After the breakup of the
Hirshbein troupe, F. played the "singing lover" parts in
various Yiddish operetta theatres. He received special
attention from the Yiddish theatre critics when he
acted in the European operetta, "Eva," in Warsaw's Elizeum Theatre.
In 1913 Boris Thomashefsky
brought him to America, where he acted in the National
Theatre in Dymow's "The Eternal
Wanderer," later in Thomashefsky's "The Lost Sheep," and in other troupes where he
created "Moshe der griner" by M. Goldberg.
"During his first years in
America -- writes Sholem Perlmutter -- Lazar Freed, who
possessed a lyrical baritone voice with a warm, hearty
tenor, acted in all the Yiddish operettas in which, due to his sweet singing,
he very strongly took off
with the American audiences. Several years later
(1917-18 season), when Henrietta Schnitzer with Jacob
Ben Ami played in the "Garden Theatre" in Madison Square
Peretz Hirshbein's "The Idle Inn," Lazar Freed for the first time received his
redress, when he completely gave himself over to serious dramatic theatre in America."
In the 1923-24 season F.
joined the Yiddish Art Theatre (Director: Maurice
Schwartz). From then on in his stage career, with hardly
any small breaks, he was exclusively associated with
this theatre, with which he also traveled as a guest
actor to Europe. In the "Art Theatre" in
which he held a prominent place, F. especially excelled
as "Khanan" in the revival of the play "Dybbuk," as
Nathan in Zulawski's "Shabse tsvi," as "The Worker" in
Leivick's "Rags," "Der yetser-toyv" in
Goldfaden's "The Tenth
Commandment, or Thou Shalt Not Covet,"
Hershele Dubrovner" in the revival production of
Gordin's "God, Man and Devil," "The
Visitor from America" in Sholem Aleichem's "The Gold Diggers," "Der eydem"
in Sholem Aleichem's "Stempenyu," "The Uncle" in
Feuchtwanger's "Jew Suss," "Joseph" in
Leivick's "Chains," "Aaron" in Asch's "Uncle
Moses," and as "Tehilim-yid" and "The Jewish Student
Shneyerson" in Sholem Aleichem's "[It's] Hard to be a
However F. created an
unforgettable image in the title role of I.J.
Singer's "Yoshe Kalb.' Jacob Mestel writes:
"His 'Yoshe kalb,' the
outlandish shell of a wishful, wandering man, on
the border between two types of characters. This figure of
the 'pious simpleton'
made many contributions, that the play became so popular
and as such continued its permanent association with Freed's name," that when Maurice Schwartz guest-starred
with the play across Jewish America (1933), and later in
Europe, F. played with him in the title role.
In the seasons when the Art
Theatre did not play in America, F. was associated
with several other theatres. Thus during the 1931-32 season he
participated in the "Ensemble Art Theatre" where he had
(under the direction of Egon Brecher) acted in the role
of "Maharal" in Leivick's "Golem," and in V. Ivanov's "The
Armored Train" (directors Snegoff and Mestel.) In the
1939-40 season he acted in "Khaver Daniel," and in I. J.
Singer's "Khaver Nachman" (directors Ben Ami and Mestel.)
F. also acted in several
films and sound films. While in Europe he was in a film
together with Libert and Regina Kaminska; in 1924 during the guest appearance of the Art Theatre in Vienna
-- in Sackler's "Yizkor" ; in 1925 in
America (a Yiddish poet and detective) in "Salome of the
Tenements," then in the sound films "The Holy Oath,"
"Overture to Glory," "The Great Advisor"
, and "Eli Eli"  by Izidor Frankel, "The Jewish Melody"  by Chaim Tauber, and "Love and Sacrifice"
 by Isidore Solotorefsky.
F. translated "Samson in Chains" by Leonid Andreyev and
"Mendel Spivack" by Semion Yushkevich (which
was staged during the 1926-27 season by the "Yiddish Art Theatre").
In his last years, F. due to
his severe illness (tuberculosis), he could no longer
"...He has a face that
is not well-known -- according to the writer Sholem Perlmutter -- as
serious as his illness was, and it was because of this
very difficult and painful to explain to him that in all his virtues there
is no fault; as only his horrible illness was ..."
