playwrights who had blocked the entry of any new
When we read what
the critics in the press said about his works, we
learn how much tension and rejection he had to
withstand, how much difficulty he had to endure,
and what a heavy burden the Yiddish theatre had
placed on him. In those days it was a very
difficult ordeal fighting one's way to create a
path to the stage. Kornblit nonetheless did find
his way but with many sacrifices and
About his first play there are several
conflicting variations: According to Zalman
Reisen, his first stage production was "The
Jewish Daughter," featuring Berta Kalich, which
proved to be a failure. However, according to
Leon Kristal, his first stage production was
"After the Ball" in 1904, which was directed by
Jacob P. Adler in the Thalia Theatre. But
according to another article in the Yiddish
press, it was the play, "Moshe Rabeinu," aka
"The Jews in the Desert," which was written by
Zeifer[t] and Kornblit, music by Mogulesco and
Spivack, which was staged on 8 January 1904 and produced
by Boris Thomashefsky. None of these productions
were performed again, nor were they ever
published. However K.'s actual debut, which
bound him to the Yiddish theatre forever, was
his play "True Happiness, or, Motye Melech the
Carpenter." He read it for Jacob Gordin. Gordin
liked it very much. In that same year it was
staged in the Thalia Theatre. And although Jacob
Adler and Zelig Mogulesco both gave outstanding
performances, the play was not a financial
success. However, it established K. as a Yiddish
playwright. K. was much too humble -- he did not
believe in his own talent. After the performance
of his first play, he was not heard from for the
next three years.
"True Happiness," which became better known as "Motye
Melech the Carpenter," had a long life in the
repertoire of the Yiddish theatre and was later
performed by Morris Moskowitz performing in the
title role. The play was also one
of the most popular dramas in the repertoire of
Yiddish theatres all over the world. Completely
unknown to K., it was published in Przemysl with
many errors and mistakes in 1908. This same play
was later edited and reworked by the author as a
comedy called "The Once-Famous Cabaret Girl."
Sholem Perlmutter tells us in great detail about
the reincarnation of this newly reworked piece.
Yet later it was rewritten by Anshel Schorr and
produced by him in 1922. At this time it was
called "The Cabaret Girl" and was performed in
Philadelphia's Arch Street Theatre.
On 22 February 1906 K.'s play, "The American
Aunt," was staged in the People's Theatre with
Bessie Thomashefsky performing in the title
role. This play was never again staged, nor was
it ever published. In March 1907 K.'s play,
"Troubles with Children," was brought
stage. This play was never again performed and
also was never published. (A manuscript of this
play can be found in the YIVO Archives). On the
27 September 1907 (According to B. Gorin it was
incorrectly dated as 1912) the play, "The Bundist
or The Revolution in Russia," was staged in the
Windsor Theatre with Kenny Lipzin in the title
role. This play was also never again performed
and was never published.
On 7 October 1907 Boris Thomashefsky staged and
in the "People's Theatre" in K.'s Yiddish
translation of Osip Dymow's (Yosef Perelman's) "Shma
On 9 October 1911 in Adler's "Thalia Theatre"
there was presented K.'s romantic family drama
in four acts, "The Tiger," with Jacob P Adler,
Boris Thomashefsky and featuring Sarah Adler in
the starring role. The author preferred to call
this play, the "Yiddish Monna Vanna." It was
retitled because it was based on the subject in
Metterlink's "Monna Vanna." The play was later
staged in America under the auspices of Leon
Blank. It was often performed on the Yiddish
stage in Europe. It too was never published. (A
manuscript can be found within the YIVO
Archives). In 1912 K.'s play, "The Lost
Children," was presented.
In 1912 K. became the official dramatist in Keni
Lipzin's theatre, where on 2 April 1912 there
was staged, "Her First Sin," a drama in four
acts, with Keni Lipzin in the main role. The
play was never performed again, nor was it ever
published. On 3 August 1912 there was staged,
"Correct Rights," in four acts, with Keni Lipzin
and Sigmund Mogulesco in the main roles. The
play, which is a parody of the English play,
"Bought and Paid For," was not performed again,
nor was it ever published (a manuscript can be
found within the YIVO Archives).
