Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Leon Blank


B. was born in 1867 in Kishinev, Bessarabia, to pious parents, who took themselves to Berlad, Romania in 1876. He learned in cheder and in a Beit HaMedrash, and as a child of six became a choir singer for a cantor, afterwards, also together with a brother (now a cantor and ritual slaughterer), sang with cantors in Romania. Without the knowledge of his parents, he learned German and attended the production of the guest-starring Yiddish troupe (with Mogulesko, Feinman and Kessler), becoming known to Kessler, who was a friend of B.'s brother in Kishinev .

Excited by the production, B. fled with the actors and became with them a chorus singer and wardrobe supervisor.

Due to the difficult economic conditions, B. didn't come to the theatre day and night, almost the mis-nuraym, when he sang as a choir boy in shul.

When Mogulesko came to America together with the Yiddish troupe from Romania, B. went along without the knowledge of his parents and already traveled as such to Iasi, Czernowitz, Lemberg, Hamburg and secretly caught himself on the ship.

In 1886 he came to America, and at first became a chorus singer, and he became a member in the chorus singer's union, and occasionally also performed with the chorus.


Inspired by Mogulesko to become an actor, B. performed for a time for Thomashefsky (who had become ill) in the singing role "Kroynprints aleksander (Crown Prince Alexander)", but T.'s "fans" received pnim B. with popular epl K.'s "fans". At other times B. performed for Kessler (who had become ill) in Shakansky's "Kol Nidre" ,and received a similar acceptance from K.'s "fans".

In the 1888-1889 season, B. performed in Poole's Theatre in Manhattan in various plays, including "The Anti-Semite" (7 December 1888) and "Emi and Nemi" (9 April 1889).

During the 1890-1891 season, B. was at the Roumanian Opera House in Manhattan and performed in many roles, including: "Baron Rothschild" (8 August 1890), "Eve, or the Serpent as a House Friend" (12 September 1890), "Hymey in America, or The Night Thief" (29 September 1890), and "David Ben Jesse, or, The Successor to King Saul" (27 November 1890).

B. also acted at the Union Theatre (before Eighth Street) in Manhattan during the 1891-1892 season, in such plays as Jacob Gordin's Siberia (13 November 1891), "Chaim in America" (4 December 1891), and "The Little Red Man" (11 December 1891).

In the 1892-1893 season, B. acted in the Thalia Theatre in such plays as "The Fall of Jerusalem" (19 August 1892) and "Yehudis un Olofernus (Judith and Holofernes)" (27 August 1892).

For five years B. was chorus leader and acted at the same time in various roles, but in 1897 he first acted as "R' Tuvia, a rayzer yid" in Lateiner's "Dovid's fidele (David's Violin)", where he also caught the attention of the critics and subsequently became engaged in the theatre, in which he acted in the Gordin repertoire.

In the 1897-1898 season he also acted in "Di shvarts khupe, oder, Der yudisher martirer" at the Windsor Theatre. Also, at the same theatre in April 1899 he acted in "Der kenig fun shpanyen und di yudin (The King of Spain and the Jewess)".

During the 1900-1902 seasons, he acted at the Thalia Theatre in such plays as "Di shvue, oder ronye di potshtarke (The Oath...)" (3 November 1900), "Di tipn-galeree (The Gallery of Types)" (November 1911), and "Kokete damen (The Coquettish Ladies)" (April 1902). In the 1904-1905 season, B. acted at the Thalia in "The Purity of the Family" (September 1904). In 1906 he acted in "Der umbekanter (The Unknown)" at the Thalia.

In the 1904-1905 season, B. acted in the Grand Theatre in the play "The King of the Schnorrers" (23 April 1905).

During the 1906-1907 season he acted at the Kalich Theatre in "Ir fargangenheyt (Her Past)" (28 December 1906). In the same theatre, he acted in "Di almone (The Widow)" (27 December 1907).

B. also performed in the People's Theatre in such plays as "Di yidishe geto (The Jewish Ghetto)" (25 December 1899), "Der tate (The Father)" (March 1900) and "Dovid'l meshoyrer, oder, Dos oybergerisene lied (David the Singer)", with Boris Thomashefsky, Sara Adler et al. At the same theatre during the 1910-12 seasons, he acted in such plays as "Der shturm fun leben (The Storm of Life)" (10 September 1910), "Der poylisher yid (The Polish Jew)" (13 October 1910), "Der fraylisher id" (October 1910), "Di neshome fun mayn folk, oder, Der hungrisher zinger (The Hungarian Singer)" (6 November 1911), and "Blinde libe (Blind Love)" (30 November 1911).

