Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Jacob P. Adler
(Yakov ben Pinchas)


A. was born on 1 January 1855 in Odessa, Ukraine. He was a "tsiderdik" child, because of twelve children at home, he and a sister remained. He learned in cheders and displayed abilities, so that his parents hoped to make him a doctor, and at home vendet men zikh to him no other than "Here goes my doctor!"

Until the age of twelve A. learned privately with the teacher Tarler German and a little French. Then A. entered into the "Yevreyskoye kazionoye umshilishtshe", where he didn't show any great desire to learn, and therefore he was punished often.

After submitting to school for several years without cooperation, A.'s parents gave him to a fashion store, which was not in his heart, and so as he had a beautiful handwriting,  he became a copyist for a lawyer, notary and judge, therefore receiving good pay. A. dressed himself beautifully, entered into the better society, and began to attend the theatres and concerts often.

Then there came to A. a post as an assistant expeditor of a customs house, then he became a copyist in the editing of "Odesky Vyestnik", and through the recommendation of a city management member, A. M. Brodsky, A. became the overseer for the city Department of Weights and Measures.

At this time A. began to have an interest in actors. He became the leader of a group of students, theatre loyalists, and he sensed


in himself a desire to recite and "perform", so that the pastime of the students, he performed as a comic, entertainer, and created various types and scenes. At that, A. had a great success and with a great desire took to studying dramatic Russian literature.

When A. then became known to Russian theatre director Miloslavsky, when he had the chance to act out in a small role, but M. did it with a motive, that as a Jew he will never reach to a high level on the Russian stage, at that M. stressed that his [A.'s] outward appearance assured him of success on the stage.

A. decided, however, to become an actor, and in the early days he was further willing: to make various grimaces and movements in the mirror and try to express various feelings with his face .

When the news came to Odessa, that in Rumania Goldfaden had founded the Yiddish theatre, and that there Israel Grodner was performing, whom A. had heard only as a folksinger in Odessa, and Israel Rosenberg, a corner writer from Odessa, whom A. had known well, A. turned to to Rosenberg, that the troupe should immediately come to Odessa. About the same matter he also published a letter in the "Odesky-Listok".

As a response to the invitation, Israel Rosenberg and Jacob Spivakovsky came to Odessa in 1879, which drew to the Odessa folksinger Jacob Katzman, Mendele Abramovitsh, Shrage, Aaron Tager, Boris Altman and the late actor Sophia Oberlander to them. Rosenberg forbid A. himself from participating, but A. decided it was better to wait for the impressions of the first production ("Breyndele kozak").

A. neglected his business and spent his time continuously with the actors, and arriving as such to his matters, he came to act in Goldfaden's comedy "Tsutsik un mutsik", in a role intended for the actor Boris Bad-Goy (Altman), who was becoming ill. In his first performance, A. went under the name N., and even though he lived alone, each evening he had stage fright, and as such, the role which was also combined with singing, was not for him; nevertheless he felt deeply encouraged by the other actors, and later he received small, insignificant roles in "Shmuel shmelkes", "Dvosye di platke makherin" and "Di shvebelekh". When A. first went with Rosenberg's troupe to Kherson, his first large role was as "Markus" in "Koldunye (The Sorceress)".

During Passover 1879 Goldfaden came to Odessa with a troupe for which he also engaged several actors from the Odessa troupe, almost Rosenberg and Adler, and [according to B. Gorin], only after Goldfaden organized under the direction of his brother Naftali and a certain krug, a shdln with the police, a troupe for the province, in which Rosenberg, Katzman, Sonia Oberlander and Sabsey performed; he also took in Adler, who became in the span of a short time a "complete actor".

A. wrote in his memoirs that the troupe was under the direction of his friend Rosenberg and Naftali Goldfaden, and that he (A.) had become engaged there as a lover.

A. published in his memoirs, that even though he had his role "Moshe giberman" in Goldfaden's "Breyndele kozak", he learned from oysveynik, however he had stage fright there too, and the role was so mechanically aropgeredt, that he himself heard what he spoke. All preparations for his common, artistic understanding was shown and expressed in this same role, which the other actors hadn't expressed, and he became tserunen immediately as he was up on stage, but to his surprise there were dramatic applause after every act, and there he was called out. Rosenberg finally held his hand, and remarked that he "is today a krasavets, the girls and women are crazy for him, because there were such dramatic applause."

In Kherson the same troupe had performed for four weeks. Being in the troupe for two months, A. lost his position in Odessa, though nevertheless he was already continuing as a professional actor.

After a short journey through the smaller shtetls, the troupe came to Kishinev, where Kessler was granted to them. Their material success was tremendous.

A. described the situation in the theatre during this time in the following way:

"When I had to wake up early from my sleep, I to my amazement saw that the hotel lobby was filled with Jews, wives  and children, who had waited around for the cashier in order to obtain tickets for the evening. Police had to come to help, that it shouldn't become a scandal."