After having been treated in
a series of hospitals and sanatoria in New York, F. went
to California where he entered into the "City of Hope"
sanatorium, and there he passed away on 11 March 1944.
His body was sent back to New York where he was brought
to his eternal rest, in order to honor his last request
to "lie among his own."
F. was married to the
actress Celia Adler. Their only son is Dr. Selwyn Freed.
About his activity in London
during the guest appearance of the Art Theatre, Morris
"A performer who played with
fine nuances and moods was Lazar Freed. He was with
Schwartz in London three times. He acted very
impressively as Nathan Levi in 'Shabse tsvi.' He
embodied the mystic appearance of the prophet, who
flamed and burned from an inner ecstasy and ignited all
around him with the fire of his ecstasy. His appearance
was filled with mellifluence.
"With great understanding he
played the role of Shneyerson in 'Hard to be a Jew,'
although some moments for him were weak.
"With great understanding he
produced in "The Seven Who Were
Hanged" the stoicity that related to the coldness and
philosophy of death.
"He acted with artistic
radiance in the fine role of Nahumtche, thereafter Yoshe Kalb. Lazar Freed is an intelligent artistic
personality, and the role didn't give him the
opportunity to extract the full measure. The role had few
opportunities to speak, but he acted in his silence. He
brought out much expression in his face and in his eyes.
How many mtushtsh'dikes and even how many
farnunft and psychological truths he
expressed. In the role Freed found beauty in the forms
that he could give. He also was successful as 'Hershele
Dubrovner' in 'God, Man and
Devil.' He had profoundly brought out his struggle
with a devil. One could feel a poetic spirit in his
speech, and a specific fine mannerism one could notice
in his movements."
Jacob Mestel writes:
"Freed had a hard but tender
artistic human life on this earth. Artistry was in his
veins and was awash in his blood and nerves ...
He was well-versed in yiddishkayt, in Yiddish,
Russian and English literature. He had read a lot. ... and nevertheless he had seldom employed his intellect to
act in a role. This incorrectness would say to you that
Freed thought of his roles. No, he had not 'created' his
roles -- he satisfied them. ... To fulfill a role
intuitively he reached the boundary of exalted actors'
art. In fact he almost always played one role -- for his
wonderful acting measures were played there before him:
The lyric baritone member of his voice, the
trouble-veiled dark eyes, the flexible rhythm,
until during the last day [of his] 'youthful' body. Even
his prominent, semitic 'Adlerian' nose had given
character to his stage figure. His strong 'genre' was
'fanatical mysticism': his 'Khanan' in 'Dybbuk." "Natan Hanavi" in
"Shabse tsvi," "Hershele Dubrovner" in "God, Man and
Devil," "The Uncle" in "Jew Suss," his "Tehillim yid"
(in selected scenes for Asch's work in the Folks
Theatre. Everyone was uplifted by mysterious hidden
content, religious ecstasy, secondary melancholy and
pious certainty with which he had everyone--the actors
on the stage and the audience in the theatre ...
overwhelmed and intoxicated. In this way he put
boundaries around all sorts of helpless little people
'the unsuccessful ones' : 'The Workers' in 'Rags,' 'Aharon'
in 'Uncle Moses,' and his 'Zaidel' in '60,000 Heroes."
"....Freed has had an honest
attitude to his stage work. Perhaps not knowing many
'names' of stage directors, but he always
tries to walk on the marked-out
line. Rarely did his partner complain that Freed had
'spoiled' a scene. He used to keep himself honest, and
according to his powers, also help his friends. We came
out to play a role with Freed -- 'Avraham Yakov' in
"Green Fields.' With all his poorly paid
opportunities for expression, he had diligently
explained the scenes and situations to us, which might
help carry out the role.
