Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Samuel (Shmuel) Tornberg


Born in 1872 in Lodz, Poland. His father was a bruk-boy-unternemer. He learned in the old city Beit HaMedrash.

A certain Bernstein, a mashkhil (enlightened man), learned German and bookkeeping and directed in a circle, through which he had the opportunity to attend the German, Polish and Yiddish theatre. Here T. became familiar with actor Shliferstein, who spoke to him about becoming an actor. Because of this, T. ran away from home. But apgenart in his hopes of Shliferstein, he immigrated at the age of seventeen to America.

Here he made the acquaintance of Adler and was his "main prompter" for studying his roles. Later T. traveled to New Haven, where he entered into work for a business, and he founded with intelligent youths a dramatic union., who performed each Sabbath evening. So he continued to act, neglecting his post, and in 1894, during a crisis, he returned to New York and became a play copyist for Adler in a theatre (formerly the Roumanian Opera House). Initially during Sukkos 1895 T. debuted in an episodic role in the play "Der rb hkull" by Adolf Phillips, and made a very bad impression on all the actors due to his "natural speak". Only Moshkovitsh encouraged him to remain on the stage.

Initially, thanks to Gordin who had observed T.'s serious acting, even in that episodic role as "The Doctor" in "The Brothers Luria", T. was given more responsible roles, and Gordin even wrote special roles for him.


T. then became a partner in the Thalia Theatre with Kessler, Gordin, Lipzin and Moshkovitsh. Later, he acted with Lipzin. In 1905-6, he acted on the English stage (as "The Peddler" in the "Gelt-borger"), but soon returned to the Yiddish stage.

According to information from his son, he also had guest-starred in London, Galicia and Poland.

T. especially excelled in the creation of "Leizer, the wedding bard (badkhan)" in Gordin's "God, Man and Devil", and "Nachumtshe" in Gordin's "Mirele efros", as "Peddler" in Kobrin's "The Lost Garden of Eden", and in the plays "Two Worlds", "On the Mountain", and "Der yetoyme (The Orphan)".

T. had for a long time written stories for the "Herald" and "Forward", where he also published several translations of Mark Twain. He also dramatized Balzac's "The Game of Speculation" and translated Joseph Jefferson's manuscript "Rip Van Winkle", or "The Demons of the Catskills Mountains" by Washington Irving (staged on 4 November 1906), in which he acted in the role of "Rip", and he left in manuscript a one-acter "Father and Son", and a historic operetta in five acts and ten scenes, "Don yitzhak abarbanel".

Laid up with diabetes, T. passed away on 5 October 1911 in New York and was brought to his burial plot at Mount Zion Cemetery, Radom section (listed as "Samuel Thornburg" in Mt. Zion Cemetery database; "Samuel Thornberg" on death certificate -- ed.)

T. had left three children who were connected with the English theatre: David Torn -- a dramatist, August Torn -- a stage director and actor, and Lulu Torn -- an actress.

Ab. Cahan characterized him as such: "He was a slightly dry, intelligent person, as are most Yiddish actors, and his intelligence was not only in his head, but also in his heart. He had ideal aspirations, a higher "ambition" as an artist. He genart put together interesting character portraits. He had a genuine love for art. In his art he can use more of his brain as with fantastical vigor. His acting was, however, permeated with a seriousness..."

Joel Entin characterizes him as such: "He had a sharp voice that had pleasantly gegriltst and thus fartreflekh transferred this into some historical, always of tears, and attracted Jewish laughter, the shriek of veytok, which gnbet itself into one "Avinu malekh oyfn hartsn iz mir freylen". He hadn't had any voice instruments such as most of the Yiddish actors, but when he sang "Oy vey, dlus", it was such a song of poverty that unfortunately fun songs of troubles that it would be better with a beautiful voice, and with the musical ear cannot make it. more to translate....

Moishe Nadir writes: "The most interesting artist of that group (Adler, Kessler, Thomashefsky, Moskovich, Feinberg [Feinman], Katzman, Mogulesko] was Tornberg. The same had a fine understanding of the theatre, an innate tact. He used to perform as sharply as the others, and his character used to manifest as an old cooper shtikhn."

Leon Kobrin in his "Erinerugen fun a idishen dramaturg", characterizes S.'s acting as such: "He was a comic....[more to translate].

Sh. E. from David Torn and M. E. from Moshe Zilberstein.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre", Vol. II, pp. 102, 161.

  • Samuel Tornberg -- Vi azoy ikh bin gevorn an aktor -- "Di theater velt", N. Y., 4, 1909, (reprinted in "Theater-zikhrunus", Editor Z. Zylbercweig, Vilna, 1928, pp. 73-85.

  • A. K. [Ab. Cahan] -- In der idisher theater velt, "Forward", N. Y., 7 Oct. 1911.

  • J. Entin -- Shmuel tornberg, "Di varhayt", N. Y., 6 October 1911.

  • Moishe Nadir -- Mayn bakantshaft mitn amerikanishn idishn teater ["teater-bukh", Kiev, 1927, p. 147].

  • Leon Kobrin -- "Erinerungen fun a idishen dramturg", N. Y., II, pp. 187-191.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 858.

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