But precisely due to good business, beynken home. He had [dissapointed=antoysht] a theatre, and it would be abandoned. A. describes these moods as such:

"The account of why we did farbeynkt home to us ourselves were not clear, and I myself could not give a proper account of this. I have only a sense that I had awoken my passion, and I had begun to see with the open eyes of a newborn child, and sadly I realized that although Avraham Goldfaden deserves the greatest praise and the finest gratitude, he had laid the cornerstone for the fundamentals of Yiddish theatre; but his system and impractical management, to surround oneself with smiles and ignorance, give the theatre into such hands that drag the artistry into a page, into a deep mud, and that it takes a long time until they will be able to pull you from that place. The stage hasn't had any control, the oybermeyster, and the chief oyberartistn, having spent days and nights in the hotels, and lively conversations, and for young people, young talents, who were seeing on the stage the greatest happiness, the highest ideal; is a great school, was a very poor one and made ​​a terrible impression.

I have tried searching in the previous "me", but I have found quite another. I will not deny that first I am no tsadik (righteous man) and have not been. But before this was a younger man's act, once verily and once not, but now it draws on me every night to claim until the morning in merry company; where there walk around a lot of lovely mesdemoiselles, before the shine of very much light... There was a [brotherhood= farbridert] with us humans with a bad rename, and the minor police officials as the pristavs (police commissioners in Czarist Russia), the nadzirateles, together with the nightly patrol of Cossacks, who put on caftans from our wardrobe. We are the government administration and so we have geballevet an entire night, and the named "men huliet in which the world stands."

In my new career of which I have strove yearlong, I see no signs to not oyfgeton, only in the short time I have been fulkum learning the good that comes each morning at home with a new zikhere trit, with a deprived mind, to sleep for an entire day as a shameless polonaiser; in my door there begins to knock an umbegetene guest. I start tracing points (ongefangen oyffirn punkt) like an amateur actor."

After several plays the repertoire ended, and the plan was to shlep around with "Shmendrik" and "Shmuel shmelkes" across the whole of Russia, and learn that "this is the Yiddish theatre."

A. wanted to leave the stage and return home, but Rosenberg spoke to him about it, and A. still continued with it. From Kishinev the troupe traveled to Akkerman, then to Yelisavetgrad, where A. performed as "Shadkhan" in "Shmendrik".

From Yelisavetgrad the troupe traveled to Poltava where they performed for several weeks, and then to Chernigov, where the management didn't pay the actors, and A. with only several colleagues declared a strike, in which they profited, and [then] traveled to Yekaterinoslav (at first only Yiddish theatres). There A. became the groom of Sophia Oberlander.

About his wanderings across Russia, A. recounts in his memoirs, that the troupe had spent a long time in Yekaterinoslav, and then in advance of it (farloyf), he was always coming and going to Yekaterinoslav, and every time he did good business. In the later years he was there as a married man and director of a troupe with whom he had already acted in plays of quite a different kind.

The first better play that he had staged was "Der tsvey vaybernik" by Moshe Leyb Lilienblum. With time A. also later staged  "Rashi" there by Katzenelenbogen, and, as he tells it, "that play had aroused the Yiddish orthodoxy. Many rabbis from the surrounding shtetls were sitting in their yarmulkes with their large, beautiful beards, and they had fun with this, that it was on the stage.

Due to the pogrom, A.'s troupe left Yelisavetgrad and performed one production in the Kobelyaki shtetl, Poltava Gubernia, then in Smila. Here the troupe received a report from Avraham Goldfaden, that they should come to Odessa to perform, but Rosenberg hadn't the desire to lose his independence, and he therefore organized the actors not to follow Goldfaden's call, but Naftali Goldfaden and the greater portion or the actors followed, and in Smila only Rosenberg, Fishkind, Adler and Oberlander remained. Here they took in Kreyndl Sakhar-Sanyes (Keni Lipzin), and they traveled as a new troupe to Pereyeslav, and from there to Chernigov. From then Avraham Goldfaden took him and his wife to Dinaburg, from where they traveled, due to the ban on Yiddish theatre, to Minsk, Bobruisk and Vitebsk, where A. declared a strike against Goldfaden and traveled to Niezhin, back into Rosenberg's troupe. Due to the pogrom the troupe went to Lodz, where A. performed for the first time, as "Uriel Akosta", (translated by Rosenberg). From then A. went to Zhitomir to the troupe of Hartenshteyn-Spivakovsky, and from there to Rostov, where A. also participated in a Russian production of "Boris Gudunov".

Further wandering across Russia, A. again came with his wife Sophia Oberlander to Dinaburg (Dvinsk), and he entered into the troupe there that was founded under the leadership of Leyzer Tsukerman. The repertoire then almost always stressed singing plays; however, as such A. had no voice for singing. He then was interested in the main gevikht of the play. A.'s first performance in Dinaburg was in the dramatic role of "Yozef" in "Di intrige" ("Dvosye di spletnitse") by Goldfaden, and he thereby had a great success. From Dinaburg the troupe went to Riga, where a ban had occurred to perform Yiddish theatre in Russia, and in 1882, long delays sent the actors Adler, his wife, the Grodners, Fraulein Chizhik, Karp, Kempner, Baum, Wachtel, et al. to London.   

