Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


S. H. Cohen

According to his wife, Betty, C. was born on 16 September 1887 in Pyatergory, Ukraine, to well-to-do parents. Due to the fact that his grandfather was a retired Nikolayev soldier, his family had living rights anywhere within the Jewish Pale... His father was an excellent house painter, who even had painted the churches in the entire region. From his earliest youth, C. strove towards independence and already at the age of twelve he became a teacher in a village, later working in the post office.

At the age of fifteen, he immigrated by himself to America where he came to his uncle with the name of Kon. When his uncle lost both of his sons during a picnic due to a poisoning, C. in that span of time adopted the family name.

In the first years of his immigration to America, C. worked in a shop. There he became familiar with an older man whom he greatly respected as a singer, a personifier and distributor of stories. That brought him to the Yiddish theatre, where C. began as a prompter. Then there he wrote "lyrics" and later sketches.

The theatre manager Oscar Green remembers him as a character actor around 1914-15 in Minneapolis in a Yiddish troupe with Esther Field ["The Yiddish Mother."]

Also the playwright William Siegel remembered him as an actor before C. began writing for the theatre.


The theatre showman Louis Markovich remembers him from around 1915-16 when the actor Sigmund Weintraub, who had staged C.'s play "Di tsebrakhene heym (The Broken Home)," presented him as a young dramatist, who wrote as a "side" living, while his calling was that of a waiter.

The actor David Dank and the playwright Louis Freiman remember C. as a prompter and sketch writer in Yiddish vaudeville theatre in Chicago, where for two years he was married to the fine young actress Pleva, who had suffered from tuberculosis and was a patient in Denver, Colorado.

The former actor Harry Weinberg remembers C. as a prompter and playwright in Cleveland (directors: Weinberg and Saul Wallerstein.)

L. later went over to New York, where he married Jennie Voliner, and he further continued to write plays. Here he was in later years the co-founder of the "Yiddish Dramatic League," and was its secretary and also a co-founder of the society "Mir Chicago (We Chicagoans)" (later "Yiddish Actors and Friends"), where he was the financial secretary for many years .

In 1915-16 Sigmund Weintraub staged C.'s play "Di tsebrokhene heym (The Broken Home)."

On 5 September 1919 in the "Lyric Theatre," there was staged by M. Wilensky C.'s four-act play, "Di getreye mame."

On 8 October 1919 in the "Lyric Theatre" there was staged C.'s and Freiman's "Tsipke di almone (Zipka the Widow)," which on 19 April 1924 was staged as an adaptation by Jacob Kalich, with music by Joseph Rumshinsky, with Molly Picon in the title role in "Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre." The play was a rich success, and later it was performed across the entire Yiddish world by many Yiddish troupes, and in July 1932 it was staged in Buenos Aires with Molly Picon.

The play in 1925 was published in Warsaw, without the name of the authors, but was "edited by Reuben Mandelbaum."

On 24 December 1919 under the direction of S. Weintraub, there was staged C.'s tsayt-bild "Dos rebin's tekhter (The Rabbi's Daughters)."

A manuscript of the play "Tsaytbild fun yidishn lebn in poyln" in three acts with a prologue is in the YIVO Archives.

In the same season in the "Liberty Theatre," there was staged "Fraye libe (Free Love)," a family drama by C. and Kalmanowitz.

On 15 April 1921 in the "People's Theatre" there was staged by Max Rosenthal C.'s comedy-drama in four acts, music by Joseph Brody, "A mames neshome."

On 5 January 1922 in the "Irving Place Theatre" there was staged C.'s comedy-drama in four acts, "Goldene khaloymes (Golden Dreams)," under the direction of Joseph Shoengold.

In September 1930, Jennie Goldstein staged in the "Hopkinson Theatre"  C.'s play "Ir goldener khoylem (Her Golden Dream)," [hekhstvarsheynlekh the play "Goldene khaloymes"], and on 23 November 1932 the play under the name of "Goldene khaloymes," under the direction of Max Rosenthal was staged with Jennie Goldstein in the "Prospect Theatre." The play in June 1937, under the name of "Ir goldener kholem," was performed in Buenos Aires.

A manuscript of a play also found in the YIVO Archives was that of "Shvester-mame," a family drama of Jewish-American life in four acts.