"....Did Freed die an
'abandoned' person? It seems to us that he alone had
created a kind of loneliness which had outlasted his
life. This is like lying in his personal identity. For
in his long and rich stage career -- that began in
his early youth while still in Europe, with the 'Ben hador,'
'Absalom,' and later the the Hirshbein
repertoire, until his 'Song of Songs,' 'The Lost Sheep'
and afterwards the artistic-dramatic repertoire in
America -- Freed had always found love and recognition
from the broad theatre audience, as with his
professional colleagues. Each artist had felt happy with
such success -- Freed always remained a sad person. Not
having this gave him perhaps too few to satisfy. He
never forced to make a being of his artistic
performance -- he was possibly too modest, too shy for such
pretenses. .... However there is somewhere in his soul
that lay a grief that had made him feel himself like an
Social, almost always with a
smile, a sad smile, not infrequently even with humor --
he had, however, isolated himself, closed in himself.
Nevertheless, even his laughter used to roll out like a
wave in a covered tone, with his hand in front of his
mouth. Something of a hermit, as an ascetic monarch
which lied within him. His private life, possibly his
family life, has presented a shock from which it is it
hard to receive oneself. And got tired of the sleepless nights, to seek comfort
in a book, he has squandered his grief entire nights at
the coffee table."
.... "His greatest pay was a
good critique and an evaluation of his acting, and for
his serious attitude to Yiddish theatre. He was one of
the beloved personalities in our theatrical world.
Everyone had love for him, and to us all he was a good
friend. ... Each issue in which it he been asked
to handle had him interested, and it soon became near to
his heart. And even when an issue came up that hadn't
affected him directly, he was always willing to help,
whether on a council or with thoughts. And therefore he
had in his last few years, be it that the cruel fate had
almost, as if by violence, expelled him from the
theatre, and he became a
resident of the hospital, and in the sanatorium, he had
very many complaints about the theatre profession. He
also had complaints about his own people, friends and
colleagues, and for the entire world. It is perhaps
poetic that in his last few years that they did not give
him the proper attention, they did not give him enough
If one is not sufficiently sincere, and even when they
do him a favor, he used to say -- It is not
with the entire heart.
.... Lazar Freed had in his
repertoire the important, prominent roles that were
created in the last years in the Yiddish theatre. And he
had created Jewish types of an eternal worth, and just
as 'Stempenyu,' 'Khanan,' 'Yoshe Kalb,' also 'Moshe der griner' remains marked in the memory of
every Yiddish actor, and every theatre lover. And every
showman who wants at times to sit in a theatre where
that play will be performed, will before his eyes
continually float the image of Lazar Freed, which one
never wants to forget"....
"Lazar Freed was the master
of bringing forth onto the stage with the
entirety of those chasing, troubled, always for hard
done by people, who speak little and suffers much. Very little
do Yiddish actors know such silence, and so masterfully
act silently, as those who have known Lazar Freed."
And Maurice Schwartz writes:
"Lazar Freed, Samuel
Goldinburg, Abraham Teitelbaum and now Izidor Casher!
These four actors were pillars of the Yiddish Art
Theatre. With their loss it is not possible to bring so
quickly onto the world stage, to Yiddish theatre, others
who may represent them...."
Sh.E. from Itskhok Frankel.
[--] -- In der
idisher theater velt, "Forward," N. Y., 4
Alter Epstein --
Interesante momentn fun aktyoren leben, "Der
tog," N. Y., 15 December 1918.
Jacob Mestel --
Ver zaynen di kinstler fun dem nyu yorker
idishen kunst-teater, "The Times," London, April
Dr. A. Mukdoni --
Zikhrunus fun a yidishn teater-kritiker,
"Archive," Vilna, 1930, p. 381.
N. B. Linder --
Lazar frid, der fayner kinstler in der dayner
mensh, "Der tog," N. Y., 18 March 1944.
-- Lazar fried, "Der teglikher idisher kurier,"
Chicago, 27 March 1944.
Jacob Mestel --
Lazar frid, "Yidishe kultur," N. Y., May 1944.
Morris Meyer -- "Idish
teater in london," London, p. 303.
-- "Izidor kashir, "Forward," N. Y., 20 April
Dr. A. Mukdoni --
"Itzhak leibush peretz un dos yidishe teater,"
New York, 1949, pp. 169 and 208.
Dr. A. Mukdoni --
"In varshe un in lodz," Vol. II, Buenos Aires,
1955, pp. 215 and 238.