In 1913 there was staged K.'s play, "The Godly
Song," which did not remain in the repertoire,
and it was never published (a manuscript can be
found within the YIVO Archives.)
On 10 January 1913 Max Gabel staged in his
"Comedy Theatre," K.'s play, "Our Children," (ad
adaptation of Max Halbe's "Youth"). It is
possible that this might be the aforementioned
play, "The Lost Children." A manuscript can be
found within the YIVO Archives.
On March 2, 1917 in Thomashefsky's "National
Theatre," through the efforts of Boris
Thomashefsky, K.'s comedy in four acts "Uptown
and Downtown", which was revised by Thomashefsky
with music by J. Rumshinsky was staged.
About this play, Sholem Perlmutter wrote: "Kornblit
has come up with new themes and a new set of
issues for the Yiddish stage. 'Uptown' and
'Downtown' embodied two different Jewish social
groups unfriendly to one another. 'Uptown' is
where the wealthy Jews with full bellies
lived--those who were already 'Americanized,'
and who had put down roots in the American soil.
And 'Downtown' was populated with poor
immigrants/workers who felt the whip of the
'sweat shop' on their backs. They toiled for the
bit of livelihood and who had an eternal tear in
their eyes. ...this issue, K. took for his
In his critique of this play, Abe Kahan wrote:
"In Thomashefsky's theatre they are now
presenting a play written by Z. Kornblit, which
is to a certain respect a probing illumination
on the Yiddish stage. Usually when we stage an
operetta, a light piece with music and dance, it
exists for only for its own sake and that is no
sin. Its subject is no subject; there is no deep
meaning in it, no theme. Usually it is a
mish-mash of pranks and crocodile tears. Scenes
with songs, dance, choir music, where everything
is merely background or perhaps foreground.
Kornblit's play, which is now playing in
Thomashefsky's theatre, has an interesting
subject and is built upon an interesting idea.
It wants to take notice of either one or another
aspect, but is it an operetta or is it a play?
The theme in this play is a good one, but an
operetta is too frivolous for such a theme. It
is the subject for an earnest literary comedy,
combined with tragedy."
In the history of Yiddish theatre and critique,
B. Gorin, wrote about the same play: "From the
first act we force ourselves to believe that the
presenter of 'Uptown and Downtown' had it in his
mind to create a comedy, and perhaps he
succeeded in doing so. However, B. Thomashefsky
was not altogether certain if the public wanted
to see a comedy without trimming, and so he
included a place for it in the play."
Moyshe Nadir wrote about this play: "'Uptown and
Downtown' is not only a comedy for its own sake,
but a rebellion against all the German and
English and French comedies. The four acts exist
so alienated from each other that when they
might ever meet on the street, they would not
have recognized one another. Even the dialogue
is different in each act. The one God in the
heavens above knows who is guilty: the author
Kornblit or the stage director Thomashefsky. Who
created the Yiddish dialogue in this play? It is
not to be believed that the same hand was
capable of writing such a fun and lively and
red-blooded first act, and yet be capable of
ruining the other three."
In regards to the problem of improving his play,
Leon Kristal wrote: "Z. Kornblit has had no luck
in the Yiddish theatre. His plays are frequently
produced under horrible conditions. When a play
by a dramatist has failed, and the theatre has
to immediately salvage itself with another play,
they would take hold of one of Kornbilt's plays.
However there wasn't enough time under such
conditions. Usually we would have to stage such
an event with six or seven rehearsals. Theatre
people, especially the "stars" who by their
nature believed in themselves, thought that they
know and understand theater better than the
dramatists, and that they know what the audience
wants to see and hear in the theatre." They
always put their mark on the dramatist's work in
order to improve the play. ...Kornblit had often
complained about this "handling" by the stars,
who were all too often also the owners of the
theatre. When you asked one of them, who is
directing this play, he would answer: "Whomever
holds the lease for the theatre." Hence Kornblit
never wanted to argue with the stars, and with
great patience he suffered because he wanted to
keep his own path onto the stage open. The
sincere theatre critics very often could sense
the unwanted hands in Kornblit's plays. And they
always supported the value of Kornblit's
endurance and ignored the cheap parts, which the
actors had added to the play."
