Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Edwin A. Relkin
(Arnold, Avraham)


R. was born in 1880 in New York, America. His father was a poor peddler who later worked up to have a jewelry store (business of Yuviln) on 141 Division Street, where it later became the kibetzaryne.

As S. Dingol tells it in R.'s biography, as a youth he had a deep excitement about the theatre, and he used to "roam" around the theatre, helping out the actors, and he was "happy" when he was able to catch a production. When he was very young he ran off to Chicago, where he developed a close friendship with the other youths, who dreamed of having an artistic career (the future "cartoonist" and humorist Harry Hirschfeld.) R. became a seller of programs in an American theatre, and when Elias Glickman took over the "lease" of the "Lyceum Theatre" (on Desplaines Street), where he called it "Glickman's Theatre," where R. became an usher (doorkeeper) for him, and shortly thereafter assistant manager and by himself actually his "right hand." In the meantime Thomashefsky arrived in Chicago with a New York troupe, and R. worked on Glickman to bring, also from New York, the "stars" at the time, Lipzin and Moskowitz with a troupe, which beat the concurrent troupe. This began R.'s "actions" with Glickman. However R. did not remain long in Chicago, for his enormous advertising about the play "Mamzer," which Glickman staged at the time, made such a strong impression on Thomashefsky that he engaged him for his "People's Theatre" in New York. then R. became the manager in the "Orpheum Theatre" (125th Street), but after again he returned to Glickman


in Chicago, and when he went to war for Mintz's (the husband of Mrs. Keni Lipzin) theatres in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to fight the concurrence of Thomashefsky, he became engaged to Mintz, with whom he worked for ten years, and also for a certain period of time with Jacob P. Adler, until 1912, when he became independent and started to manage the provincial tours of individual actors and entire New York troupes.

Later he became a partner with the retired actor Sigmund Weintraub, and after his death, R. continued to manage independently with the tours across the province.

The well-known poet Jacob Glatstein recalls the following episode in relationship to R.'s activities:

"....At times I was a poet without a job, and the former editor of the 'Morning Journal,' Jacob Fishman, had suddenly called me from a literary cafe and offered me a small position at the newspaper. It was a strange proposal, but I was then not in fact the role I had chosen. ... The 'Jazz Singer' [the future first American talking film with Al Jolson] was already playing on the stage for several weeks, but he had done business without great success. Edwin Relkin, the colorful theatre impresario, who was well-known in Yiddish theatre circles, and he also had access to Broadway, came to Jacob Fishman with an incident, that so that a thrust to do 'The Jazz Singer' faroys, that it must be made into a novel that would be drawn for several weeks in the "Morning Journal," and the Jewish masses would begin to flood into the theatre, ... Jacob Fishman decided also that the unemployed poet, would undertake the opposite work, instead of how it is ordinarily done--to dramatize a novel, that I 'romanticize' the drama. The theatre became a partner to the proposal ... the agreement was that the novel should run for eight weeks in the newspaper. The "Journal" needed 240 dollars to undertake [such a] play on Broadway, that one had to underwrite it.

When they had seen the drama and the dramatist Samson Raphaelson .... we obtained a copy of the drama, and it initially became clear that I had undertaken to do a bitter job. The drama takes place in the span of one day, the evening of Yom Kippur, and it ends on the night of Amud. How can one extract [enough material] for a whole eight weeks? ... I decided that one should immediately forget the played drama and begin to spin the novel from the same beginning, from the jazz singer's childhood ...more to translate.....

Joseph Rumshinsky characterizes him this way:

"Formerly of the Yiddish theatre world, as if he fell from heaven, [blown in] with a storm wind, a thin young man with thick glasses, a soft, black hat like a cowboy. His tie was usually loose. In the winter, in the great frost, with his hat in hand, and if he put it on it would stream out behind him. He didn't just go, but he ran, he didn't talk, he only shouted. Every time a....

Sh. E. from Youna Radinov.

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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 3192.

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