and engaged as his female
star her mother Dinah Feinman, and in the troupe her
sister Lili Feinman and her husband Ludwig Satz.
About K.'s acting of the
day, "Criticus" (Morris Meyer) writes:
"He did not own those
elastic, artistic powers to be able to play that steamy
role, and he should correctly perform it. Mr. Kessler's
great omission indeed was that he had played everything,
played every role, if she had taken him or not. By many
he failed really only because we saw him in roles, which
were it not adopted, most in dramatic character roles,
in roles that called for strong men who were crippled by
a great deal of pain, then people noticed that he is an
significant talent and understood the psychology of such
expressed types, not only in movement, but also in
An inclination for something
better, an aspiration to pull out of the abyss of the
shund ("trashy" plays) that the Yiddish theatre had
sunk into. Mr. Kessler nevertheless noted this. From
time to time he put on better plays. He even showed a
strong inclination for classical drama. As he may not
have succeeded with the production of these plays, in
comparison to the productions on the English stage and
on the stages of other nations of the world, it is
nevertheless a significant fact that it was important
that in the Yiddish theatre such plays were performed,
which the Jewish audience could go to see. We owe a
thanks to Mr. Joseph Kessler for this."
K. returned to America, and
in the beginning of the First World War he acted for ten
weeks on the English stage, and in July 1915 he
performed in English, in Ossip Dymow's one-acter, "Harmatn-fleish."
In 1917 K. played in
Chicago, where he also acted as "Hamlet."
In 1918, together with Harry
Krohn, he managed a Yiddish theatre in St. Louis, where
he directed H. Krohn's melodrama, "Libes-berg."
In May 1922 K. traveled back
to England, where he put on Yiddish productions in the
English province, and since 26 June 1922 he began to
play in London's Pavilion Theatre, where he staged a
series of plays, such as "Hamlet," Asch's "Motke the
Thief," "Unzer gloybn," "Trilby," playing in the main
In 1922 K. was the first to
stage in London Ansky's "Dybbuk" (playing the role of "Meszhulach.")
About his production Morris Meyer writes that "it was
only a realistic and folglekh, a superficial
production. Nevertheless, it oysgekumen
In March 1923 K. staged here
Sholem Aleichem's "Hard to Be a Jew" (playing the role
of "Ivanov"), and H. Krohn's play, "Klasn-kamf."
In May 1923 K. traveled to
South Africa, where he gave a series of productions in
Yiddish, and later he went back to London.
About this period, Morris
"In the maintaining of
the Yiddish theatre in London, Mr. Joseph Kessler played
an important role. Here in London he bestowed powers to
the Yiddish theatre, more than other Yiddish actors or
directors. ... No extensive fields for Yiddish theatre,
here he didn't find it, but here with all his power he
searched out plays and created a possibility that a
Yiddish theatre here may exist on a permanent basis. He
hadn't contributed much to the local development of
Yiddish theatre, but to the existence of a Yiddish
theatre in London, he certainly helped incredibly much.
... He returned here just at
the moment when the Yiddish theatre was literally dying,
drowning, when we had already even said Kaddish
for the Yiddish theatre, and he had did it, raised the
dead. He had taken to the work with great power and
energy and brought new plays and actors and just had
displayed a wonder: restoring the Yiddish theatre on its
feet and operating it with success for a new period."
In January 1924 K. gave a
series of Yiddish productions in Paris, and later he
turned back to London, where he had managed with the
K. returned again to
America, where he took over the McKinley Square Theatre
in the Bronx, New York (1925-26 season.) In June 1926 he
once again played with Blumental in London's Pavilion
Theatre, where he once again took over the theatre,
staging here a series of new plays. As in 1926, Z.
Libin's, "Children of the Earth," and his comedy, "Kaptsen,
vu krikhstu?" Morris Meyer writes that K. had the play
staged with a tremendous success.