B. was the first to create the following Gordin characters: "Khatzkel drakhme" in "Got, mentsh un teyvel (God, Man and Devil)" (21 September 1900 at the Thalia), "Tuviya habiyuni" in "Elisha ben Abuya", "Melbyal garber" in "Der meturef (The Worthless)", "Boris Stavropolsky" in "Sappho" et al. He also created entire roles in Kobrin and Libin's repertoire.

B. performed in other plays during the 1903-1908 seasons. Some of these plays performed in New York City (locations unknown to your editor) are: "Di yetoyme, oder, Khasye fun karatshekrak (The Petition, or Khasye from Karatshekrak)" (18 January 1904), Gordin's "Der fremder (The Stranger)" (1906), "Der ger" (March 1907), "Mirele efros" (August 1907), "Di yudishe anna karinina (The Jewish Anna Karinina)" (October 1907), "Ashe re" (January 1908), "Don kikhot (Don Quixote) (February 1908), "Di fershikte, oder: Di letste groylthaten fun rusland" (March 1908).

For around eight years B. traveled around across the American provinces with plays, especially written for him by Zolotarevsky, Siegel, Wolff, et al. From 1919-1922 B. was engaged as the first actor at the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, where he acted in such plays as "Yeder mit zayn got (To Each His Own God)" (October 1919), with Misha German, David Popper, Rae Schneier, Morris Silberkasten, Esther Wachsman, Mrs. Weisenfreund and Dora Weissman, as well as "Di kreytser sonata (Kreutzer Sonata)" (March 1922) with Sadie Shoengold.

In 1922 B. acted at the National Theatre (Managers Saks and Louis Goldberg), as well as in the 1924-25 season, where he acted there in"A poynt af order (A Point of Order)" (10 November 1924) with Bertha and Sidney Hart, Annie Meltzer, Jacob Rechtzeit, Gershon Rubin, Saltche Schorr, Louis Gilrod, Goldie Schapiro and A. Zwibock, and "Di dray kales (The Three Brides)" (23 January 1925) et al.

In 1926 B. went over to the Liberty Theatre and from there to the Public Theatre (Managers Louis Goldberg and Nathan Schulman), where he also performed in several melodramas and Z. Libin's drama "Kinder fargesn nisht (Children Don't Forget)". Since 1928 B. has guest-starred again across the American province in his own repertoire.

B. was a co-founder of "The Hebrew Actor's Protective Union of America" (1899).

B., in the "Forward" (5 October 1928 -- 29 January 1929), published [partly under anonymous editors, and partly in the editing by M. Osherowitz] thirty-three long articles of memoirs about Kessler, "Prof." Horowitz and Mogulesko.

B.'s son, Benjamin, writes compositions for Yiddish operettas and married the actress Betty Frank, the daughter of the actor Jacob Frank.

  • B. Gorin -- "Di Geshikhte fun idishn teater (The History of the Yiddish Theatre)", Vok, II, pp. 35, 161.

  • Leon Blank -- (Memvarn vegn kesler, hurvits un mogulesko), "Forward", 5 October 1928 -  29 January 1929.

  • B. Botwinik -- Leon Blank iz alt gevoren fuftsik yohr, "Forward", 22 November 1918.

  • Alter Epstein -- Interesante momenten fun aktyoren leben. "Der tog", N. Y. 16 June 1918.

  • B. Botwinik -- Leon Blank, "Der veker", 8 January 1927.

  • H. Lang -- Vi azoy leon blank iz gevoren an aktyor, "Forward", 19 April 1925.

  • H. Ehrenreich -- Leon blank iz itst zebtsik yohr alt, "Forward", 10 June 1927.

  • A. Frumkin -- Der krizis dos zenen mir di start -- zogt leon blank, "Morning Journal", N. Y., 17 February 1928.

  • B. Weinstein -- "Di idishe yunions in amerika", N. Y, p. 129.

  • George C. D. Odell -- Annals of the New York Stage, 1970.






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You can read the  initlal biography created for Leon Blank in the Lexicon's Vol. 1.

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