Here A. acted in a very small locale, where in the front there was a piece of meat, and in the courtyard was such, what we called "a Yiddish theatre". No great happiness was found in London, but he remained there to act for several years, until 1886,  when a club of on London's Princes Street was built . Here a Yiddish theatre was organized under the direction of a butcher (named) Smith, who had already hired the actors, and A. received 3 pence, 10 shillings a week.

In the meantime, A. became very popular through his acting as the lover and in dramatic roles in melodramatic repertoire. So he had a special success in his [?] play, "Der odeser betler", and he also distinguished himself, appearing in the role of "Uriel Akosta". His name was received in America, wherein the former theatre entrepreneurs Mandelkern and Rosengarten decided to bring him over.

In an advertisement, that was published on 21 July 1886 in a New York newspaper, it was reported so:

"Adler comes with his proper Yiddish troupe to New York, after not acting, with over one hundred new plays. The people still in New York, not seen has vir zind ibertseynt, that the local public expects with great patience the famous actor Adler, the great success, making him the greatest shtedt in Europe, now he comes here with his world-famous troupe from Europe to show the New York Jewish public that there really exists one true Yiddish troupe".

Because of this, Mandelkern came to London. He compensated A., but still nothing became of the trip because A. had used the 500 dollars for other purposes, which he had received for expenses for his troupe, and M. had taken to America another troupe with Mogulesko and Finkel at its head.

On 18 January 1887 due to a false fire alarm that created such a panic in the Yiddish theatre in the Princes Club, that he was forced to transfer the production. The actors, who were therefore found to be in great need walked out, and A. decided to go to America. Not having any money for expenses, A. turned himself  London's [Chief] Rabbi Dr. Adler (a distant relative --ed.), who generally was dissatisfied with the Yiddish theatre, who wished to be free, so Dr. Adler gave money as a means for A. and his colleagues (Lipzin and her husband, Leybush Gold, Feivele Fridman, Herman Fidler, Bonus, Abraham Baum, A. Oberlander et al.), to travel to America, where they arrived in March 1887.

A. had reported earlier to the directors of the two Yiddish theatres in New York that he was coming with his troupe to America, but azoy vi men kumt im nit aropgenemen, they did not make it to New York, but went immediately to Chicago, where after several days they got together with the manager Drozrovitsh and also several partners of the Madison Street Theatre, and soon began to perform. The repertoire consisted of "Uriel Akosta", "Doctor Almasado" by Goldfaden, and the melodrama "Meshugene oym libe (Crazy in Love)" by N. B. Bazelinsky. A. did not have any great material success because the scarce theatre audience was in the mood for a new repertoire. The troupe hereupon declared a strike, and A. looked up several [other] actors, who he had found previously in Chicago and began with them to perform in a second theatre. Both theatres held their own, but for a short time. Several members of the troupe left the stage and went back to their previous employment; the others went to New York where they were engaged, but A. in no way received any engagements, and so he went back to London. From there he traveled to Warsaw, where he performed in the Shomer plays "Der protsentnik" and "Treyfniak". The critic [see Yehoshua Mezakh's "Bmt ishkhk"] was dissatisfied with this repertoire, that "points to the negative sides of Jewish life and can provide material for the anti-Semitic press". A. also staged his own [?] play "Der betler", a drama in five acts and eight scenes, with a prologue [Mezakh remarks that the drama is a French melodrama "Der lumpenhendler", and A. had only translated it or made it more Jewish].

A. was there for only the production [according to Israel Lipshitz a Kovners review "The Yiddish Theatre and the Yiddish Actor" in the supplement to "Yudishen folks-blat", 26, 1888], "He turned to the audience with great audacity and began to preach like a mamzer, half-German, half-Yiddish, and all the time mixing in the English words, "yes", "no", "alright". In connection with this, he announced: "By me in America and in London, they already know who Adler is and what he can do. The artist, the real genius, does not sit in only one place, because the genius hears the entire world, as my colleague Shakespeare had done, and so I have also. For all are not the same, and it is correct to say "alright."

This local review was ever so excited about this, that A. had eliminated Goldfaden's historic operetta, and there where they had earlier sung Goldfaden's "now we return to the rough speech and corrupted knowledge of Adler's operetta. Adler has in two productions destroyed what was "Shulamit", "Almasadora" and "Bar kochba", that in ten years had been built."

An entire other image is given by the actor H. Feynshteyn:

He recounts, that A. had in Warsaw a very great success with "Uriel Akosta", and the great Polish actors used to call upon him and expressed their recognition.

