticing offer; the other from Bialystok also with good terms. Suddenly, my Jack surprised me by leaving the decision to me.

(I obviously want to justify the fact that many people consider me clever, a repository of wisdom.) I surmised why Jack behaved this way. Jack was born in Bialystok and, although he had left his native city when still a rather small boy, almost a child, he not infrequently spoke longingly of the city and kept the hope alive of going there again sometime.

He was evidently afraid that his feelings wouldn't permit him to view the two offers in a practical and objective way. So he left it up to me. Understandably, I chose Bialystok. Thus, I shall never forget how overcome Jack was when he took me to the house where he was born and where he spent his first years. The little street was so narrow that two people could barely pass. And the little house also was very small and poor. When he left Bialystok, it was with his whole family, so there was no one to seek out there. Nevertheless, his shoulders shook for some time as he stood in front of the little home.

All Bialystok people know that, outstanding among the many assets Bialystok possesses, is the wonder of the Bialystok clock, located in the very center of the city market. Some sort of power has lain in that clock so that to this day, whenever Bialystokers get together, they talk about that city clock.

Jack even told me that great feuds occurred in certain organizations because someone had expressed himself disparagingly about that clock.

So Jack took me in a droschke (horse-pulled cab) to the market to show me that Bialystok wonder—the great city clock. I recall that, on our way there, he spoke of and told about that wonder with so much reverence that I got to thinking about the large clock atop Cooper Union; the clocks on the towers of the Edison Gas Company on Fourteenth Street, and the Metropolitan Life Insurance; and the other huge clocks to be found in Greater New York. I also thought of the famous Big Ben in London. I imagined that it could only be that all those clocks were like toys compared with the Bialystok city clock.

Presently, the droschke stopped, and Jack said somewhat disappointedly: "Well, that's it!...."

I took a look and virtually couldn't believe my eyes. The clocks on the subway stations in New York are, if not bigger, certainly not smaller than that "big" Bialystok wonder.

I unwittingly remarked: "So this is really it, Jack?!.... Is this why I had to bounce around in the droschke?"

Jack looked at me and at the clock as if insulted and mumbled as if he were ashamed: "None other. The clock has shrunk through the years...." I hope the people of Bialystok will forgive me for making so little of their great wonder.

But all this didn't interfere with the fact that our guest appearances in Bialystok engraved themselves in my memory. Even though I was so disappointed in the Bialystok city clock, I was warmed and caressed by the deeply heartfelt Jewishness which virtually called out to me from every house and from the very stones in the street.

I'm afraid to think of what's happened to all that now. My very arrival in Bialystok brought me endless joy in itself. Meeting me at the depot was a large group of people who received me with a considerable ovation. They had created a special social committee headed by Pesach Kaplan, the editor of the Bialystok newspaper.

Our performances at the Palace Theatre were colossal successes. The theatre was indeed filled with the heartfelt warmth of the public toward us. I very much liked this expression in one of the reviews there: "When Celia Adler laughs, the world laughs with her; and when she cries, it's the crying of an orphan."

I had already begun thinking about going home around that time, but my Jack was greatly impressed by both the healthy attitude of the European Jewish theatre public and my great artistic success. And he decided to spend another year in Europe. Thus, he constantly came around with more and more new offers and, before we knew it, we were all ready for the second winter in Europe and playing in Kovno and Riga.

Generally speaking, we criss-crossed the length and breadth of Europe, not even missing Antwerp and Brussels in Belgium, where we played in the King's Theatre. I have the feeling that if the disturbances in Europe had not started, Jack might perhaps not have acquiesced so soon; and we would have stayed in Europe longer. But I bothered him a lot about my yearning strongly for home especially for my son, for my chums and friends. It wasn't until the middle of August, 1933, that we got back to America.

We couldn't enjoy the fact that we had been provided with a trip home on a German ship because of the happenings in Germany and the persecution of the Jews that had become considerably more vicious. And although the Germans aboard ship, the personnel, and the service staff showed us exaggerated civility, we didn't find the trip to our liking at all. We even tried to change ships, were ready to forfeit several ten-dollar bills, but such a change was impossible because all the ship lines were so packed.

At last we spied New York with its magnificent high buildings that I knew and loved so much. And presently we were nearing New York harbor where countless human heads awaited their loved ones and dearest ones. I can't forget how I felt myself atremble when I suddenly heard all kinds of calls from a number that carried from the harbor to our ship and among all the calls, I recognized my Zelik's voice yelling "Mother"....

