Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Max Gabel
(Menachem Mendel, Nakhum)


Born on 24 December 1877 in Gorlice, Western Galicia. His father was in the petrol trade, could have written books in Yiddish, including a book about the joy of laughter (?). He learned in a cheder, a Vishnitzer yeshiva, and a little German with a private teacher.

Due to his father's death in 1888, G. cut short his studies and went with his mother and sister to a sister in America. Here he son entered into work in a cup factory, and in his free hours he learned German and English on his own.

At the age of fourteen G. entered into the "East Side Dramatic Club", where he was only a passive member, initially a year later he organized the "Young Hebrews Dramatic Club" (members: the future actor David Sheinholtz, Louie Hyman and the movie entrepreneur William Fox(, and here he performed in the title role in Horowitz's "Dos poilishe yungl", under the direction of Moshe Zilbrman and Kurazh. For a span of three years, G. was active in this dramatic club, continuing to work in the cup factory. At the same time, G. was an eyfriker reader for the dramatic literature in German. Later he went around, across the communities of New York with a group of professional actors (Joseph Kessler, Nathan Rosenthal, Sidney Goldin, Annie Scheinholtz, Pulman et al.), but not making a living, he worked ever more in the factory.

 Around 1895 G. wrote his drama in four acts [according to B. Gorin -- taken from English] "Der zee-kenig" (staged in Turin Hall, New York, on 4th Street). A year later G. composed his drama "Tate, mames tsores" [based on a fact in the family of Itshe Sokolor in Galicia], and he then joined, already as a professional actor, the troupe of Philadelphia's Third End Green Street Theatre, where the play (music by Zalmen Yarikhovski) was staged with the following personnel:
"Itshe Sokolor" -- Aba Shoengold, "His Wife" -- Susie Kestin, "Avraham" -- Sam Kestin, "Mendele" -- Sigmund Feiman, "Thomas" -- Joseph Kessler, "Tefelik" -- Max Gabel, "Breindele" -- Liza Einhorn, "Henele" -- Dina Feinman, "Moshe Flink" -- Karl Shramek, "Devorah" -- Jennie Atlas, "A Diner" -- Simon. This play in its time was one of the popular plays in the repertoire of Yiddish theatre in the entire world. After a second staging by the author in Cleveland with completely new personnel, the play was staged in New York in the People's Theatre through Boris Thomashefsky under the title "Tate mames tsores, oder, Der yidisher soldat", with music by Yudel Belzer and Zygmunt Mogulesko, who performed in the role of "Avraham".

In Europe, the play was staged for the first time in Gimpel's Lemberg Yiddish theatre through Moshe Richter, who had brought the play to America.

The same play also was published in print without the knowledge and control of the author [Tate mames tsores, a lebensbild in four acts from Gabel, music from Mogulesko, Padgurzhe srs'z [1907], published by Amkroyt and Friend,  bookstore in Przemyśl. 39 pp., 16].

After acting for a year in Philadelphia, G. acted for a year in Cleveland's Perry Theatre [manager Harry Bernstein), where he wrote the folks-shtik in four acts "Kossut Lajos", which was staged there with the following personnel:

"Kossut" -- Sam Shneyer, "General Gergei" -- Max Gabel, "Peterfi" --Isaac Ashkenazy, "Louisa" -- Fannie Reinhardt, "Mishka" -- Jacob Frank, "Count Tafi" -- Greenberg, "Leibush Burke" -- Zanvil Shenkman, "Freide" -- Chana Frank, "Prantz" -- Betty Frank, "Theodore" -- Avraham Frank.

Due to the fact that Kossut was the national hero of Hungary, on whom the life history was built into the play, he passed away in Cleveland. Because of this in Cleveland there was a great colony of Hungarian Jews, and the play had a great success and then played across all the Yiddish theatres in America. At the same time there also was staged in Cleveland G.'s free adaptation of Ferdinand Bonn's comedy "Sherlock Holmes".