About the period Morris
"It is a well-known
fact that the Pavilion was closed and considered for
sale, but Mr. Kessler and br minn had raised the
dead. ...already and that Mr. Kessler had rescued the
Yiddish theatre from going under, he gained the
alemens recognition and
estimation. ... He had nevertheless thereby not only
saved the institution, where the Jewish population had a
possibility to be entertained in Yiddish, but he also
had made it possible for many Jewish institutions and
groups to have benefits, and this meant stopping living
their existence and activity. This is a very big thing,
what must be recognized. It could be that would Mr.
Joseph Kessler have remained only an actor, he would
have developed in a strong, artistic way. He
nevertheless had great abilities as an actor, and when
he would concentrate only on that, he would have become
an artist, also in better zin of speech, indeed
in artistic zin. However, Mr. Kessler was not
only an actor, but he was also a theatre director and a
stager of plays. This means that he had stopped working
on his own personal development, but he also had given
his time and strength for these plays and or the
development of others. By this he had
umfarmeydlekherveyze zikh alone, that is his own
abilities, had to be ignored."
In 1928 K. staged in his
theatre Schiller's "The Robbers" (playing the role of
"Franz Mar"), Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice"
(playing "Shylock"), and Leon Kobrin's "Back to his
People" (playing the role of "Dr. Black"). In the summer
time, he guest-starred in his repertoire in Paris, and
for the 1929-30 season he directed again at the Pavilion
Theatre in London, where he also staged Krohn's play, "A
Life for a Life."
K. later turned back to
America, where on 22 February 1933 he passed away in New
Morris Meyer characterized
him as such:
"After that Moskowitz
ascended to the English stage, Joseph Kessler settled
here (in London). Here he was director in the Pavilion
Theatre and played mostly roles for many years. He had
without a doubt many contributions here to the maintain
here a permanent Yiddish theatre, but unfortunately he
hadn't created a better theatre. He had mostly staged
sensational melodramas, although from time to time he
staged better and zoger very good plays.
Joseph Kessler had just
begun his theatre career with an inclination toward the
good. He virtually was the first actor on the Yiddish
stage (in London), who had staged such classical plays
as 'Hamlet' and 'Romeo and Juliet' by Shakespeare, 'The
Robbers' by Schiller. He had played the main roles in
the plays, and he had, without a doubt, actor's ability.
He was, however, gehindert by two things toward
his success as an artist in better zin. He didn't
possess the necessary intelligence for higher arts, and
had a broad expression, which had redirected the
fortrogn from the literary monologues. Already the
place of his speaking has not managed to sufficiently
good literary and artistic. Already the art of his
speaking was not sufficient enough literarily or
artistically, except that it had lacked the needed
undulations. Thus he felt better in melodramas, in which
we always speak in a loud voice, and that sounded rude
and too strong, could not make it out, because after
all, it is rude and exaggerated virtually everything
that came before them. It also prevented him from taking
an artistic play in which he was strongly weighted, and
did not take every role.
However it must be told that
when Joseph Kessler played melodramatic heroes, such
roles that had suited him, he was not bad. He acted as
'Eikele mazik' in Shomer's play with the same name. He
acted well as the main character in Leon Kobrin's 'Back
to his People,' also as the superstitious farmer in
Libin's 'Children of the Earth,' and other such roles.
For this Joseph Kessler
receives credit. He gave away to the Yiddish theatre his
health and his life. He went off to London after many
years to play a sick and broken person. He, dukht
zikh mir, not even having travel expenses had to
borrow money. He went of to America. There he no longer
acted, and he suffered and died."
Another London critic, under
the pseudonym of "Der man fun di baks," tried in his
characterization to explain K.'s approach to the
"In life--a human being
without a defilement [gal.] With a lovely smile
he often met someone with a word of comfort. On the
stage, at rehearsals, he is just opposite this. Strict,
sharp, not nakhgebnd, and is meticulous khkhut
speculation, actually a robber (gzln.) In life he
caresses his glances, and the eyes smiled. Behind the
curtains he sticks his glances sharply as shpizn,
which in both cases he was serious. ... he had love for
the theatre arts as art, without pnius, without
personal eygenzukht, and therefore he was so
strict to everyone who had a relationship to acting. ...