I remember another thing as I got off the ship. I already saw my Zelik, my mother, amid countless friends and people close to us in the crowd. My mother made sure that Zelik's arms were the first to embrace me. How curious I felt. In the joy of embracing him, I was reminded by his growing beard: no more a small boy—already a big fellow....

But there was no time to talk. Much has been written about the deep feelings involved in farewells, about saying "goodbye and keep well." But it seems to me there's nothing to compare with the joy of meeting again people who are close to you and your friends. Anyway, that's the way I felt that day in August, 1933, when, after two years of wandering over the earth, I had come home.

 

It is engraved in my memory that I truly felt refreshed and uplifted on returning from that long tour of ours over the South-American countries and Europe. Such great interest on the part of the theatrical public everywhere, especially the hearty, warm attitude the Polish Jews showed toward the theatre and the actor. Their enthusiasm expressed so demonstratively and openly, the cultural environment around the theatre—all this awakened in me a fresh desire to become involved again in earnest attempts in important activities in our theatre.

The Yiddish theatres still seemed considerably well rooted and extensive in the United States. At that time, even though an experienced eye could already note signs of danger that lurked and cut into the Yiddish theatrical being and were devouring it, bit by bit, step by step. But there weren't many experienced eyes, either in our theatrical world or in our writers' cultural world. Perhaps the plague could then have been arrested.... It seems that the neglect that took root in our theatrical world really bothered very few of us. The disdain, the ignorance, the obscenity virtually drove away the serious theatregoers and people with earnest designs in every domain of the theatre.

So that's why I was very much pleased that just then, at the end of the summer of 1933, when we had come back from our tour, the Second Avenue Theatre, a really declared outspoken operetta theatre, was getting ready to produce Peretz Hirshbein' s wonderfully beautiful folk tale, "Once Upon a Time." The theatre advertised it everywhere as a great musical spectacle, a combination of literature and music, with Lazar Weiner as music director and Ossip Dymow as director, and with an extremely fine and lofty acting troupe. Although the troupe was already full, I was offered the leading role, which I accepted with pleasure and without long delay.

On my Jack's advice, I insisted on only one thing: that my connection with the theatre be only for Hirshbein's play. I would have the right to withdraw when the play went off the boards. Jack wanted to save me from worrying over what might happen if I were forced to enter the repertory of that theatre's stars.

As the memories of those years keep mingling in my mind, the thought keeps coming up that my theatrical career then was having its ups and downs. Presently, I was again into one of my strongest melodramatic plays, "The Forgotten Mother." I did a film on it called, "Where's My Child?" and I was making personal appearances in various movie houses where it was playing.

And presently I took part with a group of sincere actors in the beautiful production of Nahum Stutchkoff's "At My Parent's Table," at the Irving Place Theatre. We even had a special director, Michael Rasumny. The play, a fine portrait dealing with an important problem in American Jewish life, had a very considerable success.

And so I'm happy at this time to mention with warmth, the gifted and charming singer and actor Seymour Rechtzeit, one of our most popular radio stars, later the president of our union.

Incidentally, I wish to compliment him not only for his personal addition to the theatre, but also for choosing the very talented singer and actress, the heart-warming Miriam Kressyn, as his life companion. Under appropriate circumstances, she could become an important force in the better Yiddish theatre with her intelligence, Jewish charm, and all-around abilities. Her succulent Yiddish has justly elevated her to the most important female personality in our Yiddish radio world.

The main income of many actors at that time was based on appearing at banquets and similar festivities. Others even went to work in shops. A small number had the luck to connect with steady programs on the Yiddish radio; others, less fortunate, became satisfied with occasional appearances on the radio. In short, the Yiddish theatre as a profession fell more and more in the course of those years. The close to fifteen Yiddish theatres that existed in New York lessened in number year by year, until we were left with two or three professional theatres that have been existing tortuously during the last decade or so. The forty-week seasons of yesteryear have shrunk to a bare ten or twelve weeks.

There were years when the spiritual ornament of the Yiddish theatrical season in New York consisted of the successful productions by that group of idealistic lovers of the theatre, the "Jewish Folksbiene," on a little four-by-four stage, in an impoverished, dismal theatrical hall somewhere on Stanton Street. I cannot point with a clear conscience to any theatrical successes whatever that I personally achieved in a little more than the last two decades.