In the span of his playing in Cleveland, G. had published in the local newspaper "Di idishe velt" articles about theatre, images of New York life, and a series of articles about Kossut.

From Cleveland G. went over to Philadelphia, where he acted for two years under the direction of Yarikhovski and Rosenberg, and there he they staged his plays, "Dos falshe vayb", a drama in four acts, and "Dos yidishe harts", or, "Di tener fun kol nidre", a drama in four acts, both with music by Yarikhovski.

Now G. turned to Cleveland in the Duke Theatre, where he used a local strike as a theme for his play, "The Prince and Biderman Strike", including in the staging of the mass scenes the real strikers of that firm. Here he also composed and directed: "Abraham's Lincoln", a drama in four acts, and translated "Der tayvl" by Franz Molnar, "Di heymat" (Magda) by Hermann Sudermann, and "Trilby" by Gregory Gee.

After touring for a season with a troupe in the province, where there was staged G.'s time-piece "The Destruction of Russia" and "The Destruction of the Federal Bank", G. joined the New York's People's Music Hall (managers Lipshitz and Shmukler), where he acted for four years' time in one-act sketches, together with Sam Kastin, Clara Young, Sigmund and Rivka WEintraub, Oskar Solomonesko, Joseph Groper and Minnie Berlin. Here N. began to write one-act sketches, which were almost all built in day events or in newspaper notices. The popular one-acters were: "Rayzele", "Der tate fun der geto", "Di aristokratishe mkhh", "Khasene prezenter", "Der bel-tuvhnik", "Der griner plimenik", "Verdzhinus in a tenement-hoyz".

Then G. left to rebuilt the church at 8 Forsythe Street as a theatre and opened there together with Yoshe Louis' (?) "Gabel's Star Theatre", where he acted for a year's time and staged a range of his new one-acters and his play "Hillel hzkn", a drama in four acts, "Dos goldene kalb", and the tsayt-bild "The Destruction of San Francisco". The theatre, however, was closed because the city managers took the building in order to build the Williamsburg Bank. G. then went over to Boys' (?) Vaudeville House, where he wrote and staged his new one-acters (all together 92). From the last were especially popular: "Dray minut toyt", published as a comedy in one act, adapted by the artist Kestin, publisher S. Yakubson and M. Goldberg, Warsaw 1926, 16 pp., 16 [without the knowledge of Kustin, who also denied that he had the comedy adapted], "Ven froyen veinen", "The Union Man", "A tuvah fun a bel-habit", "Der roplgenger".

A year later G. acted for a season in Winnipeg, where he staged his comedy, "Sheine froyen", music by Rumshinsky, and then joined one season with Aged in vaudeville (New York), where he staged his tsayt-bild, "The Destruction of Italy". Then G. joined the Third Street Theatre (manager David Batelston), where he staged the following plays: "A nakht in tsarnland", a drama in three acts, "Kol shofar", a melodrama that was played for forty-four weeks ("Avraham" -- Gabel, "Tootsie" -- Jennie Goldstein), "Amerike ganev", a comedy-drama in four acts, "Grigory Gershuny", a tsayt-bild, "Dem prezidents tokhter", a comedy, "Farkoyfte neshamus", a drama [Gorin remarks that it is an adaptation of Potapenko's "Dva pokolienya", which Gabel denied Arnstein. This play then was staged in the People's Theatre through Schildkraut, who performed in the main role], "Di yidishe tokhter", a drama in thre acts, "Moyer, heyvud un petebon", a tsayt-bild, "Di revolutsion in portugal", a tsayt-bild, "Der mentsh fun himl", a melodrama in four acts, "When the East Side Sleeps", a comedy-drama, "Meydlekh", a comedy in four acts, "Foter napon", a tsayt-bild, "Di froy fun di hoykhe fenster" (a comedy taken from Moliere's "George Danden"), and "The Cripple", (adaptation of the English play 'Di tsvey yetoymim"). In the third and fourth seasons, G. became a partner of the tehatre, until he took over the Comedy Theatre on Suffolk Street, which he called "Gabel's Comedy Theatre". Here G. staged his plays: "Di modal prediker", a melodrama in four acts, and "Di shtot-ganevim", a melodrama, and the translation of James O'Neill's "Monto Cristo". Almost at the end of the season, the theatre was closed by the fire department.