After acting in Warsaw, Lodz and Lemberg (where A. was arrested under a suspicion of [being] a white slave trader), A. traveled back to America through Heine and Mogulesko, who had come especially for him.

For his first offering in New York, A. did the play "Odeser betler (The Odessa Beggar)" in Poole's Theatre, and the production failed horribly by [B. Gorin remarks, that he was actually not aware of it, that the failure had come either from the play or in his acting, but anyway it was stated that A. had failed]. A week later, A. staged Shomer's play "Moishele soldat", and from this he had such a success, that not only the public, but also the theatre directors began on aim their members to have, and the well-to-do Germans from Poole's Theatre, hung, determined, A. as [their] director. A. hereupon soon became engaged by Heine for the Thalia Theatre, but then, as Heine did not want to take him in as his partner, A. performed for a season outside of the theatre.

A. soon left New York thereof, and he began to, together with Thomashefsky, act in Philadelphia, then in Chicago, where they didn't hold up for a season, and for Passover 1892 they came back to New York, where hey took [over] Poole's Theatre for the 1892 season, A. became a partner in Poole's Theatre with Mogulesko, Kessler and Feinman, performing everything in "historical" operetta and melodramatic repertoire.

When A. was introduced to Gordin by Philip Krantz, he recruited Gordin to write for the Yiddish stage.

A. had [according to B. Gorin] understood the new spirit that had taken reign among the Jewish immigrants. As he could not sing, it was of great concern to him that a repertoire of serious plays should dominate the stage. He had therefore acquired [them] from Gordin, and he strengthened his reputation more quickly. A. had, with those plays, very much continued to gain among intelligent theatre visitors, and his name became associated with the best dramas.

 Also Leon Kobrin was in his mind that A. had acquired from Gordin his reputation, because until then the earlier singing repertoire he could not engage in in any place. Beyond this, he had a weakness for intellectuals with whom he could speak Russian to, as with the "invoked authors", most of the time the Rumanian Jews, whom he had not known.

A. by himself at times expressed about Kobrin categorically "He was my Messiah, my erleyzer".

A. was the only one who considered Gordin with respect, when all the actors had real strength, and he made him read from his first play "Siberia", which was staged in 1892 in Adler's theatre.

There A. had the opportunity to act in a genuine dramatic role, "Rozenkrantz", with which he made an impression on the audience that was already headed partly by another, better circle.  He had dozelbe in Gordin's second play, "Der groyser sotsialist". The first great role in Gordin's repertoire through which A. became very popular, was "Dovid mosheles" in "Yidishn kenig lir (The Jewish King Lear)" (1892).

The critic Uriel Mazik [Alter Epstein] characterized his acting in the play as such: "As it appears on this festive mishmash, is something as bright, his majestic figure, the affable smile, the discarding of anger for goodness, his tenderness and gebeyzer, his breytkeyt and the subsequent contrast as a ruined man..."

In 1894 A. staged three plays: "Der yidisher glikh", "Der parnes khudsh" and "Di litvishe brider luria", and became the darling of New York; his name became popular across the entire Yiddish theatre world as the greatest actor of the Yiddish stage. On 24 August 1894 A. staged in his theatre his and Max Rosenthal's adapted play, "Di rusishe knute (The Russian Whip)".

In 1895 A. staged Gordin's "Der rusisher yid in amerike (The Russian Jew in America)" and "Der shvartser yid (The Black Jew)". From this point he began without Gordin to also write for the other actors such as Kessler, Lipzin, Thomashefsky. That, and the bad business in Yiddish theatre, moved A. to tsutsushteyn to plan for an association of all stars. It went so far as staging a "historical" operetta, "Nero, or the king-like horse (ferd)". A. performed a comical role, and [according to Bessie Thomashefsky] danced even for horses. At first when Morisson came to guest-star, A. returned to better repertoire and performed "Iago" in "Othello" and "Silva" in "(Uriel) Akosta".

As a co-partner in the Windsor Theatre, A. was delegated to Europe to look for new artistic talent, and he brought over from there the prima donna Milanie Gutman.

In 1897 A. staged Gordin's "Reyzele" or "Zelig itsik der khli-zmr", in 1899 Kobrin's "Mina", and in 1900 Gordin's "Der gaon". In the same year, A. opened the People's Theatre with Kobrin's "Sonia from East Broadway" (however, at the same time [it played] against Gordin's "God, Man and Devil", and [was] advertised as "Nature, Man and Chaya"), for which A. had written a fourth act. Against that weakness of A. to adapt the play that he had staged, Kobrin wrote in his memoirs:

"Not live and behind the scenes, he just once did not use the finest expression and the beautiful language, but on stage he almost always has shown [how] the more festive (yom-tovdik), and the more imposing he is, both in his appearance, as well as in his language. He has searched for the beautiful words in a play. Therefore he often has natural and lively dialogue, pronounces when it is shown to him not to be pretty, and therefore he has wanted that even the names of the heroes of a play may be beautiful, agreeing to begin with "Rose", and ending with "krants".

