Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Louis Kremer

K. was born on 22 September 1876 in Grodno, Russia-Poland. His parents were of the richest families in the city. He learned in a yeshiva, and also secular studies. Due to a great conflict in the city, his father immigrated to America, wherein K. arrived in 1888 with the entire family. Here he learned in a public school and began to attend the Yiddish theatre, which he virtually fell in love with, especially Mogulesco, and he became his errand boy. At age fourteen K. joined in the amateur group "Young Dramatic Club" and decided by himself to become a playwright. Thus on 30 July 1890 there was staged in "Valeraler Hall" on Orchard Street K.'s three-act play, "Dos arbeters sud (The Workers' Secret?)," in which he played. Then he participated in Horowitz's "Der poylisher yingl (The Polish Youth?)," under the direction of the author's editor, Betsalel Grinberg.

As a young man K. threw himself into the worker's movement, and worked with children coats. During a general strike he became the leader of the strike, and he became very popular as a worker's speaker, and started off union meetings, together with that day's grace, where Joseph Barondess, Emma Goldman, Dr. Michael Cohen, Leon Zametkin and Meir Shoenfeld. After the strike K. was organizer for a Brownsville local of the "Children's Jacket Makers Union."

About this period in K.'s activities, J. Kirshenbaum writes:

"Deep in his heart, he struggled with the 'secret' that he must become an actor. He especially admired Boris Thomashefsky.


...Kremer decided by himself that he would become both a writer and a character actor. ...(After his first play, and after his playing Mogulesko's role in 'Polish yingl.') He is after everything a speaker, an organizer, but among the workers they already called him 'Thomashefsky' or 'Adler.' He used to declaim at workers' meetings worker songs from David Edelstat. J. Botoshansky and Morris Rosenfeld. These statements and his speeches about freedom and justice for the workers helped him a lot in his popularity as an actor, writer and later also as a director and star."

K., together with Elias Rothstein and Solomon Manne endorsed the referendum to recognize the Jewish actors' union as the Union.

In 1896 K., the star, director and main actor in the "Thalia Music Hall" (Broome Street; manager -- Kopelman), where he had a great success. In 1902 K. returned to the Worker's Movement and was from then on a professional actor. Here he directed his revue "Goldfaden's Album," acted and wrote many sketches, among them the famous comedy, "Shnayders shpiln teater (Tailors Play Theatre?)." Then he played for several seasons in Spivak's vaudeville house, "Oriental Musich Hall" (manager: Rafael Boyarski-Bogart), "People's Music Hall" (manager: Harry Levy), where he wrote three-act sketches, among them, "Der tsunist (The Unionist?)," "Fremde mames (Strange Mothers?)," and he also directed a series of literary plays, such as "Shma yisroel" by Dymow, "Got fun nekome (God of Vengeance)" by Asch, "Der kenig (The King)" by Yushkevich, and "Der tayvl (The Devil)," by Molner (translator Yitskhok Auerbach).

J. Kirshenbaum, after a conversation with Kremer, writes:

"Louis Kremer every time portrays the theatres in the following way: From the front there was the cafe or, better to say, the beer saloon. On the window there was written the announcement, which read as follows: 'Extra, extra, today there will be played 'Dos umgliklekhe meydl (The Unhappy Girl?)," a drama in three acts by Louis Kremer, best Romanian pepper, carnation, liver, large glass of beer five cents, entrance free.' The hall, where one acted, was after the bar and kitchen. It was a large room, lined with round tables on which there were benches. The stage was put together from boards, like a platform without a bridge, and with a ridiculous thing.

On the weekdays the tables were put in these theatrical remains "naked," that is, a mixture. Only on Saturdays and Sundays they would have it decorated by covering the tables with tablecloths. Therefore, the buyers had to buy two glasses of beer. It goes without saying that the attendee, those who decided to eat were given better places.

The waiter in these theatres had few who argued with the actors on stage and shouted their words out loud: "Fried liver and a glass of beer!" Very often Very often it seemed that just when a mother was moving (on the stage), the death of her miserable child, yanking his hair on his head, the waiter suddenly cried out: "A steak with onions." A second waiter calls out: "Another one chopped." One can imagine what the actors experienced in such a performance."