On 22 September 1920 (not 1918 as Perlmutter
claimed) in the "People's Theatre," with great
success K.s comedy, "Jennie Runs for Mayor", was
presented with Bessie Thomashefsky in the title
role. (The play was never again staged and was
On 12 October 1923 Gustave Schacht presented in
his "Ampion Theatre" K.s play, "Ruined Worlds,"
which was based in some measure upon
Maupassant's story "Pierre and Jean". In April
1929 the play "Life Portrait in Four Acts" was
staged in Buenos Aires in the "Argentina
Theatre". This play was not preserved in the
Yiddish repertoire and was also never published
(a manuscript exists in the YIVO Archives).
Hillel Rogoff wrote: "Among all the melodramas
that are now being presented in the Yiddish
theatres in New York, Z. Kornblit's 'Lost
Worlds' is the best. It is better written and
better constructed than all the rest. Kornblit
is a literary playwright. He belongs among the
group of our very best dramatists. His pen
contributed to the very best dramas in the
Yiddish repertoire. Presently, his current play
is, as I mentioned earlier, a melodrama. But
this melodrama has another face because its
author possesses literary intelligence and
In May 1928 in the "Pavillion Theatre" in
London, "Secrets of Love," written by Kornblit
was staged. The play was never performed
previously. Perhaps this play once had another
In 1928 Max Gabel presented K.'s play "The
In February 1930, Ludwig Zaslowski staged in
London K.'s play, "The Woman We Encounter," and
in March 1939 Bertha Zaslowski played K.'s play
in Buenos Aires, "Her Ruined Life". It is
possible that both of the aforementioned plays
had different names at one time.
In February 1930 Ludwig Zaslowski presented in
London K.'s play, "The Woman Whom We Meet." And
in March 1939 Berta Zaslowsky staged K.'s play
in Buenos Aires, "Her Ruined Life."
In the YIVO Archives we can find the following
manuscripts of K.'s plays: "Brayndele Kozak,"
adapted by Abraham Goldfaden, "A Father's
Dream," a drama in four acts (also performed by
the name "Today's Men"), "Countess Chana Dvoshe,"
a comedy in three acts, "Victory of Love" (The
Cherry Tree), a comedy in four acts, "The Jewish
Daughter," or "Heroes of our Times", a drama in
four acts, "The Broken Vow" (known by the name
"The Godly Song" as was "Our Women and "The Real
Truth," a drama in four acts.
For a certain time K. also took part writing for
the special dramatic section of the "Forward."
K. published his one act play in the "Free
Worker's Voice" (29 April 1910), "The Crises in
Heaven," and from October till 19 November 1926
he published his three act comedy "Satan
K. was the only editor of the "Jewish Stage," a
weekly that represented all aspects of Yiddish
drama and Jewish music, which Boris Thomashefsky
produced in New York from 9 November till 29
In 1928 K. published his book "The Dramatic
Arts" in New York (245 pages), comprising his
lectures and discussions on Yiddish theatre. The
book was based upon his principles and his
theories of drama. In his book K. analyzes the
plays "Shylock" and "King Lear" by Shakespeare,
"God, Man and the Devil," "Mirele Efros," and "Chasia
the Orphan" by Jacob Gordin, "Moshke the Pig" by
I.D. Berkowitz, Goldfaden's "You Shall Not
Lust," and the presentation by the Yiddish Art
Theatre, The Happy Cantor," by Moshe Richter,
and finally the play "American Chasidim" by
About this book Jacob Mestel writes in his
critique: "Sections of this book were previously
printed in the New York journal, "Frayer Arbiter
Shtime," which evoked a certain interest due to
his earnest approach to the Yiddish theatre. K.