"Because he once tsugerikht such a play, that it has under his great pen lost completely its original appearance.".

Something similar occurred in the last century with Gordin's "King Lear", in which A. had inserted his own "prose" [into the play], and thus a conflict had occurred between him and Gordin.

On 5 December 1901, A. staged for the first time Shakespeare's "Shylock", and in 1903 the same play was performed by English actors in English, and A. performed in the role of "Shylock" in Yiddish.

The critic Uriel Mazik characterized his Shylock performance as such: "Hostility, revenge, native pride -- behold what it sees out of every move. Not every time does he transform into a dog, not always placed at the feet of thieves. There comes a moment when the majestic Kaiser-like shape resembles itself, and then we see him in his entire glory. How strongly the hearts started beating when, with presenting hands on hearts with a fervent look, filled with hate, with anger for the tormentor, [left his might=farlozt er dem zal]".

In the role of "Shylock", A. made a very deep impression with the Jews, as well as with the non-Jewish theatre audience.

It began now without the radiance (glants) period for A. To honor him, the "Ideal Jacob P. Adler Association" was formed, which took on the central task of "disseminating art." The association founded a dramatic school [B. Gorin's "Theatre Journal", 7, 1902], and when in the "Jewish Herald" there was published a review of Adler's performance as "Shylock", the association issued a protest.

At this time, A. also began to write his biography, which was published under the name "Mayn lebens beshreybung (My Life Description/Notes)", in B. Gorin's "The Theatre Journal" 1-12, 1901-2. The autobiography is unfinished because of illness. Later, A. dizelbe his memories, in detail, together with further chapters [partly written and partly adapted, anonymously by Joel Entin], published under the name "40 Years on the Stage", and then under various titles in "Di varhayt" [20 April 1916--22 February 1919], and under the name "Mayn leben ("My Life" in "Di naye varhayt" [14 March 1925--18 July 1925]. After A.'s death, Sholem Perlmutter published in the "Amerikaner" 21-26, 1926, a portion of A.'s autobiography.

In 1902 A. became seriously ill and was taken to the hospital. Bessie Thomashefsky recounts in her memoirs about the very characteristic episode: When A. lay in the hospital, a report was suddenly published in the press that A. was near death, but his theatre audience came to the hospital on the day of the Sabbath to bless him. Thousands of theatre attendees were, in fact, in the hospital, and A. was blessed by them through the window. Every afternoon the Yiddish theatres were empty. As A. later recounts it, that if he wanted he could even secure such a ill-made income as the Sabbath afternoon production.

When A. returned back from the hospital, he staged Gordin's "Etz ha da'at (Tree of Knowledge)", receiving much recognition for his performance in the role of "Mazi Stoler".

Here a strike was called by the actors, and A. united with them, even with several director-actors and several non-union actors. He acted only for a short time because he wasn't any good at coexisting among the stars, who had wanted to act over one of the others.

So Kobrin recounts in his memoirs that soon with the first production, when all three stars: Thomashefsky, Kessler and Adler had performed his [K.'s] play, "Bertshik in amerike", and A. had acted in the serious dramatic role that Blank had earlier performed, the stage became transformed into a crazy house:

"Adler performed his astride on a broom, with a wild beard and glasses on the forehead. He began telling some story  about "semetshkes". The audience laughed. Here Thomashefsky is losing himself. He notices that Adler took away from him his comedy, he also laughing... outside the play, outside the role, outside the struggle for life and death against the striker... on the stage stands "stars", which each of them broke one the other the applause and the laughter of the public."

Subsequently A. traveled to Europe, where he acted in several productions in London and Berlin, and he visited his mother and sister in Odessa.

After his return to New York, A. acted for a short time in the People's Theatre, then he decided to retire from the stage, and Edelstein with Thomashefsky bought him out [according to Bessie Thomashefsky] for ten thousand dollars, provided that he no longer acts in New York, but A. soon thereafter took over the Grand Theatre that Sofia Karp, Berl Bernstein, Morris Finkel and Louis Gottlieb had specially built as a Yiddish theatre.

In that theatre, the possibility came to A. to display his repertoire. Besides the plays that were already performed, he staged in 1903 Libin's "Gebrokhene hertser (Broken Hearts)", Gordin's "Shlomo khokhem (Solomon the Wise)"; in 1904 Gordin's "Emeser kraft (True Power)"; in 1905 Gordin's "Meturef (Slaughter)", where he performed the role of "Ben-Tsion", which A. had considered his best role. In the same year he also staged Tolstoy's "Makht fun finsternish (The Power of Darkness)", translated by Gordin.