Now G. devoted himself almost exclusively to the melodrama, joining the Brooklyn Gold Theatre, where G. staged there his melodrama, "Nokh 16 yor", the melodrama "A meydls kholem", "Der ytsr-hre", a drama in four acts, and "Der nar un di hkhmim" (adopted from Ludwig Fuldo's comedy "Der dumfkopf"). Then G. joined Brooklyn's "Lyric" Theatre (managers Simkowitz and Nathan Goldberg), and staged there his plays: "Der dank fun kinder", "Kinder-yorn", a drama (idea taken from Ibsen's "Vilde katshke"), "Hershl Ostropoler", "Columbus" (only performed one time), and "Der shtiler mord", a melodrama. From then G. went over for a short time to the Grand Music Hall (managers Emanuel and L. Gilrod), and staged there his Lebensbild in four acts, "Blinde mener", or, ""Dos lebn oyf sekond avenyu". Later N. toured across the province for a season's time, and in the summer he was director of the People's Theatre, where he staged "Dos gasn-meydl" (subject taken from Yushkevich's drama "In shtot"). In this same play, Sara Adler participated, along with Jennie Goldstein, Anna Appel, Misha German, Boris Rosenthal, Jacob Wexler, Yetta Schorr and Avraham Fishkind. In all the plays, G. acted in the main male roles and was especially popular as the "Yid mit di mshvekes" in "Dos gasn-meydl", which was also at times named for the main male role.

After acting for a season in Baltimore in the Princess Theatre (manager Sam Rose), where G. staged is historic drama, "Kenig un rabbi", with music by Rose, G. returned to New York and took over the Lipzin Theatre, which he then called "Gabel's Folks Theatre", and made it home for Yiddish melodrama Here he staged his melodrama, "Dos reyne gevisn", which was performed for an entire season ("Yoshe tsadik" -- Max Gabel, "Ettie" -- Jennie Goldstein), "A mames gebet", a lebensbild of the East Side, "A mans shpiltsayg", "Goldele", or, "Alts far libe", a comedy in four acts, "Public Opinion", a melodrama [published in print at the same time as the novel, novelized through Esther Baltik in "Di varhayt"], "Farloyrene yungt", "Anshtendike mentshn" (adaptation of the English play, "Kaman klay"), "Eydele gefiln", "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (translation from the English), "Khatskel shuster", a melodrama by Gabel and Kalmonowitz, "Di beybe-vayf", a comedy in four acts, "Heylike libe", a drama in four acts, "A meydl on a harts" by Zolotarevski, adapted by Gabel.

In 1917 G. staged Gorin's adaptation of Wolfson's "Leykhtzin un fremeley", under the name "Der tsbuek".

For six years G. acted in the Lipzin Theatre and opened afterwards the Mount Morris Theatre in Harlem. Here he staged his plays: "Tsufil gelt", an operetta, music by Friedsell, "Tsores fun libe", a drama with music by Friedsell, "Shprintze on Riverside Drive", an operetta, music by Friedsell, "Ladies Garment", a comedy with music by Friedsell, and "Bekende hertser", an operetta by Gabel and Steinberg, music by Friedsell. Two years later N. turned to the People's Theatre, where he was director, together with Max R. Wilner and staged the following plays: "Der groyser moment", a melodrama in four acts (was performed for an entire season), "Shtol un eyzn", a melodrama in four acts, "A froy fun der velt", a melodrama by Gabel and Steinberg, and "Vos veln mentsn zogn?"

