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Adler's Novelty Theatre
7800 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Opened the season on August 30, 1912.


"Di kreytser sonata"

by Jacob Gordin




During a train ride, Pozdnishev overhears a conversation concerning marriage, divorce and love. When a woman argues that marriage should not be arranged but based on true love, he asks "What is love?" and points out that, if understood as an exclusive preference for one person, it often passes quickly. Convention dictates that two married people stay together, and initial love can quickly turn into hatred. He then relates how he used to visit prostitutes when he was young, and complains that women's dresses are designed to arouse men's desires. He further states that women will never enjoy equal rights to men as long as men view them as objects of desire, yet describes their situation as a form of power over men, mentioning how much of society is geared towards their pleasure and well-being and how much sway they have over men's actions.

After he meets and marries his wife, periods of passionate love and vicious fights alternate. She bears five children, and then receives contraceptives: "The last excuse for our swinish life – children – was then taken away, and life became viler than ever." His wife takes a liking to a violinist, Truchatchevsky, and the two perform Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata (Sonata No. 9 in A Major for piano and violin, Op. 47) together. Pozdnishev complains that some music is powerful enough to change one's internal state to a foreign one. He hides his raging jealousy and goes on a trip, returns early, finds Truchatchevsky and his wife together and kills his wife with a dagger. The violinist escapes: "I wanted to run after him, but remembered that it is ridiculous to run after one's wife's lover in one's socks; and I did not wish to be ridiculous but terrible."

Later acquitted of murder in light of his wife's apparent adultery, Pozdnishev rides the trains seeking forgiveness from fellow passengers.1


The cast of "Kreutzer Sonata" included: Sarah Adler, Sam Blum, Tsila and Leibush Gold, Samuel and Susie Kasten, Peppy Lavitz, Hyman Meisel, Charles and Ida Nathanson, Rudolph Schildkraut, Bernard Schoengold, Saltsche Schorr and Bessie Weissman.


In her autobiography, "Celia Adler Recalls," the actress Celia Adler recalls this episode from an August 1912 production of "Kreutzer Sonata":

My mother and my sister Lillie went on tour to play in Europe. And what happened to Ben-Ami? Here’s the way he told it to me:

“From there I was invited to go to America to a theatre in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, called the ‘Novelty.’ The manager was Sarah Adler, who had by then separated from [the famed actor Jacob P.] Adler. I was thinking of going back to Russia and perhaps again reviving the Hirshbein troupe. Had I obeyed that impulse, I couldn’t be telling you all this now, Celia dear, because I would have been lain completely without makeup somewhere in a mass grave in Russia or Poland. But it seems fate decreed differently for me.

My mother, until her death, constantly solaced herself with the thought that I came to America to please her, and that she saved me from certain destruction in Russia or Poland. I didn’t want to take my mother’s belief away from her, and I never told her why I came to America, and who really rescued me from the fate that befell the Jews at the time of the great holocaust. In my negotiations with the Novelty Theatre, I suddenly discovered that the leading male actor in that theatre was the great Rudolph Schildkraut. That impressed me and the opportunity to be able to learn from Rudolph Schildkraut drew me. I accepted the invitation. So it was really Rudolph Schildkraut who rescued me ...”

It is fitting to cite here an episode with the great Rudolph Schildkraut during that [1912-13] season in the Novelty Theatre. Sam Kasten appeared as his servant in the play. There is a scene wherein the hero, Pozdnishev, played by Schildkraut, returns from a trip. He doesn’t find his wife home, and somehow jealousy tangles in his mind concerning what happens between his wife and the musician Truchatchevsky. Yegov, his servant, has to come in and he has to find out from him where his wife is. Kasten, playing the servant, had a long respite before he would get to this scene. In a case like that, you sit in the dressing room and, if there is someone to do it with, you meanwhile play cards. Kasten certainly was no gambler, but he got too absorbed playing. Since the play had already been on for the second or third week, the stage manager had already dropped the reins, being confident that every actor knew his cues to perfection.