During the in-between time, A. also acted a rekht little melodramas and operettas of the inexpensive type, and he permitted himself thereby to make inexpensive effects, but in 1906 he staged three plays in which he frisht off his earlier prestige: "Kobrin's "Groyser yid", Gordin's "Elisha ben abuyah" and "Der fremder (The Foreigner)". In 1907 A. staged in connection with Sholem Aleichem's coming, his drama "Oysvurf" or "Shmuel pasternak", and in 1908 he ended his acting in the Grand Theatre with Gordin's last play, "Galus galitsye (Galicia Diaspora)" and "Dementia amerikana".

Due to a conflict, A. lost his theatre, and he began to wander over to other theatres. He took over the Thalia Theatre, where acted for two years. Here he staged in 1911 Tolstoy's "Der lebediker mes (The Living Corpse)", (translated by Kobrin).

The reviews of his acting in the role of "Fedya Protasov" were divided. When the critic Uriel Mazik wrote, that "Der lebediker mes" was from Adler not a good performance; it didn't create the [character] type that is drawn up in the play, and it came out as nothing, that it is far from artistic, -- is Kobrin nspel, from A.'s acting in that role in this quiet way:

"No one begins to shout 'Don't let it out'. Still, with a fine tsurikgehaltnkeyt, and with a silent, static, philosophical smile for the whole world, Adler-Protasov appears across the stage, and we see what appears in the former Russian aristocrat who seeks a "which-not-is" content for his empty life in hulyankes among the gypsies; in his love for the gypsy girl Masha and in the society among the shkhurim in the tavern.

And now he sits in the tavern with a mixture, and relates to a few of his fellow drinkers his long history; how he became a living corpse, as he quietly recounts his history. With what a fine and soft, and lackadaisical and static tenor, he tells them [about] his life.

And the subsequent scene with Slidovatel, how he had considered himself as a defendant, and when there he happened there, with his aristocratic wife who was married to another, because it means that he is deceased.... as his eyes have looked upon her, that she may forgive him, -- what a steep, dumb play it was, very full of soulful lyrizm!

Even the manner of how he was shot there did not destroy the quiet, soulful mood. Silent as a shadow, he was removed, and a shot was heard ...

About A.'s acting, in general and about him as a regisseur, he was characterized in the following opinion:

The critic Uriel Mazik characterized A. so:

"He is beautiful, one of the most beautiful among our actors. Even when he had completely no talent or had not. When he had been the very serious actor, even then it would be him, because of his wonderful appearance, noticed and loved. For he is among Jews, among the sad, broken, familiar people, without exception, on the stage. About him is felt a holiday, erhabnkeyt.

Not sadly is Adler in the right place. Just as there are roles in which he is the only and the greatest, so there are roles which he past zikh nit genung. Moreover,

Kessler has an entirely other opinion about A.'s acting, who had at times expressed [according to M. Osherowitz[:

"You understand, the trouble with you, consists in this. What you want is just to play with ingeniousness...You did not love to go out on the stage like a human being, you must fly down from the clouds, spring out from behind the earth, or climb out of a chimney...this toyg must not play ingenious... "

Leon Kobrin characterized A. as an actor, regisseur and person:

"Adler had own peculiar style, like every true artist. He has always created around himself an atmosphere of the stage, that was his, a part of him, and only of him. He had his smile, his voice, his stresses, and especially his visuals, almost classically beautiful, which had bore in itself that from nature itself, the self-issued stamp 'Adler'.

In my opinion, it is he who was built to act in roles of the classical hero.

A human being with such a figure, with such a face, with such a head, with such a glance and smile, with such an attitude on the stage, he must bakhshufn people, when he should not even be such a great actor.

He never was a true regisseur (?). True, he had very seriously taken up with the production of a play, he had always with a great descriptive notebook, where it was advertised, was in all details him, what the main person of the play, must do, and where the "spotlight" [reflector] must fall on him, and where the bass from the orchestra must give him a speech tone, and where the violin must be over his righteous agony ...

In that notebook is noted the jobs of other persons, but only as far as it was supposed to bring out his own job.

He was known to act in plays for months long, he had always with each production given, added something new, a new line, a kvetch (groan), a laugh, a cry, lighting from a lamp, an especially beautiful poem...

He had always considered his role, it was beautifully sought, and through you his acting. But he often did it at the expense of other roles and the entire play.

He was the greatest master in making himself up, but as he did not make himself up, his special idiosyncrasies his proselytes could not cover. Adler was immediately recognized as soon as he appeared on the stage.

He wonderfully recounts [privately] a story, as an anecdote, painter-like and [emtn=truly] healthy and even more often with naughty humor. Most of them [the stories] were about theatre people, about actors, composers and sometimes about himself. Himself he also hadn't made beautiful, he had fun telling about his own "naughtiness", at times malicious,  a real devil, and for fun he felt nothing as he joked around by himself" ...