I also created for myself a number of concert programs and frequently made such appearances in various centers across the land—from Denver to Florida to Winnipeg, in deep Canada.

As Ossip Dymow, speaking of my career, lately: "How many roles, how many concerts has Celia been through! The little lady has quietly, humbly fought for the survival of the Yiddish theatre, never cheapening the stage."

 

I was evidently not the only one who felt that way about the Yiddish theatre's quick gallop downhill. It had disconcerted others too.

Around 1938. my brother-in-law Joseph Shoengold, my sister Frances' husband, who was practically considered as an Adler in our theatrical profession, called together the entire family with the exception of my sister Stella, who was then on a tour of South America. All the Adlers came. He proposed a very wonderful plan for us. I should say it was a brilliant inspiration, a double-play combination.

The world-famous Rothschild family was a name that had been on Jewish lips for years and generations, from the most out-of-the-way cities and townships to the biggest Jewish settlements. So many anecdotes, stories, and legends had been created about the Rothschilds among the people. The name became a synonym for opulence in Yiddish literature, of which Sholem Aleichem's "If I Were Rothschild" is the best example. A comedy called "The Five Frankfurters" was created about this family because the family roots were in the German city of Frankfort.

Shoengold emphasized that the name of Adler is no less well known than the name of Rothschild in America. Although the head of the Adler family, the big eagle, Jacob Adler, the one who more than any other brought it about that the name Adler should become so famous, was no longer with us, nevertheless we all know that there were those among the living Adlers who continued bore the great name of the Adler dynasty with honor. There were ten roles in the comedy—and these should be played by ten Adlers.

The idea impressed us all. Even the business people in our family, my brother Abe and my husband Jack, saw very great possibilities in it. Shoengold told us that he was so certain of our assent that, he had already ordered the translation. The name in Jewish would be "Millions."

Evidently, time and the years straighten out a lot of awkwardness, iron out many wrinkles—so that, in my later, middle years—I was incorporated into the entire Adler family. All were so overcome by that inspiration and that accomplishment that there truly reigned a chummy and familial atmosphere of harmony. When Shoengold placed the comedy before us and, as director, allocated the roles, there was no jealousy whatever that it had so happened that the leading role of Gedullah, the famous Rothschild mother, had been handed to me.

Another element was added that promised all of us even more that our attempt would be a great success. Shoengold announced to us that George Jessel, the famous English-Jewish comedian and singer, saw so many possibilities in the combine that he undertook the financing of the production. So the headlines really shone from the English newspapers— "Ten Adlers Play Five Frankfurters," and the program which read as follows impressed people: Gedullah—Celia Adler; Jacob-Luther Adler; Anshel—Adolf Adler; Karl—Irving Adler; Charlotte—Julia Adler; Duke of Toonoose—Charles Adler; Countess—Evelyn Pearl Adler; Duchess of Clanston—Madame Sarah Adler; Solomon—Joseph Shoengold.

We played in the New Yorker Theatre on Broadway. Everyone's achievement was praised both by the Yiddish and English press. But I must say in sorrow that it was really the English newspapers that underscored the combine with more sentiment, namely, that the famous great Rothschild family was being brought to life again on the stage by the famous great Adler family.

It's hard for me to decide to this day why it was that the combine in which everyone without exception saw so many possibilities shouldn't have had the right amount of success. It could be that I ought to feel partly guilty toward the Adlers. When Shoengold proposed the plan to us, some of us were of the opinion that the performances should be in English. It's such a broader field and of such greater possibilities. I insisted that it be done in Yiddish. I argued that my natural instinct told me that both the Adlers and the Rothschilds are expressly Jewish "possessions." Thus, the sentiments pertaining to it could only be in the Yiddish language. It could be that my instinct fooled me and all the rest of us. Or perhaps the New Yorker Theatre was too far removed for the Jewish theatregoers of that time, being all the way up in the fifties and Eighth Avenue. Many good opinions were given both about the feat of achievement and the playing. I certainly received countless significant compliments. I don't feel the urge now to boast about them.