On 29 December 1922 in the "Lyric Theatre" there was staged under the direction of and with the music of J. Tanzman, with Bertha Gutentag and Benny Adler in the main role, C.'s "Di farsholtene."

On 20 March 1923 through Louis Kremer there was staged in the "Hopkinson Theatre" C.'s lebnsbild in four acts "Rukhele fun varshe (Rachel from Warsaw)."

On 12 October 1923 in the "Lenox Theatre" there was staged C's comedy-drama "Ir tsveyte yungt."

On 27 December 1923 in "Gabel's Peoples Theatre" there was staged through Max Gabel, in his adaptation, C.'s tragi-comedy, "Keyle beyle fun pitt street," music by Herman Wohl, with Jennie Goldstein in the title role.

On 19 April 1924 in the "Liberty Theatre," with Joseph Shoengold and Nellie Casman, there was staged "Der yidisher zinger," an operetta in three acts by Naumov and Cohen, music by Sholom Secunda.

On 21 November 1924 in the "Liberty Theatre" there was staged with Michael Michalesko C.'s comedy-drama in four acts, "Aleyn in der velt (Alone in the World)," lyrics by Louis Gilrod, music by Joseph Brody. On 23 November 1928 the same play was staged in the "Prospect Theatre" by Nathan Goldberg, music by P. Laskowsky.

On 24 December 1924 in the "Liberty Theatre" there was staged by Michael Michalesko C.'s and Numov's lebnsbild in four acts, "Nokhn shturm (After the Storm?)," music by Joseph Brody, also staged b him in Philadelphia.

A manuscript can be found in the YIVO Archives.

On 29 May 1925 in the "Rose Silbert's Hopkinson Theatre" there was staged by Misha German C.'s comedy-drama "Farshpilte yungt."

On 28 September 1925 in the "Amphion Theatre," with Samuel Goldenburg and Celia Adler, there was staged C.'s comedy-drama in four acts, "Zayn kales tekhter." The same play in June 1926 was staged through Joseph Kessler in London, England, and on 3 September 1926 in the Bronx, in the "McKinley Square Theatre."

A manuscript can be found in the YIVO Archives.

On 1 December 1925 in the "Liberty Theatre" there was staged by Michael Michalesko C.'s comedy-drama "Libe iz shtarker fun gezets." The same play in April 1929 was staged by William Schwartz in the "Teatro Excelsior" in Buenos Aires.

A manuscript can be found in the YIVO Archives.

On 15 October 1926 in the "Amphion Theatre" there was staged by Izidor Caher C.'s play "Fargesene mentshn."

On 24 December 1926 in the "Lenox Theatre" there was staged C.'s "Farvos meydlekh farlozn zayer heym," in three acts, lyrics by Jacobs, music by Perlmutter.

In 1926 in the "Hopkinson Theatre" there was staged by Misha German C.'s "Libe un frayndshaft (Love and Friendship)," lyrics by Yasha Rosenberg, music by Sholom Secunda.

On 7 October 1927 under the direction of Izidor Buzet there was staged C.'s melodrama in four acts, "A kales nekome." On 5 April 1929 the play was staged in the "Hopkinson Theatre"." In June 1929 the play was staged by Joseph Kessler in London, England.

On 14 October 1927 under the direction of Izidor Buzet there was staged in the "McKinley Square Theatre" C.'s comedy-drama in four acts, "Farloyrene kinder," lyrics and music by Joseph Tanzman.

On 9 November 1928 in the "Hopkinson Theatre" there was staged by Louis Weiss "Peshke di komediantke (Peshke the Comedienne)," a musical comedy by S. Cohen and H. Levin.

On 24 December 1928 in the "Prospect Theatre" there was staged by Nathan Goldberg C.'s "Farlangt a khasen," music by P. Laskowsky.

The same play in September 1929 was staged in Buenos Aires.

In October 1929 Menasha Skulnik staged in Buenos Aires C.'s play "A sud fun a meydl."

In November 1929 Sara Sylvia, for her testimonial, staged C.'s play, "Reyzeles 5 khasonim," in the "Teatro Excelsior" in Buenos Aires.

On 7 January 1930 Jacob Rechtzeit staged in the "Hopkinson Theatre" C.'s comedy "Undzer rabeinu," and the same play was staged in May 1930 during his guest-appearance in Buenos Aires.