Schildkraut stood on the stage in his jealous circumstances and waited for his servant Yegov. Kasten wasn’t there.

photo: Sam Kasten. Photo, above right is Sarah Adler.

I have already underscored many times in my narrative what empty time on the stage means. Seconds draw out like eternity. In that circumstance of his, when he had to wait almost two minutes until Kasten came in, he practically went wild. And when Kasten finally ran in wheezing, Schildkraut slapped him. That wasn’t Pozdnishev hitting Yegov, but Schildkraut slapping Kasten.

Understandably, this was not scheduled to happen in the scene. Kasten got very angry, and his first impulse was to hit Schildkraut back. But whether it was his theatrical instinct or the feeling of guilt about knowing he had been tardy two or more minutes that made him overcome his anger, so that instead of retaliating with slaps, he fell on his knees and, in keeping with the play, began to kiss the hand of his angry, raging employer. Schildkraut, who had meanwhile come to himself, became ashamed before Kasten and, out of gratitude that the latter had erased his wild outburst in such an appropriate way, fell all over Kasten with kisses ... The theatre virtually crashed with applause.

photo: Rudolph Schildkraut.


It should be said that Sarah Adler's bid to turn Williamsburg's newest Yiddish theatre in to a long-term success in the community, lasted approximately one-and-a-half years. They put on some fine productions, but its success was not to be. Its run ended unusually and abruptly. Here is an article that appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper of Friday, March 7, 1913:

With Managers and Others They Were Charged With Breaking Sabbath Law.

Six men and a woman, all of the Hebrew faith, were tried in the Court of Special Sessions today on a charge of violating the Sunday law by giving a theatrical performance at the Novelty Theatre on Driggs Avenue. After the evidence had been taken, showing that a performance had been given on October 27, 1912, Judges Salmon and Collins and Chief Justice Russell found the defendants guilty, in spite of an earnest plea by lawyer Reilly.

The defendants were Nathan Mintz, Max Heine, manager; Abraham Heine, ticket seller; Morris Feldstein, doorkeeper; Charles Levy, Sarah Adler, actress; and Charles Nathanson, actor.

The defense was that the law had held that those of the Hebrew or any other faith, observing the Sabbath of their religion, could work or play on the Christian Sabbath, and that these people earned their living by the theatre, and thus were not violating the law. The court, however, would not sustain the argument, holding that it was a violation of the law, not to do work necessarily, but to give a theatrical performance on the Sabbath. The defendants were convicted and sentence will be pronounced next Tuesday.

[Note: No other articles of this event can be found except the following, and nothing is known about what sentence was pronounced on those charged. However, the Novelty Theatre was taken over subsequently by a non-Yiddish stock company. Read this article, which appeared in print later that month ...


Beginning next Monday afternoon, the Novelty Theatre at Driggs Avenue and South Fourth Street, will be the home of the Novelty Stock Company, which is to present the latest dramatic and comedy successes, with occasionally an important big revival. This change in the policy of the Eastern District playhouse, which has had such a lengthy and varied existence, is brought about by the Lyric Vaudeville Company, proprietors of the Grand Opera House on Elm Place, another Brooklyn theatre now devoted to stock.

For many years the Novelty Theatre housed legitimate drama. Then it became the home of vaudeville. Until a few months ago it was occupied by the Sarah Adler Players, a Yiddish stock organization. To accommodate them, $10,000 was spent in a compete renovation of the building.

A new dramatic company has been engaged, headed by Louis Leon Hall. The policy at the Novelty will be the same as at the Grand Opera House in respect to prices of admission; that is, they will be 10, 20 and 30 cents. However, there will be four matinees a week, instead of daily. These will be on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The opening play for the week of March 24 will be the romantic drama, "By Right of Sword." Mr. Hall, who for eight years was leading man at Corso Payston's Lee Avenue Theatre, will have the leading role, while the company will include a number of other players popular in Brooklyn.




1 -- from Wikipedia.


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