Another attempt to do something to halt the decline of our Yiddish theatre showed up again five full years later. My husband, Jack, for whom as you already know, the Yiddish theatre was part of his life, hit on a plan of how to try to revive the Jewish public's interest in Yiddish theatre. It was almost the end of the summer of 1943 when he called the following actors together: Jacob Ben Ami, Bertha Gerstin, Frances Adler, Mischa Gehrman, Menachem Rubin, Max Bozyk and me. He proposed a plan to us. The very fact that, at the end of the summer, all these actors, myself included, were at liberty, not engaged anywhere—no theatre had any place for us or needed such enormously talented powers as I've enumerated above—this fact in itself, it seems to me, is witness of the fearful gallop with which the Yiddish theatre was running downhill.

My Jack proposed to us that we organize ourselves as a cooperative, study Gordin's "God, Man and Devil" and travel all over America with it. His theatrical instinct told him that Gordin's strong Yiddish social drama, played by only first-class actors, practically the very cream of the Jewish theatrical profession, could not but awaken the public's sentiments. He strongly believed that America still possessed a great many Jews who were concerned about good Yiddish theatre.

The worry over the sad state of the Yiddish theatre evidently lay deep in the hearts of each one of that extraordinary group of great miracle happened. All at once, two weaknesses that plagued star performers fell away from all these leading actors. First, the opinion that equal cooperative earnings might, heaven forbid, wrong them financially; then, the second, bigger fear, that they wouldn't play the leading role. Everyone threw himself into the work with enthusiasm.

 

The Cooperative Troupe of "God, Man and Devil," with Reuben Guskin, Manager of the Union
 

I needn't tell you that each of us thoroughly knew every word, every role, every character in the play.

We unanimously decided with an attitude of extraordinary comradeship and fellowship and, at the same time with a certain respect, to name Ben Ami the director and to apportion the roles. I have never felt such sincere accommodation among people in my entire theatrical career.

And so we studied the play with great eagerness and in an almost festive mood. Every detail and every movement were attended to with the greatest accuracy and the strictest discipline.

I remember how heavy our hearts were as we went from our hotel to the theatre in Montreal. The city was buried in deep snow. We virtually held each other's hands to plod safely through the mountains of snow. No taxis, no street cars were running. We were sure the theatre would be empty.

Thus, we can't understand to this day how the public could have come. The theatre was literally packed to the rafters. Our entire tour of thirteen or fourteen weeks was one great triumph. You could virtually see the revival, the tremendous renewal the public felt in the theatre. We scooped up honor and money with full hands.

But the old question still remains: Why didn't anything come of this either? We couldn't agree on the selection of a second play either from the old repertory or from the newly written plays. The opportune time was forfeited. How does the appropriate American expression go? "We missed the bus!"

 I don't know if everybody who tells his memoirs, who communicates the story of his life, feels as I do now. Coming close to the end of my tale, I'm overcome with painful feelings, as if I were saying farewell to my own life. And it's indeed a law of nature that there must herein be entwined those lives of one's closest, one's own people, of those most loved who have gone to their reward before. So you will surely forgive me if a feeling of sorrow will often penetrate into these last chapters.

After the triumphant tour our cooperative troupe with "God, Man and Devil" .... my small, tight family met with a difficult, tragic happening. In .... brother-in-law, the brilliant Ludwig Satz, died after a ....barely in the forty-ninth year of his life. His early ...s whole life, his theatrical life called forth .....s as they passed before my eyes. Satz [had a] true spark of brilliance, and yet he so often dissipated it.... In playing with him, I often had the feeling that he was playing spitefully against himself, against his own brilliant talent, and against all of us. Somewhere, in the very beginning of his very promising career, a certain cynicism attached itself to him, from which he could not and perhaps would not free himself.

Two years later, in February, 1946, I suffered an even greater loss. My mother, Dina Feinman, died. It is difficult to interpret in terms of sound logic such a puzzle as this, to wit, that the death of such close ones, even if it comes in the later years and even if it liberates those involved from long, hard, physical troubles and suffering, nevertheless still upsets us. We are shocked by death as such. Next to my child Zelik'l, my mother was the most beloved person I had in life. Perhaps you have already gathered as much from my life story. Her greatness as an actress, her tamer, fine character, her open-faced, clear view of life, her great, tragic love for my father, Jacob—all these together deeply rooted my mother's personality in my consciousness in my life, in my thoughts, in my life's very breath. The last two or three years of her life were a difficult story for her. Her sharp brain declined; she often manifested almost childish thoughts. I suffered so dreadfully to see my great mother sinking into nothing, disappearing. And yet her death as such still upset me terribly.