On 21 February 1930 Jacob Rechtzeit staged in the "Hopkinson Theatre" C.'s musical comedy, "Di libe fun a vagaband (The Life of a Vagabond?)," which he in May 1930 staged in Buenos Aires under the name "Der fraylekher vagabond."

On 14 November 1930 under the direction of Max Rosenthal there was staged with Jennie Goldstein in the "Hopkinson Theatre" C.'s play, "Fargesn fun got (Forgotten by God?)."

On 12 September 1931 in the "Hopkinson Theatre" there was staged C.'s play "Zog nit keyn lign."

On 3 June 1933 in the "Hopkinson Theatre" there was staged C.'s play "Luft palatsn" (with the participation of Esther Field, Pinchas Lawenda, Yehuda Bleich, Stella Gold, Abe Gross, Ethel Dorf, Abe Dorf, Hyman Rapaport, S. H. Cohen, Max Kletter and Yetta Zwerling.)

In April 1940 in the "Teatro Mitre" in Buenos Aires there was staged by the guest-starring Max Rosenthal C.'s "Hertser un blumen (Hearts and Flowers)."

In November 1940 in the "Parkway Theatre" there was staged C.'s and Itzhak Friedman's radio sensation "Der nayer mentsh," music by Alexander Olshanetsky (with the participation of Michael Michaleskso, Miriam Kressyn, Jacob Rechtzeit, Dora Weissman, Eli Mintz, Yetta Zwerling et al.)

In May 1941 Yehuda Bleich staged in the "Public Theatre" C.'s play "Feivke shklaf," a comedy-drama in two acts and fourteen scenes, music by Moshe Rauch (with the participation of Jacob Bergreen, Max Wilner, Anna Weissman, Saltshe Schorr, Moshe Dorf, Max Kletter, Dinah Halpern, Yehuda Bleich, Wolfe Barzell, Anna Teitelbaum, Freidele Lifshitz, Louis Weissberg, Betty Budanov et al.) The play was a great success, and the theatre gave out, in Yiddish, a special brochure of sixteen pages with an introduction of the play  and with a scene of pesonage.

A manuscript of the play can be found with the widow, [as well as] the YIVO Archives.

In December 1938 they began to show a Yiddish talkie "Tsvey shvester" (with Jennie Goldstein in the main role.)

David Dank writes:

"He also wrote a play for Ludwig Satz and Michael Michalesko, who were together for a season at the "Second Avenue Theatre," and the music was already finished before the first act. But when the stars then came from Europe, they hadn't known eynteyln, and we had the play taken down. Then he had a breakdown, and when he became healthy he took to writing plays in English and even had an office in the R. K. O. building. ....He was not honest. Every time he concealed and even by his best friend he considered glory [farmakht.]

In 1949  C. arrived in Los Angeles. Here he later married his wife Betty Porvin, who is the owner of a women's clothing business, and although he threw himself into it with great energy and was successful, he didn't go on with his writing work. He strove, through various agencies, to bring his English plays onto the American stage, and also thus his expected film plays and the film firms. He directed an unbearable correspondence and personal contact. There were moments when it looked like that imminent worthy aspiration was achieved, sometimes financially, other times artistically, and not a single play or film that C. had written was not staged. This strongly spent his health.

On 22 February 1958 C. passed away in Los Angeles.

His daughter, Bernice Kartel, is connected with the Columbia Pictures Corporation in New York.

Zalmen Zylbercweig remarks: "It is hard to believe, but it is a fact that a person, who had stood for many years in the public, had still proven to be so closed and hidden, that there is nowhere to be found any published words about his biography, and it is difficult to obtain accurate information about him from his friends, his agent, who had worked together with him."

Also Louis Freiman remarked: "He himself did not have a girlfriend [?] from his former friends. The reason? -- poverty, not a lack of success in the theatre profession."