make up for any shortcomings because of the
sincerity by this auto-didactic writer. In the
hands of this self-assured expert we have a
handbook for dramatists. However, for the
reader, we must say before we can recommend this
book unreservedly, we need to warn the reader
that some sections of the book have more value
than others, and assuredly demonstrate through
an analog, the correct and incorrect aspects of
the book. The reviewer arrives at the
conclusion: "In shorter, condensed form (through
an experienced hand) it could be a useful,
popular brochure, which could become a handbook
for Yiddish dramatists. "
...The thoughts about the dramatic arts are
fundamental. The authority follows Lessing's
method of how to adopt Aristotle as a guide to
the basic principles of drama. ...His style of
writing about his colleagues or his timely
experiences is a good one. His insights into
Shakespeare's "Shylock" are exactly as they
should be. So too are K.'s loftier meanings
regarding Gordin's romantic talents. He writes
well about drama and melodrama, and that is
enough for us to forgive him his personal
interpretations or his professional meanings and
his certitude. His notion about illusion is a
correct one. Though, many will be dissatisfied
with his belief that Chassidism and Haskalah,
Socialism and Zionism, are the same illusion of
one another. The most difficult aspect with
which to agree with his insights about realism
that he at times portrays as illusion, and then
sometimes that beauty is considerably different
from ugliness, nudity or smut. This disgusting
truth can sometimes be found among realists.
However, his purposes are good and even the
manner in which they are discussed in the prolog
is a bit too sudden and appears to be choppy,
demonstrating only that the critic is not always
an artist. We need to give insight to the critic
as to how should perceive a drama without being
a specialist about the architecture of a book.
In March 1929 K. began to ail. He tried to free
himself from directing, but his situation
worsened. He was admitted to Beth Israel
hospital, where he passed away on the first of
K.'s son, Leon Kornblit, is a writer and one
daughter Atily, is an English vaudeville actress
(Atily Kardey), L. Kristal characterizes him (Zishe
Kornblit) in this manner:
"Kornblit wrote a great deal in his life. He
always thought of himself as a young man. . . .
he always worked and awaited for the Yiddish
theatre to once again see its true worth. They
would stage the works which he continued to
write, or those works which he would write under
more auspicious circumstances. His ambitions did
not emanate from one who was about to come to an
end, rather from one who is in the first heat of
his activity. . . .humor--good natured fun, which
is in reality satire--was a high feature in his
writings. There is no doubt that if Kornblit had
specialized in writing humor, he could have
become a significant humorist in the Yiddish
press. He wrote several comedies, but even in
his most serious pieces written for the stage
there is a significant amount of humor and
satire. Comedy is an infrequent occurrence on
every stage, and on the Yiddish stage humor is
even more infrequent compared to the other
nations of the world. Kornblit had the ability
to become a great comedy writer for Jews. He
had, in fact, produced a substantial amount in
this area, but he could have created lots more,
if not for the iron fetters that our theatre
placed upon him. This is not simply an
assertion. When you examine the critics who were
in different times in command of the press in
regards to his plays, you immediately come
across the kinds of awesome difficulties
Kornblit, like every other educated and
intelligent dramatist, had to withstand from the
Hillel Rogoff characterizes his dramatizations
in the following manner:
"As a dramatist he earned a place in the history
of the Yiddish theatre. He wrote a number of
substantial dramas and comedies, and many of
them remained in the repertoire till today. Most
of his plays belong to the category of
melodramas, but none of them can be called
shund. His language is clean and literary. His
dialogue is often clever, humorous and is rich
in content. He often creates a character on the
stage who is a living type or an interesting
Some curious qualities about K. is added by
"K. is a person with talent. A squandered
talent, but heavenly grace breaks through from
time to time. ...he can be higher than middling
height. A gruesome face, which would suddenly be
colored as though by drinking red dye, or as if
by someone who suffered from high blood
pressure. A disheveled mop of gray hair, under
it a high brow, dark blue watery eyes, bloodshot
as though from lack of sleep. He was always
dressed in a dandified style, and he was a fine
talker. He knew how to tell stories, most of
them piquant, sometimes spicy."