Ab. Cahan, who had the opportunity to follow A.'s theatrical career in America, characterized him so:

"He had a dramatic craft and an innate sense for scenic effects. Just speaking on the stage naturally, he never learned. This was against the special type of artistic nature that he had. He had moved more to melodrama than drama in a realistic way, but his melodramatics has in him had a poetic swing. The more I became familiar with his acting, the more I am convinced that he is best adapted to Shakespeare roles, where there are zelbstfarshtendlekh recitations. In such roles, he would enter classical beauty, as one calls it.

In his grimaces lie artistic originality. On the stage he reports were metaphoric and impressionable(?), so he used to be in the old shund plays, which he used to act in in Russia, and afterwards in London and then later in Chicago and in New York, and so he remained in Gordin's plays. In this attitude, Gordin did not have this occur for him. Gordin's roles had only opened for him a broader world, a series of new possibilities. He also had, alzo, developed in them.

As a personality he was the interesting and concentrated figure among all Yiddish actors".

The only plays with which A. had success in the Thalia Theatre had been: a benefit production of Gordin's "Elisha ben abuyah", which had earlier failed at its premiere, and Kobrin's drama "Shunim". However the shtrebung nokhtsuton the other theatres, which had put on shund plays and did good business., A. brings, moreover, that he began [according to B. Gorin] to put in one foolish shtik after another. They all fell through, and in the end, in two seasons A. lost a lot money, that he had already maintained in order to take a theatre by himself, and he acted with others in order to lease or create such conditions for a partnership, that he shouldn't be lose any money.

Here there began a new period in A.'s life. [With] no new roles in which he could excel, he no longer acted. He had to comply with the caprices of the directors, and to perform the plays that they gave him. On 30 August 1917 he again opened the Grand Theatre with "(The) Yiddish King Lear". On 14 September 1917 he even performed in a new role: "Avraham parnuse" in Moshe Richter's "Der yidishe shtolts" or "Der moderner oyb", but he didn't stay long in this theatre. In 1918 A. performed in Philadelphia's Arch Street Theatre, then for a short time in New York's National, Second Avenue, and People's Theatres. At the end of September 1919 A. went to London, and acted there for a season with his wife, Sara, and his daughters Frances and Julia and A. Buzet.

When A. then returned to America, he already was feeling sick, so that he had to be content with giving a few performances during the course of a season, performing in his crown roles. Later he had to limit his acting to only his yearly benefits, which served him as his only income, but verndik, almost paralyzed, and for him in his last days it also was difficult for him to perform in his benefits, and [then] he acted only one act, nimbly acting in the other acts through other actors.

A. had briefly, during the World War, acted in the tile role in the film "Michael Strogoff", after Jules Verne's novel, "Dem tsars kurier (The Courier of the Czar)", produced by the Lubin film company in Philadelphia.

According to Izidor Cashier, A., in his youthful years, learned his roles in the following manner: He used to first his role in lead, then repeating, going over it with black ink, and later, again repeating, going over the black script with red ink. In his older years, A. used to record his roles on a gramophone valts, and then from there, learn sentence after sentence.

Old and weak, A. on 22 February 1925 for the last time performed in the Manhattan Opera House at his honorary evening, in which the large audience and the actors assigned to him a great deal of respect.

On 31 March 1926, A. received a blat-shturts, and after several minutes, he died.

A.'s life and habit of theatrical effects were even expressed in his relationship to his followers:

Three years after his death A. turned to undertaker [mortician] Zigmunt Schwartz with the following words: "Nu, Schwartz, You yagst yourself up after me, you like me now, they had to. Well, you got the job [work], soon write under (?), so you, we make the best companions, what a Yiddish theatre artists have had. I must have such a funeral as Jacob Gordin had. So don't forget Jacob P. Adler, the genius of the Yiddish theatre.

The funeral, arranged at the expense of the Actors Union, was grandiose. Tens of thousands from the New York ink. In his old age. A. used to record his roles on a gramophone valts, and they have from there, sentence after sentence, [also] learned. He came to his eternal rest at Mount Carmel (Cemetery) in New York.

On 21 March 1928 via a special committee, there was arranged a memorial production, and from the income [received from this production], a gravestone was set, according to the drawing of painter Foshko, an in-law of the deceased.


M. E. from Jacob Katzman, Prof. Shtoyb, Anshel Schorr, Zigmunt Schwartz, H. Feynshteyn and Izidor Cashier.
  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre", Vol. 1, pp. 206, 212, 218, 226, 227, 242; Vol. 2, pp. 34, 38, 39, 50, 52, 61, 62, 124, 132, 133, 150, 151, 158, 159, 177, 180, 181, 182, 205, 206.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- 40 yohr oyf der bihne, mein lebens-geshikhte un di geshikhte fun idishen theater, "Di varhayt", New York, 30 April 1916 -- 22 February 1919.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- "Meyn leben", "Di naye varhayt", 14 March 1925 -- 18 July 1925.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- Di lebens-geshikhte fun yakov p. adler, bashriben fun ihm aleyn, "Der tog", New York, 4-20 April 1926 [ibergedrukt dem onheyb fun der oytobiographie gdrukt in "Di varhayt"].