In the YIVO Archives in New York, one finds the following manuscripts of C.'s plays: "Troym-veber (Dream Weaver?)," "Dos yidishe lid (The Yiddish Song)" and "Dos lid fun dorf (The Song of the Village?)" [It is possible that at least one of them is the same that his play "Der yidisher zinger (The Jewish Singer)," "Dos farlorene blik," an operetta in three acts, "Shop-meydlekh," or "Di tsetrotene blum," a melodrama in three acts with a prologue, "Gloyb zayn froy (Praise Your Wife)," a family drama in four acts, "Di heylike zinderin," a lebnsbild in three acts, "Sarahle mazik" [original manuscript], a comedy-drama in four acts, "A khosn oyf probe (A Husband on Trial?)," a comical operetta in four acts, "Meshugenes" (De-mentia) in three acts with an epilogue, "Ir shvesters man (Her Sister's Husband?)," a lebensbild in four acts.

[It is without any doubt that an entire series of the plays were performed under other names.]

In the YIVO Archives, one can also find programs from C.'s other plays, which were at the time not recorded by us, not through the remaining manuscripts such as: "Der fraylekher tsigeyner" [probably "Der fraylekher vagabond"], "Getzel fort keyn holyvood (Getzel Goes to Hollywood)," in two acts, eight scenes by C. and Itzhaik Friedman, "Galtisianer shlumiel," a romantic operetta in two acts, director Julius Nathanson, which played in the "Arch Street Theatre" in Philadelphia, "Der gekoyfter khosn," a tragi-comedy in three acts, music by H. Wohl, directed by Herman Fenigstein, staged in 1933 in Vilna, and "Gefalene mlakhim," a lebnsbild in three acts, directed by Berta Gerstin, played in the "Standard Theatre" in Toronto.

By his widow one also finds manuscripts of the following, somewhere in non-mentioned plays: "Der adoptirter tate," a comedy in three acts, "Zayn oder nit zayn," a musical play in two acts and fourteen scenes, and an unfinished play, "Yosef mit zayne brider (Joseph and his Brothers)," a musical shpil in two acts.

By his widow one finds manuscripts of the following plays, which he wrote half under his adopted name, half under his true name [Nadel/Nudel], by himself or with his daughter (Bernice Kartel) or the translator, such as: "Strange Reunions," a comedy in three acts, "Litl mozes (Little Moses?)," "Dr. David," "A.C.U.," a comedy in three acts and four scenes, "Ameriken hauz," a musical play in two acts and four scenes, "Zayn erste sifonye (His First Symphony?)," "Adam and Eve," a play with music in two acts, also a manuscript of the scenarios for films for "You Never Know," "And the King Came Back," "The Skip and the Stark," "The Adopted Father," "A World to Be," "Johnny Moonlight" and "Chapters."

M E. from his wife Betty Porvin and Sh. E. from David Dnk, Jonas Turkow, Louis Freiman, Louie Markovich, William Segal and Oscar Green.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre," Vol. 2, p. 28.

  • A Theatre Chasid -- "Der kale's fargangenheyt" in lyric theater, "Yidishe tageblatt," N. Y., 7 October 1921.

  • Alter Epstein -- "Goldene khaloymes" in irving place teater, "Tog," N. Y., 8 January 1922.

  • Israel the Yankee -- In harlem un in bruklyn, "Yidishe tageblatt," N. Y., 26 October 1923.

  • L. S. Bieli -- "Tsipke," dort, 17 October 1924.

  • N. Buchwald -- "Mit pretenzies un on preternzies, "Frayhayt," N. Y., 10 October 1924.

  • Z. Libin -- Vos es makht erfolg in bonzviler theater, "Forward," N. Y., 22 December 1924.

  • L. Kristol -- Teater ala bronzvil, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 16 January 1925.

  • Hillel Rogoff -- Tsvey melodrames, "Forward," N. Y., 25 September 1925.

  • Hillel Rogoff -- Samuel goldinburg un silie adler in a melodrame, "Forward," N. Y., 16 October 1925.

  • Kritikus -- "Zayn kale's tokhter," "Di tsayt," London, 7 June 1926.

  • A Cavalier -- "Fergesene menshen," "Yidishe tageblatt," N. Y., 22 October 1926.

  • B. Botwinik -- In der teater-velt, "Der veker," N. Y., 6 November 1926.

  • Kritikus -- Di erste forshtelung, "Di tsayt," London, 8 June 1927.

  • L. Fogelman -- Di naye operete in hopkinson teater, "Forward," N. Y., 1 December 1928.

  • Moshe Shemash -- A interesante operete in goldberg's prospekt teater, "Di idishe bekers shtime," N. Y., 11 January 1929.