I partly felt a certain consolation in the fact that my mother's death was openly taken for granted. I saw it because my mother hadn't shone in the American Yiddish theatre for a number of years before her death. She reigned in London during those years. And we know only too well how fast an actor is forgotten. So, as I have said, I had the great consolation that, despite that, the press here gave much expression to her death. Coincidentally, during those weeks, death came to two very great, world-famous theatrical artists, the English actor, George Arliss, and the very great Russian actor, Ivan Moskvin. So comparisons were made in the evaluative critiques. Underscored in the obituaries in addition to her great deserts as an actress, were her tender personality and forceful logic.

I shall cite here the following episode, partly because of my maternal weakness, and perhaps also because of admiration for my mother:

It happened more than a year before her death, when she had her first heart attack. My Zelik'l was then an Intern in Beth Israel Hospital. He took her in an ambulance from her residence in the Bronx to his hospital. Both mother and Zelik told me about that ambulance trip.

Mother told me: "Oh, Celia, as I was lying in the ambulance, I was looking at Zelik'l in his white uniform as he sat near me and held my hand, and I virtually received a good dose of health right then and there: my grandchild was rescuing me."

Zelik told me: "She looked at me in the ambulance with eyes that expressed so much happiness, so much contentment that, if I never again attain to anything in my whole medical career, I shall already have been paid for my work of becoming a doctor by that moment that gave my beloved grandmother so much gratification."

 

My family mix-up has taken up considerable space in my story and has nearly always called forth not a little sadness and very frequently tears. So, here, at what is pretty nearly the end of my story, let several happy moments that are a direct result of my family mix-up also be noted.

My son was born, grew up, and accomplished his achievements as Selwyn Freed. And so, very few people outside the profession know that Dr. Selwyn Freed is my son. Thus, there are a few curious, almost unbelievable happenings surrounding this. He was the doctor for all the employees of Gimbel's department store for a certain time at the beginning of his medical career. It happened that one of the young fellows had to have an operation. When he told his mother, a Jewish woman in Bronxville, she was struck with fear—how come? Was there really to be an operation? Who had decided it? Who was the doctor? Her son had told her that the doctor's name was Freed.

She immediately got in touch with the head of her son's division by telephone and beleaguered him with all sorts of questions. It was first after a long phone conversation that she let him know she wanted to talk things over with him personally. She came. She wanted to know who the doctor was, if he was big enough for her to entrust the apple of her eye to him—what sort of reputation did he have as a doctor. The man found himself at a loss in trying to answer the barrage of questions. He only knew it was a young doctor of good reputation. But that was evidently not enough for the scared mother. She kept on talking, arguing, and demanding. The manager was a middle-aged man; and his impatient answers unearthed the fact that Dr. Selwyn Freed is the son of Celia Adler. The mother's eyes virtually lit up and, happy and triumphant, she first then let the manager have it: "Why didn't you tell me that right out? You would have me dragging myself to you all the way from Bronxville! If Celia Adler is his mother, I can entrust my child to him."

And just so you won't think that only a Bronxville mother can have such a feeling, I must tell you about another occurrence:

The famous Professor Wilhelm was the Chief Specialist in the Urology Department at Beth Israel Hospital. My Zelik was his assistant and very often represented him in even extremely complicated operations. And so it happened that an older man lay in the hospital waiting for an operation to be performed by Wilhelm. And, as it happened, Wilhelm himself suddenly got sick and had to go to Florida; Zelik was given the job of doing the operation. Zelik found it necessary to notify the patient of what had happened and reassured him that if he didn't have the needed confidence in him he would not, heaven forbid, be insulted if he wanted another specialist in Wilhelm's place. The man got terribly disturbed over the news. He looked at Zelik'l as if he had been abandoned: "I don't know you, and I never heard about you, and I'm sure desperate over the situation."

To quiet him Zelik told him: "You have until tomorrow. Think it over.

Talk it over with your family, and friends. Let me have your decision tomorrow."

When Zelik went to the man's room early next morning, the man smiled and looked searchingly at him:

"You're Celia Adler's son—that's my best guarantee. I have the highest confidence in you."

There have been many such episodes.