Necrology in the Periodic Press:

  • Lead Pencil -- Ven yakov p. adler baveyzt zikh oyf der idisher theater evenue. "Forward", 13 Sept. 1918.

  • S. Dingol -- Yakov p. adler, "Teater un kino", Lodz, 1, 1922.

  • Kh. Herkezon -- Fun lodz kumen interesante erinerungen vegen jacob p. adler, "Forward", 22 May 1926.

  • Ch. Ehrenreich --Interesante meshh'lekh vegen adler'n in velkhe es shpigelt zikh op dem kinstler's neshama. "Forward", 2 April 1926.

  • Avraham Teitelbaum -- "Teatralia", Warsaw, 1929, pp. 12-23.

  • Sholem Asch -- Erinerungen vegen yakov adler, "Forward", 24 April-- "Haynt", 21 May 1926.

  • M. Osherowitz -- Yakov p. adler's leben un di farshidene shtaplen fun zeyn kariere oyf der bihne, "Forward", 2 April, 1926.

  • Gershom Bader -- Oyf'n kbr punim shoyshpiler yakov p. adler, "Yid"t"bl", 4 April, 1926.

  • Leon Blank -- Etlikhe pasirungen fun yakov p. adler's kariere, "Forward", 2 April, 1926.

  • B. Vladek -- Yakov p. adler. "Tsukunft" 5, 1926.

  • Uriel Mazik -- Bilder-galereye fun unzere idishe shoyshpiler, "Der tog" 16, 23 February, 2 and 9 March, 1918.

  • Leon Kobrin -- "Di erinerungen fun a dramaturg", New York, I, p.p. 37, 119, 123; II pp. 55-94.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Yakov p. adler's memuaren, "Der amerikaner", 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 1926.

  • Dr. Y. Kritikus -- Adler als kenig fun der idisher bihne, 'Der amerikaner", 21, 1926.

  • Molly Picon -- Molly Picon vegen yakov p. adler, "Der amerikaner", 22, 1926.

  • A. L. Volfson -- Yakov p. adler [lid], "Der amerikaner", 24, 1926.

  • Y. Nusinov -- Di ershte bagegnishn fun der idisher prese mitn teater, "Teater-bukh", Kiev, 1927, pp. 65-67.

  • Bessie Thomashefsky -- "Meyn lebensgeshikhte", New York, 1916, pp. 133, 135, 138, 139, 153, 154, 155, 162-3, 238-40, 244, 248, 253, 254, 258, 261-2.

  • Ab. Cahan -- "Bleter fun meyn leben", New York, II, pp. 397-8.

  • Sh. Yanovski -- 20 yohr "Freie arbeiter shtime", "Fraye arbayter shtime", New York, 1 February 1929.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- Meyn beste rol -- "Ben Tsion", "Morning Journal", 5 May, 1922.

  • Sholem Asch -- Kinstler oyf der idisher bihne, "Teater-velt", Warsaw, 9, 1908.

  • Geshprekh mit Adler'n -- Teater-velt, Warsaw, 4, 1908.

  • Yehoshua Mezakh -- "Bmt yshhk", Warsaw trn.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- Spivakovsky "Di tsayt", London, 1 October 1919.

  • Chanan Y. Minikes -- "Di idishe bihne" (M. Zeifert's "Theater geshikhte").

  • Jacob P. Adler -- Meyn lebensbeshreybung, "The Theatre Journal", New York, 1901-2, 2-9, 11-12.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Di fule lebens-bashreybung fun yakov p. adler, "Der tog", New York, 1 April, 1926.

  • Nakhman Mayzel -- Yakov adler, der barihmter idisher artist geshtorbn, "Haynt", 9 April, 1926.

  • Dr. Sh. Melamed -- Adlers irushh, "Yid-kur", 8 April, 1926.

  • Joseph Edelstein -- Meyn ershte bagegenish mit adlern, "Morning Journal", 2 April 1926.

  • A. G. Kompaneyets -- Goldfaden un yakov adler (memoirs), "Au"vort", Bucharest 27, 1926.

  • Ts. H. Rubinstein -- Der nshr hagodol, "Tog", 1 April 1926.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- [Artiklen unter farsheydene nemen], "Morning Journal", New York, pp. 7, 8, 12, 14, 16, 19, 26 April 1926.

  • J. Entin -- Adler der magnetisher, "Di varhayt", New York, 16 April, 1916.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- Meyn gebet, "Di varhayt", 28 April 1916.

  • Ab. Cahan -- "In di mitele yohren", New York, 1928, pp. 350-2.

  • Hersh Shpilman -- Etlikhe nit-farefentlikhte briv punim groysen idishen shoyshpiler, yakov p. adler, "Der Tog", New York, 21 December 1929.

  • Hersh Shpilman -- Yakov p. adler's briv tsu familye un freynt, "Der tog", New York, 22 December 1929.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 13.

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