Garden on 27th Street and
Lexington Avenue.) For the theatre S. engaged for his
theatre the Yiddish regisseur Emanuel Reicher, and a
season later the Jewish-German actor Rudolph
Schildkraut. [for details about the theatre, see "New
As S. had personally told
Zalmen Zylbercweig, he studied singing and strove to
become an actor. By himself he financed his theatre in
two years' time and spent a lot of money.
The partnership in the
theatre, and the accusation against S. and his wife, and
S.'s answer has taken up much space in the "Forward" in
the months of June-July 1920.
Several years later, after
the Schnitzer family arrived in America, she went into
motion pictures (cinema) business, and was the first to
open a large, modern cinema theatre in Brooklyn. "Due to
the growth of movie theatres-- writes Louie Markowitz--
where Louie had to use more time and energy, and due to
other reasons he had to abandon the art theatre and
return to his family to help in managing the art
The well-known actor Celia
Adler characterizes him as such:
"Under the name 'Literary
Dramatic Club,' there had existed and played for several
years an amateur group. Its two leading players were
Jechiel Goldsmith and Henrietta Schapiro. Also among the
members of this club there was a young man, Louis
Schnitzer. He had no thespian aspirations. He was an
ambitious and successful businessman. ... 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.
Indeed he did finance Jacob Ben Ami's production of
three I.L. Peretz's one-acters in the Neighborhood
Playhouse on Grand Street. ... Henrietta Schnitzer had,
of course, played the main roles in the three
one-acters. In that time Louie Miller had ....begun to
issue a new Yiddish daily morning newspaper, "Der
firer," ... [he] had in his newspaper given only a great
place for that performance and highly praised Henrietta
Schnitzer. ..This also had given her husband Louis
Schnitzer the first push to begin thinking seriously
about creating his own theatre.
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. 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, that the theatre was not completely
unknown, and was new for the Yiddish theatre world. In
the theatre in 1916... there was staged [Pinski's] "Gavri
and the Women.' Louis Schnitzer then had financial help
for that undertaking. ... Found very often that the
seriousness, the force and the honest development of a
concept fascinated and ibergeveltikt those who
had begun it. This had then happened to Schnitzer. He
was so bahersht of the serious extent and
artistic atmosphere that he virtually forgot the
personal interest that had originally led him to plan
the theatre. ...He had so forgotten how that the central
tribal power [?] that had come upon him to become a
metsenat for better Yiddish theatre was his wife's
ambition, although he was by nature headstrong. However,
inside he was a reserved power in his life, which broke
his stubbornness and the gravity with which he
became bahersht of us.
Celia Adler cites a review
by Ab. Cahan about S.'s wife's playing her first role,
and afterwards recalls other behind-the-curtains
histories, which may have, according to her opinion,
derfirt dertsu, that S. had withdrawn from financing
B. Gorin, the historian of
the Yiddish theatre, about the undertaking of this
"The new theatre had
suffered immediately from his great fame. In only a
short time [the regisseur] Reicher came forth from
there, and they began to make compromises. The young
director Schnitzer, who at the end of the season went
away to Germany brought over Rudolph Schildkraut for the
coming season. The latter remembered the Yiddish theatre
as he was [in Yiddish theatre] ten years back, and he
arrived with a lot of repertoire of foreign
melodramas... and although its performances were of a
high quality, the theatre suffered such a set-back that
it could not regain its footing. ... In the theatre they
took in Leonid Snegoff and Esther Orzhevskaya ...
and the new theatre with every week got worse and worse,
and several weeks before the end of the season, the
company took over the theatre, and they hardly slept until the
end of Passover."
Zalmen Zylbercweig maintains
that regardless of the personal ambitions of S., he
deserves a prominent place in the history of Yiddish
theatre in America, as one of the first who had tried,
by [his] works, to realize the dream of a better Yiddish
theatre-goer and theatre melaman, to lay the
foundation for a "literary," or as it was later referred
to, "artistic" Yiddish theatre in America, which had
ended all derfirt to the yearlong existence of
the "Jewish Art Theatre."
On 18 August 1954 S. passed
away at his daughters in Long Island, and he was brought
to his eternal rest on the grounds of the Mogielnica
society in Richmond, Staten Island.
At the funeral the eulogist
was Jacob Ben Ami, who had delivered that due to S.'s
stubbornness and opfervilikeyt, there was laid
the foundation for a better Yiddish theatre.
Sh. E. and Sh.
E. from Louie Markowitz.
"History of Yiddish Theatre," Vol. II, p. 245.
"Dray mogelnitzer," New York, 1950.
Celia Adler-- "Tsile
adler dertseylt," New York, 1959, pp. 450, 463,
504-09, 516-17, 526.