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The Parkway Theatre
482 Hopkinson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
The play opened here on March 6, 1942

(The Blacksmith's Daughters)

by Peretz Hirshbein


Photograph by Ivan Bussatt
Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

Cast: Back row, l. to r.: Yudel Dubinsky, ?, Izidor Casher, Leon Gold, ?.
Seated, l. to r.: Muriel Gruber, playwright Peretz Hirscbein, Flora Freiman.

This particular production was directed by Izidore Casher,
and it was the start of a transcontinental tour by the company.


Peretz Hirshbein's "The Blacksmith's Daughters" has been performed many times, at least several times alone by the Yiddish Art Theatre, i.e. on 21 February 1919; in 1929 for the first time on the Pacific Coast; on 13 January 1948, as a benefit for the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance.

The play is a romantic comedy in three acts, and it takes place in a Russian village.

The 1929 Pacific Coast production of "The Blacksmith's Daughters" included the following cast: Morris Strassberg, Izidore Casher, Bertha Gerstin, Celia Adler, Maurice Schwartz, Anatole Winagradoff and Morris Silberkasten.

Below is the synopsis of Hirschbein's "The Blacksmith's Daughters." The name of the actor or actress who portrayed a particular role (1929 production) is indicated in parentheses.


photo: Berta Gerstin in "The Blacksmith's Daughters", 1919 production.
Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York.





In the smithy's forge. Nisen Alter (Maurice Schwartz), the Smith's helper, is taking eggs from the chicken's nest when Zelde (Celia Adler), one of the blacksmith's twin daughters enters singing. She has come to gather eggs. In the conversation which follows, Zelde inveighs against her sister, Leah Dobbe (Bertha Gerstin). Though they are twins, there is a rivalry between them as to which should be considered the elder. Zelde was born one hour earlier, but Leah Dobbe is bigger. Nisen Alter and Zelde [debate] as to which of the two he considers the better cook. Zelde seems quite anxious to please him and tried to detract from his interest in Leah. While they are talking, Samuel Simcha (Morris Strassberg), Zelde's grandfather, enters singing a Hebrew song. He seems in a happy frame of mind, and though they try to get this opinion of the two sisters, he is evasive and leaves. Zelde also leaves, but steals back into the doorway. Nisen, busy with his work, does not notice her, and as Leah Dobbe enters by the other door, Zelde disappears. Leah has come to invite Nisen in to breakfast, but when she hears that Zelde has been talking to him, she wishes to know what has been said and attempts to mold Nisen's opinion in favor of herself, berating Zelde. After Leah leaves, Zelde reenters. She has been listening to their conversation and is angry and claims she is much stronger than Leah Dobbe. Leah returns in time to overhear this and they attempt to decide the question by fighting. Zelde is thrown down and quickly runs out. When Leah Dobbe leaves, Nisen tries to call her back, but as there is no answer, he goes on with his work. Nachmun Ber (Izidore Casher), the father of the girls, enters. They discuss business matters and Nisen Alter finally tells Nachmun Ber that he wishes to become the latter's son-in-law. The father is highly pleased at the prospect. They try to decide which of the two girls is the elder, finally agreeing on Zelde -- with the hope that she may still grow. A young man appears in the doorway. He has tramped from the city and is looking for work as a blacksmith. he tells them his name is Baruch Moishe (Anatole Winagradoff) and begs for a week's trial in the smithy, which Nachmun Ber grants him. Leah Dobbe enters to call them to breakfast and seems in a bad temper, when they talk of putting the stranger up. Zelde and the grandfather enter and greet Baruch Moishe, then they all leave to eat.


The two girls are doing the housework. It seems that Leah Dobbe always has the work to do and is, at this time, in a morose mood, while Zelde seems quite light-hearted. They quarrel over Nisen Alter and though Leah persists in being grouchy, Zelde is quite flippant. Zelde starts to wash the floor, and Leah Dobbe, failing to stop her, runs out presumably to tell her father. Zelde finds her crying outside and brings her back. Zelde begins to feel sorry for her sister and tries to comfort her. Leah Dobbe begs her to keep Nisen Alter and not stand in her way with Baruch Moishe with whom she has fallen in love. Zelde promises her and gives Leah a love potion to put in Baruch's food. Zelde swears that though she has given some to Nisen, she has never tried in on Baruch. Baruch enters and is surprised to see that Zelde is doing such heavy housework and helps her with it as Leah prepares the meal. He tells them that he has quarreled with Nisen Alter. When Samuel Simcha enters he Is also surprised to see that Zelde has taken to housework. Nisen Alter enters and taunts Baruch, who throws a wet rag at Nisen. The latter attempts to strike Baruch, but Leah Dobbe throws him out. This amuses Zelde highly, and Baruch laughingly dares Leah to throw him out too, which Leah succeeds in doing. Zelde tells her sister that she can have her choice of either of the young men for a sweetheart. After Leah leaves, Samuel Simcha enters and Zelde tells him of her preference for Baruch. Nachmun Ber enters in a rage, declaring that Zelde must be married soon. When Leah enters he scolds her for having spoiled Zelde whom he threatens to beat. Leah tells them that she fears Baruch is going to leave them. To prevent this, Zelde hides Baruch's belongings. The men come in to eat, Baruch bringing up the rear. Leah serves them and puts the potion in Baruch's plate. As she is about to take it to him, Zelde rushes by, purposely knocking the plate from Leah's hand.  


Zelde has remained in the city, presumably until after the High Holidays. It is very early in the morning when Nisen and Simcha enter the forge. Baruch is still fast asleep in the house. Leah enters later and Nisen tells her he did not know how nice she really was. He wishes to tell her something, but she, feigning to be busy, runs out. When Nachmun Ber enters Nisen tells him he has changed his mind and wishes to marry Leah Dobbe instead. Zelde returns unexpectedly, having been driven in by a strange Jew from the city. Nisen also tells her of his desire to marry Leah Dobbe, and she runs off to break the news to her sister. Baruch enters and tells Nisen that he wishes to leave. He says that he will no longer stand in Nisen's way with Zelde, but that he now wants Leah Dobbe. Nisen tells Baruch that he is going to marry Leah himself. Baruch leaves, saying that he is going to talk to Leah. Zelde enters crying, followed by Leah who has come to take her sister in to breakfast. Nisen learns that Baruch has told Leah nothing, and that Baruch intends leaving with the man who brought Zelde home. Nisen, wishing to talk to Baruch, runs out to find him. Zelde accuses Leah Dobbe of trying to come between her and Nisen Alter. The father, grandfather and the strange Jew (Morris Silberkasten) enter. The latter attempts to sell them prayer books and offers his services as a matchmaker for the blacksmith's daughters, but the blacksmith will give no dowry. Nisen and Baruch enter. The latter is impatient to leave, but Nisen will not let him. The stranger, anxious to earn his fee as a matchmaker, tries to find out how things stand, but the affairs of the two girls and the two young men are so complicated that no one can figure it all out. When Leah Dobbe comes in, her father tells her of Nisen's proposal for her hand, and as Nisen and the two girls argue things become even more tangled. Baruch is attempting to find out who hid his belongings, and Leah tells him that it was she. Baruch declares his love for Leah, and this time it is Nisen who says he is going away. But as everything begins to straighten itself out Nisen finally declares himself for Zelde. With everything settled, everyone is put in a happy frame of mind.


1 -- From the play program of the Pacific Coast production of "The Blacksmith's Daughters," Yiddish Art Theatre, 1929. Courtesy of YIVO.

2 -- Synopsis arranged by Jacob Cooper.





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