  • L. Fogelman -- "Farlangt a khosn" -- di naye operete in prospekt teater, "Forward," N. Y., 18 January 1929.

  • Sh. R. -- In "ekselsior." "Libe shtarker fun gezets" fun samuel h. kohn, staged by William Schwartz, "Idishe tsaytung," Buenos Aires, 21 April 1929.

  • L. Zh. [Zhitnitsky] -- "Libe iz shtarker fun gezets" (by Samuel H. Kohn) in theater "ekselior," "Di prese," Buenos Aires, 21 April 1929.

  • Sh. Pan -- "A kale's nekome" fun s. h. kon oyfgefirt fun yozef kesler, "Di post," London, 8 June 1929.

  • Sh. R. [Rozhanski] -- "Farlangt a khosn" by samuel h. kohn, music by Philip Laskowsky, "Idishe tsaytung," Buenos Aires, 16 September 1929.

  • Sh. R. -- "A sud fun a meydl" by samuel kohn, staged by menasha skulnik, dort, 2 November 1929.

  • Sh. R. -- Sara silvia's ern-ovnt in ekselsior, "Reyzels 5 khasnim" by samuel kohn, dort, 22 November 1929.

  • William Edlin -- Oyf der englisher un idisher bihne, "Der tog," N. Y., 17 January 1930.

  • Sh. R. -- "Unzer rebinu" in "ekselior," a piese , vos hot alts un.. gornisht, "Idishe tsaytung," Buenos Aires, 4 May 1930.

  • Sh. R. -- "Der fraylekher vagabund" by samuel kohn, music by y. rechtzeit, arranged and conducted by Jacob Ficher, dort, 1 June 1930.

  • D. Kaplan -- "Unzer rebinu" in hopkinson teater, "Forward," N. Y, 18 June 1930.

  • D. Kaplan -- Jennie Goldstein in a shtarker melodrame in hopkinson teater, "Forward," N. Y., 30 September 1930.

  • William Edlin -- A naye melodrame un 5 sholem-aleichem bilder, "Der tog," N. Y., 21 November 1930.

  • D. Kaplan -- A shtarke melodrame in hopkinson teater, "Forward," N. Y., 21 November 1930.

  • B. I. Goldstein -- Oyf der teater evenyu, "Fraye arbeter shtime," N. Y, 5 December 1930.

  • Z. Zylbercweig -- A bletl hfkrus fun unzere farlang, "Chicago," Chicago, July 1931.

  • D. Kaplan -- Tsvey yidishe teaters in bruklin efenen zikh mit erneste melodrames, "Forward," N. Y., 16 September 1931.

  • Y. Botashanski -- Mali pikon als "tsipke feyer" in "ekselior," "Di prese," Buenos Aires, 10 July 1932.

  • Yankev Botoshanski -- M. michaleskos mentshlekhe shpil in an ummentshlekher melodrame, dort, 29 July 1932.

  • D. Kaplan -- "Goldene khaloymes," a feyne piese in prospekt teater, "Forward," N. Y., 2 December 1932.

  • A. Y. Goldstein -- "Der nekoyfter khosn" in neyes yidishn teater, "Tsayt," Vilna, 7 July 1933.

  • William Edlin -- "Zayn khupe nakht" -- a shtarke psykhologishe drame, in mekinly skver teater, "Der tog," N. Y., 1 February 1936.

  • D. Kaplan -- "Zayn khupe, nakht" in'm mekinli skver teater, "Forward," N. Y., 14 February 1936.

  • W. B [Bressler] -- "Ir goldener kholem," "Morgntsaytung," Buenos Aires, 14 June 1937.

  • B. Levitin -- Jennie goldstein in a nayer idisher taki "tsvey shvester, "Forward," N. Y., 2 December 1938.

  • Kh. Gutman -- Di naye movis fun der vokh, "Morning Journal," N. Y, 5 December 1938.

  • Sh. R. -- Teater-retsenzie, "Di idishe tsaytung," Buenos Aires, 12 April 1940.

  • Joel Entin -- A briv on an adres, "Der idisher kemfer," N. Y., 16 May 1941.

  • Jacob Mestel -- "Undzer teater," N. Y., 1943, pp. 27, 42.

  • Jacob Mestel -- "70 yor teater repertuar," N. Y., 1954, p. 57.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 3154.

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