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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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.".
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
In the role of
"Shylock", A. made a very deep impression with the
Jews, as well as with the non-Jewish theatre
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.
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
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
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
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[:
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... "
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
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
As a personality he was
the interesting and concentrated figure among all
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
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
M. E. from Jacob Katzman, Prof. Shtoyb,
Anshel Schorr, Zigmunt Schwartz, H.
Feynshteyn and Izidor Cashier.
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.
P. Adler -- 40 yohr oyf der bihne,
mein lebens-geshikhte un di
geshikhte fun idishen theater, "Di
varhayt", New York, 30 April 1916 -- 22
P. Adler -- "Meyn leben", "Di naye
varhayt", 14 March 1925 -- 18 July
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"].
in the Periodic Press:
Pencil -- Ven yakov p. adler baveyzt
zikh oyf der idisher theater evenue.
"Forward", 13 Sept. 1918.
Dingol -- Yakov p. adler, "Teater un
kino", Lodz, 1, 1922.
Herkezon -- Fun lodz kumen
interesante erinerungen vegen jacob
p. adler, "Forward", 22 May 1926.
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.
Osherowitz -- Yakov p. adler's leben
un di farshidene shtaplen fun zeyn
kariere oyf der bihne, "Forward", 2
Gershom Bader -- Oyf'n kbr punim
shoyshpiler yakov p. adler, "Yid"t"bl",
4 April, 1926.
Blank -- Etlikhe pasirungen fun
yakov p. adler's kariere, "Forward",
2 April, 1926.
Vladek -- Yakov p. adler. "Tsukunft"
Mazik -- Bilder-galereye fun unzere
idishe shoyshpiler, "Der tog" 16, 23
February, 2 and 9 March, 1918.
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.
Y. Kritikus -- Adler als kenig fun
der idisher bihne, 'Der amerikaner",
Picon -- Molly Picon vegen yakov p.
adler, "Der amerikaner", 22, 1926.
Volfson -- Yakov p. adler [lid],
"Der amerikaner", 24, 1926.
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.
Cahan -- "Bleter fun meyn leben",
New York, II, pp. 397-8.
Yanovski -- 20 yohr "Freie arbeiter
shtime", "Fraye arbayter shtime",
New York, 1 February 1929.
P. Adler -- Meyn beste rol -- "Ben
Tsion", "Morning Journal", 5 May,
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
P. Adler -- Spivakovsky "Di tsayt",
London, 1 October 1919.
Y. Minikes -- "Di idishe bihne" (M.
Zeifert's "Theater geshikhte").
P. Adler -- Meyn lebensbeshreybung,
"The Theatre Journal", New
1901-2, 2-9, 11-12.
Sholem Perlmutter -- Di fule
lebens-bashreybung fun yakov p. adler, "Der tog",
New York, 1 April,
Nakhman Mayzel -- Yakov adler, der
barihmter idisher artist geshtorbn,
"Haynt", 9 April, 1926.
Sh. Melamed -- Adlers irushh, "Yid-kur",
8 April, 1926.
Edelstein -- Meyn ershte bagegenish
mit adlern, "Morning Journal", 2
Kompaneyets -- Goldfaden un yakov
adler (memoirs), "Au"vort",
Bucharest 27, 1926.
H. Rubinstein -- Der nshr hagodol,
"Tog", 1 April 1926.
Thomashefsky -- [Artiklen unter
farsheydene nemen], "Morning
Journal", New York, pp. 7, 8, 12, 14,
16, 19, 26 April 1926.
Entin -- Adler der magnetisher, "Di
varhayt", New York, 16 April, 1916.
P. Adler -- Meyn gebet, "Di varhayt",
28 April 1916.
Cahan -- "In di mitele yohren",
New York, 1928, pp. 350-2.
Shpilman -- Etlikhe nit-farefentlikhte
briv punim groysen idishen
shoyshpiler, yakov p. adler, "Der
Tog", New York, 21 December 1929.
Shpilman -- Yakov p. adler's briv
tsu familye un freynt, "Der tog",
New York, 22 December 1929.