Kornblit's printed plays:
 Kornbluth: Moti Melekh der stolyer Lebens
bild in 4 akten Przemysl, 1908 (54 pages),16".
Publisher Amkroyt and Friend.
(2) Der krizis in himl komedye in 1 akt fun
Kornblit," "Frayer arbiter shtime," N.Y., 29
(3) Der sotten shtraykt (A land on zind) "Frayer
arbiter shtime," 1 October-19 November 1926.
Zalman Reizen --
"Leksikon fun yiddisher litaratur," Vol. IV,
B. Gorin --
"Geshikhte fun yidish teater," Vol. II, pp.
Yanovsky) -- In di teater," "Fraye arbeter
shtime," N.Y., 4 Dec. 1904.
Z. Kornblit --
Brif tzum redaktor, dort, 4 May 1907.
Yoel Slonim --
"Di bundistike" in kalish teater, Di varhayt,"
N.Y., 30 Sept. 1907.
A.K. (Abe Kahan)
-- "Di bundistke" fun z. kornblit in kalish
teater," "Forward," N.Y., 3 October 1911.
D.B. -- In
teater, "Fraye arbeter shtime," 4 Oct. 1907.
D.B.-- In teater,
dort, 21 October 1911.
A.K.-- In der
yidisher teater velt, "Forward," N.Y., 14
W. Edlin -- In
der velt fun drama un muzik, "Morning
Journal," N.Y. 16 October 1911.
D.B.-- In teater,
"Fraye arbeter shtime," N.Y., 14 Sept. 1912.
Reiaen) -- Litaratishe-dramatishe nayes, "Di
literatishe velt," N.Y., 24 January 1913.
Av. Kahan -
-Kornblith's piese in tomeshevsky teater,
"Forward," N.Y., 9 March 1917.
Meyer) -- Der tiger, "Di taayt," London, 7
Hillel Rogoff --
Z. kornblith's "farshpilte veltn" in
shacht's ampion teater, "Forward," N.Y., 19
Kritukum- - "Soydes
fun libe" fun z. kornblit oyfgefirt in
pavilion teater, "Di tsayt," London, 9 May
veltn" (fun z. kornblit) in teater,
"Argentina, di prese," Buenos Aires, 21
N. Tzuker --
"Farshpilte veltn" fun kornblit in teater, "Argentiner
tog," Buenos Aires, 21 April 1929.
Sh. R. (Rozshanski
-- "'Farshpilte veltn," lebensbild in 4 aktn
fun kornblit, "Yidisher tsaytung," Buenos
Aires, 22 April 1929.
"Farshpilte veltn" fun y.(.) kornblit
oyfgefirt in teater Argentina, "Naye vort,"
Buenos Aires, N' 30, 1929
P. Viernik --
Undzer fil shprachiker literatur, "Morning
Journal," N.Y., 10 February 1929.
(--) -- Z.
kornblit, geshtorbn, "Forward," N.Y., 2 May
L. Kristol -- Z.
kornblit, dort, 7 May 1929.
Hillel Rogoff --
Z. Kornblit, "Di tzukunft," N.Y., June 1929.
Kritikum -- "Di
froy vus mir gagegenen" fun z. kornblit,
oyfgefirt fun zaslowsky, "Di tsayt," London,
Yankev Mestel --
Di dramatishe kunst fun z. kornblit, "YIVO
-- blete" Vilna, April-May 1932.
-- Tzvey yidn vus hobn gefirt a bittern
kampf mit gott in amerike, "Der Tog," N.Y.,
7 Sept. 1935.
Roszhanski -- "Ihr farshpilte lebn," mit
berta zaslowski, "Di yidishe tsaytung,"
Buenos Aires, 7 March 1939.
-- Likhvod shabes, "Der Tog," N.Y., 3 Dec.
Perlmutter -- "Yidishe dramaturgn un
teater-kompositors," N.Y., 1952, pp. 222-82.