When Zelik told me about it, he said to me; "Mother, I think that in addition to all of your artistic achievements, you ought to feel happy that people have such unusual confidence in you. Just imagine: your name is worth more to certain people than all my universities, all my experiences and achievements in the Mount Sinai and Beth Israel Hospitals. Just being your son is enough for some people to entrust themselves to me as their surgeon. Mother, you must never complain about your bitter fate as an actress. I shall consider myself fortunate if I should be able to leave my children such a reputation, such a name, such a legacy. In such cases, I very often silently pray that I may never be put in the position of, heaven forbid, embarrassing my reputation and the confidence people have in your name."

 I shall mention here one more experience in my career.

During 1945-1946, I traveled around in American military camps, sent there by the Jewish Welfare Board. My program was a mixture of Jewish and English numbers. I'm not mentioning this because I want to boast of my successes with Jewish-American soldiers, but I do wish to record a curious thing here.

I was to appear at a camp not far from a big city. That camp had a rather considerable number of Jewish soldiers. Just before the evening of my appearance, many Jewish soldiers received weekend furloughs and left for the big city, so that my viewers consisted of more than ninety percent Gentile soldiers. The chaplain advised me to give only English numbers in my program. But I got the urge both in justification of being an emissary of the Jewish Welfare Board and as one who loves Yiddish to give at least one Jewish number; and I announced Manny Leib's "The Stranger" as the last number.

I first interpreted and explained to them the contents of the poem and the thought of the prophet Elijah in English (he who was the miraculous savior of Jews in distress.) So the Gentile men made themselves very comfortable in...

MISSING PAGES 806 TO 808.

Ben Hecht couldn't remain still for a moment during the few minutes I was reading. One could definitely see in his looking at Muni that he agreed with his choice.

Rehearsals began under the direction of my brother Luther. The production was planned to run only four weeks. But evidently fate decreed that the last lap of my career of many years' standing should remain one of my most shining chapters. The success of the production spread out over much longer than the four weeks that Paul Muni had time to give it. Then my brother Luther took over Muni's role. His and Marlon Brando's time was also limited, and Jacob Ben Ami and Sidney Lumet took over their roles. We played it for almost thirty weeks here in New York and on, a tour over the great Jewish centers across the country. I had an endless amount of acting joy and songs of praise from the most important theatre critics in America. I'm not going to cite what was written about me. I can only tell you that I surfeited myself with compliments up to my head and over. To receive so much recognition in the English press in New York by playing opposite Paul Muni, Broadway's most beloved figure, was extremely gratifying for me.

I must cite here a few phrases from a little note Ben Hecht sent over to me during those performances:

"Purely as a token of my great gratitude to you for your wonderful creation, I give you the right to use anything you like from among my writings. I shall consider it a privilege if you should find expression for your talents in my creations. Ben Hecht."

As a result of that role, I took part in a famous movie of the time, "The Naked City," in which I also greatly scored.

It often happens that the good, like the bad, may heaven forbid it, comes to people in big gobs. So, in that year of 1947, destiny also dealt me an extremely great personal joy—my Zelik's wedding. I need not say that it is a great joy for a mother to witness her only son's wedding. Thus, I recall that many of the wedding guests, people close to us, friends and colleagues, noticed that Zelik had selected for his Chosen One a person who resembled me.

 I only know that I'm extremely happy to enjoy the good luck of having such a heartwarming, devoted daughter-in-law as Iris.

 

 My son, Zelik, and his bride, Iris

 

.... Since my success in "A Flag Is Born" in 1947, I cannot boast of even one more acting attainment. Thus, in my concert appearances, I have reached up all the way to the famous Broadway vaudeville house, the Palace.... also played in an off-Broadway theatre in Mosensohn's famous play, "Sounds of the Negev," under the direction of B. Rothman, the noted theatrical producer. However, all this has been like drawing the last breath of my long career....

 

Paul Muni

 

The course of life, the race of the years that gather and often lie heavily on our shoulders, teach us to [take] disappointments in our stride in the later years. Jack and I accustomed ourselves bit by bit to meet such unavoidable natural phenomenon in the later years of people's lives, especially actors.

My Jack had been deeply rewarded.... for him his Celia Adler would still be the very greatest, the very best, but his illness had gradually consumed  him, and in May 1956 he said farewell to a [disturbed] world.

 You already know that I watched myself [and] my melodramatic outbreaks, so it is really quite impossible given the feeling of  helplessness, that has me [besides myself.] Something so unfortunate is to be alone....

I again wish to underscore here that, despite my angry arguments and bitter grievances that had gathered along my life's hard road, both as they were due to my family mix-up and the malevolent temptations on the road to my career, I was lucky to have laid by some true and faithfully devoted friends.