the advantage of seriousness at times proved itself on
the stage, not only at rehearsals. On the stage, when he
lived through this type through which he performed, he
had however also in his mind the other players, and when
the great singers "broke the ear" with a false tone, so
that there would not be a hole in their heart a false
movement of the actor [?] He will toil in his acting. He
cannot otherwise endure it, and it annoyed him when it
is elsewhere. This is, without a doubt, a virtue, but a
fault that one could often discern. .... Mr. Kessler has
love for the arts, even more for the gourmet who
patentirn zi. But because he has love for the arts,
he maintains that medicine must be mixed with sugar, if
they don't wish to take it. And he has love for the
Jewish public as his children, and therefore he often
gives them candy [gashvarg], but not anything
harmful, only appetizing um zi eyntsugevenen to
B. Gorin-- "History
of Yiddish Theatre," Vol. II, p. 273.
A. Frumkin-- A
yidishe theater-milkhome in london, "Forward," N.Y.,
12 November 1912.
Meyer]-- H' yozef kesler tsu zayn hayntigen ehren
abend, "Di tsayt," London, 10 November 1913.
Morris Meyer-- "Di
tsayt" un dos pavilion theater, dort, 2 December
S. Dingol-- Nuyorker
yidishe "stars" in london, "Forward," N.Y., 6 May
Louis Reingold-- Der
shlos fun yidishen theater sizon in london, dort, 3
H' yozef kesler in "hamlet," "Di tsayt," London, 28
M.M.-- Sholem ash's "motke
ganev," dort, 5 November 1922.
M.M.-- H' yozef
kesler als svengali, dort, 8 December 1922.
Kritikus-- H' yozef
kesler's abshieds abend, dort, 10 May 1923.
A. Brahinsky-- H'
yozef kesler's yubileum, dort, 30 November 1923.
N. Frank-- H' yozef
keslers forshtelungen in pariz, dort, 7 January
N. Frank-- Ven men
vil shteygen hoykh, "Der tog," N.Y., 8 February
M. Osherowitz-- Yozef
kesler dertselt interesante zakhen vegn yidishn
theater in afrika, "Forward," N.Y., 21 August 1924.
Bagaysterte oyfname fun h' yozef kesler, "Di tsayt,"
London, 17 June 1925.
Bn-A-- H' yozef
kesler in dem "vatshman," dort, 21 June 1925.
M. Kleinman-- Vegn
yidish theater, dort, 1 June 1927.
Kritikus-- Di ershte
farshtelung fun kesler's nayem yidishn theater sezon,
dort, 8 June 1927.
kumenden sezon fun yidishn theater in london, dort,
15 July 1925.
Avi Efrim-- Yozef
kesler vegn zayn bazukh in poyln, "Lodzer tagenblat,"
Lodz, 18 September 1927.
Der man fun di baks--
Theater miniaturen, "Yidishe post," London, 2
Morris Meyer-- H'
yozef kesler un dos yidishe theater, "Di tsayt,"
London, 18 January 1928.
Shekspier's "koyfman fun venedig," dort, 19 March
N. Frank-- Yoze
kesler's ershter oyftrit in foly dramatik, "Parizer
haynt," Paris, 20 June 1928.
Areyengeyer-- Der "nes"
in pavilion theater, "Di tsayt," London, 10 June
Sh. Pan-- "Di royber"
fun shiler oyfgefirt fun yozef kesler, "Di post,"
London, 20 January 1928.
Morris Meyer-- "Libe
tsum yidshn theater!, "Di tsayt," London, 16 January
Kritikus-- H' y.
kesler in "der farbrekher," dort, 18 January 1929.
Sh. Pan-- "A leson in
libe" oyfgefirt fun yozef kesler, "Di post," London,
22 May 1929.
erefenung fun pavilion teater, "Di tsayt," London,
dort, 18 December 1929.
Morris Meyer-- H'
yozef kesler un dos yidishe theater in london, dort,
18 December 1929.
[--]-- H' kessler's
letste forshtelung, dort, 23 December 1929.
"Album of the Yiddish Theatre," N.Y., 1937, p. 26.
Morris Meyer-- "Yidish
teater in london," 1942, pp. 100, 111, 115, 136,
Celia Adler-- "Celia
Adler Recalls," New York, pp. 342, 403, 587.