In the summer of 1926 G. acted for two weeks in London, and in the winter season of the same year he staged at the People's Theatre in New York: "Dos antlofene meydl" by Gabel and Kalmanowitz, "Teyerer fun lebn", a drama in three acts, music by Wohl, "Der leyter fun lebn" by Gabel and Israel Rosenberg, "Ir groyser sud" by Gabel and Freiman, and "Ir mames khupe-kleyd" by Gabel and Steinberg.

After touring for several months across the province, G., for the 1929-1930 season, took over the Public Theatre under the name "Gabel's Public Theatre", and opened with is melodrama "Libe un politik".

In Lemberg's "Togenblat" (""Der morgen"), as well as in other periodical editions in America, G. published from time to time articles or memoirs about Yiddish theatre.

In Warsaw in 1928, G., without G.'s knowledge, there was published a play "Der groyser moment fun maks gabel", which really was Moshe Schorr's play "Toyt-shtrof", which didn't have any relationship with G.'s "Der groyser moment".

Although G. wrote his plays exclusively for his own troupes, the plays were illegally brought to Europe and there were performed from defective copies, often entirely under other names, not listing G. as the author.

  • Zalmen Reyzen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature", Vol. I, pp. 594-95.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre", Vol. II, pp. 260, 279.

  • Uriel Mazik -- Bilder galerye fun unzere idishe shoyshpiler, "Der tog", N. Y., 16 March 1917.

  • William Edlin -- Der sud fun erfolg fun "roybe gevisen", "Der tog", N. Y., 21 February 1917.

  • Dr. I. Z. Shubin -- "Poblik opinion" in gebil's teater, "Der tog", N. Y, 5 September 1917.

  • B. Borukhov -- Idisher folks-geshmak, "Di varhayt", N. Y., 10 March 1917.

  • Y. Gonikman -- Di dray elementen in maks gebil's piesen, "Di varhayt", N. Y., 8 December 1917.

  • Shylok's Eynikel -- Brodvay oyf der boyery un sekond evenyu, "Di varhayt", N. Y., 5 September 1918.

  • Hillel Rogoff -- Gebil's an eygene melodrame in gebils teater, "Forward", 28 March 1919.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Gebil's naye piese, "Forward", N. Y., 24 September 1920.

  • A. Bogopolski -- "Shtol un eyzen", "Yidtagblat", N. Y., 10 October 1924.

  • Alef-Alef -- "Shtol un eyzen", "Morning Journal", N. Y., 17 October 1924.

  • K. Marmor -- "Shtol un eyzen" in gebils teater, "Frayhayt", N. Y., 10 October 1924.

  • Avraham Morisson -- Shtol un eyzen, maks gebil un k. marmor's kritik, "Frayhayt", N. Y., 24 October 1924.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- Literarishe abergloykhens, "Morning Journal", N. Y., 14 November 1924.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Vos iz a melodrama?, "Forward", N. Y., 7 November 1924.

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum -- Maks gebil vegen dem emes in der melodrame, "Amerikaner", N. Y., 25 December 1925.

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum -- Gebil un di idishe melodrame, "Teater un kunst", 2 pp., 28.

  • Chaim Ehrenreich -- Der 50 yohriger yubileum fun maks gebil, "Forward", 17 December 1926.

  • H. Lang -- In teater vu dos folk geht, "Gerekhtigkeyt", 18 November 1927.

  • A. Frumkin -- Idish teater in a kranken tsushtand -- zogt maks gebil, "Morning Journal", 25 November 1927.

  • L. Kesner -- Vu ligt der sud fun gebil's erfolg?, "Idishe tog", 13 January 1928.

  • Max Gabel -- Ikh un dos publikum, "Der tog", N. Y., 24 February 1928.

  • Z. Kornblith -- "Di dramtishe kunst", pp. 182-87.

  • B. Y. Goldstein -- Oyf der teater-evenyu, "Fraye arbayer shtime", 22 February 1929.

  • A. Frumkin -- Maks gebil's naye melodrame, "Brooklyn Yiddish Voice", 1 November 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 490.

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