It happened that, not long after my Jack's death, my good friend Fanny Samuelson, got me ready for a long trip to Europe and Israel. I talked it over with several of my friends, and they decided it would be good for me to take the trip. My son and daughter-in-law talked me into it and, in order to remove from me the worry of the rather considerable expense of children, insisted on covering all the expenses.

I certainly had the only notion of seeing the achieved dream of generations be mounted and filled with tension. It was also that just the mere thought of generations stimulated me, indeed my actor's ambition to appear for the public in Israel. However, I evidently was not fated to reach it....

So I had the great privilege survival and the extraordinary joy of stepping on to the land Israel, and to see, to admire with my own eyes the rebirth of a people, a nation's strength .... the process of setting up the country that has no equal in the history of nations.

But I had to realize the ruined dreams of mine for an actress's success, what triggered the miracle of the Sinai action, which for Israel was a matter of survival. Her victory was admired all over the world. So I'm not complaining that my artistic success in the only performance I gave at the Ohel Theatre in Tel Aviv came to nothing because of my almost forced departure from Israel. So I still hope to live to make that loss of mine in Israel with good honor....

Some five to six months after my return from Israel, I was getting ready to unveil the gravestone on the grave of my husband, Jacob. A feeling of restlessness gathered within me and mastered me completely. It is extremely curious, almost incomprehensible, what can weave itself in a human brain at such moments.... I thus want to share with you an experience of those tragic days.

It happened on the Friday morning before the Sunday of the unveiling of the gravestone. It was a mild day outside. I was awakened from my restless sleep by the song of the little birds through the open windows of my bedroom. I imagined that I heard the chirping of a little bird closer than ever. I began to look around. There, near the head of my bed, stood a little bit of a bird, with his little beak extended in my direction—tweet, tweet, tweet. I placed my hand where he stood and began to talk to him. "What are you doing here? Where do you come from?...." He jumped and chirped so weakly and pitifully right into my face as if to answer me—"What, what, foolish little bird? What should I do with you?.... You're no doubt hungry. I really don't know what to feed you...." I took his little beak into my mouth. The thin, weak, peeping continued. I got off the bed with the little bird, mashed a little piece of bread, a leaf of salad. He wouldn't eat. I got scared. The little bird could very well die here with me. So I put him on the outside ledge of the window. Maybe his mother would come for him, and maybe he would fly away. My phone began to ring. I rushed over to answer it. When I returned, the little bird was no longer there. A kind of sadness came upon me—and regretfulness.

I had delved just that very day into Ansky's "Dybbuk," which I needed for my "Celia Adler Story." The mystic words about "souls of the dead that return to the world through animals and fowl" disconcerted me.... That night it took me long to fall asleep. In my sad thinking, that weak little bird with his little thin, chirp, chirp, chirp, with his curious behavior, took on a somewhat unusual meaning.... Tremblingly awaiting the coming morning, I at last fell asleep. The festive Sabbath morning didn't disappoint me; the little bird again stood at my bed.... I unconsciously began to talk to him, using the tenderness and the love names with which I had spoken to Jack.... That thin peeping sounded so intimate, so pleasant to me.... I thus spent several hours with the little bird. I was sorry to have to be away from the house that afternoon and evening.

Late that evening, I opened my door in fearful expectation. The little bird was waiting at my bed. Not until Sunday morning, when I was all set to go to the cemetery, did the little bird fly out the window with a last chirp, chirp, chirp.

I very often recall that curious little bird with yearning.

And now, in the twilight of my career, I occupy myself very little with the studying of roles.

Instead of laboring at thought-out roles created by writers and poets, I've taken on and been refreshing myself during the last few years with a role that life has assigned me and that is very precious and dear to me—a role that gives me only pleasure and joy, may its effects increase, practically without a scintilla of heartache—my role as Celia Adler, grandmother of two sweet, lovely grandchildren, with which my son and his destined partner have favored me. I fulfill this role without effort and with my whole grandma-ish talent.

There is no lack of endless jokes and anecdotes about grandfathers and grandmothers and their enthusiasm for their grandchildren. Doubtless I'm no exception. I really can't restrain myself from telling you at least one little witticism:—two little grandchildren—two little witticisms....

Louisa-Dina, the elder, already a gal of advanced age, all of nine years, may she live to be one hundred and twenty, recently carried on the following conversation with me:

"I want to ask you something, Grandma: When I go to college and the teacher speaks of the theatre and famous actors and will no doubt mention Celia Adler, can I get up and say that the famous Celia Adler is my grandma?" She already sees it very clearly before her eyes....
 

 

Celia with Louisa-Dina and Dvoirele
 

 

Louisa-Dina and Dvoirele

The younger one, Dvoirele (Deborah), took part in a theatrical show at her elementary school, when it was celebrating George Washington's birthday. She knew that Washington is very famous and that's why we celebrate his birthday each year. In order to encourage her playing, her teacher told her: "I hope someday you'll be as great an actress as your famous grandmother, Celia Adler."

Telling this to her parents, the "big gal," almost eight years old, got very interested: "Is Grandma really so famous?" And she asked with sparkling little eyes: "Will they also celebrate her birthday each year like George Washington's? Are they going to have statues of Grandma Celia all over the place?...."

I cannot indeed assure my grandchildren that their rich children's powers of creative imagination will be fulfilled—but I do want to have the pleasure of finishing "My Story" with their little witticisms....

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1Here is the letter written by the woman/medical student that Celia so eloquently writes about. It was sent from Cartegena, Columbia and is dated May 25, 1925. This letter was transcribed by Steven Lasky, and is a handwritten letter, written in script. Some editing was done with regards to the English translation and a number of illegible words, where .... is used to indicate omitted words.

From Pauline Beregoff
Cartagena
May 25, 1925 2:30 A.M.

My dear!

Your charming letter threw me into a sweet, sad train of thoughts. I felt on reading it all of the pleasure I have been deprived of for nearly four years. The certainty that …. still renewed me, has suddenly ?own me out of my long apathy. Expressions would fail me to relate the sense of joy your photos brought into my life. It feels so good to have something that looks like you to gaze and gaze at, until I can almost believe you are right here, with me!

Alas! You, the bearer of sincere affection of millions of admirers. You, who inspire so many to work, to hope to …. You, who bring joy into so many lonesome souls. You-you lost all trust in sincerity?? You should feel the happiest of mortals in your golden chains of friends. "To know Celia Adler is to love her and sacrifice for her." And I believe that half of the world knows you and loves you.

Oh! So many times, have I lost faith in sincerity, yet there are some real, real sincere friends who are worthwhile.

The reveries of the future are the leaders of the mind; with beautiful illusions, we are building castles, dreams of oases that many times turn out to be air bubbles, disappointed mirages!

If we but could see into the future? Would we be happy then? I suppose "hope" would fail us. We work, push and pull, hoping to reach the goal of our aspirations, experimenting joyful thrills on climbing and even we fail to reach the end. Isn’t there a new beginning left? The more we work, the more we see, sweet is the fruit?

Be happy, dear! I doubt whether there is another being who is more loved than you are. Your life must be filled with the most wonderful impressions, satisfactions, glories—en?se the few disappointments that cross your path and …. Believe, that there are sincere friends—one of them is this lonesome girl who is writing to you, who adores you, as a genius, as a model of a true soul, as a dear, dear only sister! Order me, I shall serve you with pleasure.

I am glad your vacation is on hand. You work too hard. You must take care of yourself, for we need you—the world needs you—I—oh, I more than anybody!

As for myself? A frown on my face, a wave of my hand and off I go from the mind’s registry. I am to graduate from the school of medicine and surgery this coming October. I am an intern at the City Hospital, as well as the director of the Pathological Labs. [I] work twenty-two hours out of twenty-four.

Do you think it’s hard? Oh well, I am used to it. It makes me forget about my existence, making it so much easier to tolerate.

I find very much satisfaction in helping the poor souls of the Charity Hospital, and it’s a pleasure to do something for my country that’s worthwhile. I expect to return to the U. S. A. as soon as I graduate. My ambition is to be able to alleviate human suffering. I shall keep on working until darkness arrives, and then—it may unite me with the souls I love.

I could keep on writing and scribble forever more, but I fear that you are quite exhausted, reading this illegible hurried writing. So I must have pity on you. Hoping that you will not retaliate by letting me wait indefinitely for a line from you. I am with sincerest love, ever

Your faithful, Pauline Beregoff

P.S.- Do you speak Spanish? Where was the photo of the "Teatro Central" taken?

Gratefully

 


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