When the small impresario began to make several creations due to this, when the city management and the fire department made more stringent conditions for the vaudeville house, K. was the first to begin acting vaudeville on the "Clinton Street Roof Garden," which was built in 1900, and already had a stage with electrical lights.

J. Kirshenbaum writes:

Louis Kremer had, just like the Lowenwirth brothers, played in "not-well-written" plays. This was known in those years as "arbl-proze." From this, it seems that a large number of "illiterate" actors were then added to the theatre. They used to think of a story, or take a story of a cheap English melodrama and play it. The actors interjected what they wanted. ... Louis Kremer was the most active in the field. He used to respond to every [current] event. The majority of the actors tried to imitate the great, the true actors, and they had called these vaudeville actors, "Di fayer-makher (The Fire Makers)." Then they played that type of theatre in beer saloons until Kremer, Max Gabel, Sigmund Weintraub, (Sam) Schneier, (Louis) Morgenbesser, Hymie Adler, Benny Adler, Louis Bockshitsky, Isidore Lillian, (Samuel) Lowenfeld, Louis Gilrod, Ab. Kogut and others, founded a union for which Louis Kremer was the leader. The small theatres started to put on (write) one-acters, and there were dramas, comedies and operetta writers, among them Loujis Kremer, who had, just as 'Professor" Horowitz, written time-scenes, two-act and three-act sketches for daily (local) or secular happenings.

In the year 1908 Kremer wrote a three-act play with the name, "Sara Cotton." This was a sensational murder story, as a Jewish nurse (barhartzike sisters) is accused of a murder. ...Kremer has in his play displayed the entire tragedy, and (with) each day his play became more and more popular, because he had, according to people's instinct, demonstrated that Sara Cotton, the 'murderer,' will be freed. ...When the process had occurred, the nurse of the 'jury' was freed, and Louis Kremer then became more popular than before. ...Kremer became famous as a sketch-artist, the vaudeville theatres were torn about him, because he was young, modern and very able and understood how to take advantage of each theater event. ..He also says with joy that just as he had predicted in his play Sarah Cotton's liberation, he also, in his play, "Mendel beilis" (or "Blood Libel"), in four acts and twelve scenes, staged and scened by Louis Kremer, 22 October 1913 in Louie Kremer's "Comedy" Theatre. The play was actually written together with L. Kanner), noting that the poor martyr will be released with honor.  ...Kremer also wrote a play about the Russian spy Azef and Rasputin. ..He had, he said, around one hundred and sixty plays and several hundred sketches, besides songs, epigrams, and theatre episodes."

In 1915 K. went into the "Grand Theatre" (manager: Louis Goldstein), where he played vaudeville for around ten years. here he also wrote many one-act sketches, among them, "Di gedemejte familye (The Damaged Family)," "Shtrof far zind (Punishment for Sin)," "Farshemt a tate," "Der griner khosn (The Green Bridegroom?)," "Dem farmers tokhter (The Farmer's Daughter)" (played together with Leon Blank), "Zindike mener" (played by Malvina Lobel). Some of the subjects, that he himself added, were taken from the English stage, others from skits in the press. In 1924 K. played for a season in legitimate Yiddish theatre in the "Hopkinson" Theatre.

In 1925 K. guest-starred in Buenos Aires, Argentina (at the "Teatro Olympia"), where he staged and acted in the span of eight weeks, "Di dray kales (The Three Brides)," and four weeks in "Nyu york baynakht (New York at Night)," and also performed in the title roles of "Moshke khazir (Moshke the Swine)," "Motke ganev (Motke the Thief)," "Di gevilah (The Limit?)," and in Hirshbein's comedy, "Dem shmids tekhter (The Blacksmith's Daughter)." Returning to New York, he played for two seasons in vaudeville in the "Prospect" Theatre, then in the "McKinley Square" Theatre, in the "Liberty" Theatre, later he returned to the legitimate theatre with Elvin in Newark, then with Mitnick in Montreal, guest-starring from time to time across the province, early on with Rose Wallerstein, and then with Rose Becker (sp).

K. published in an Argentinean journal, "Punim'er un pun'im lakh," several theatre episodes, and in N' 48, 1925 his caricature, "Khatzkel der melekh fun mitsrayim (Khatzkel, the King of Egypt), a modern Yiddish operetta in three acts," K. also was in New York's "Tog," publishing a series of articles about Yiddish vaudeville.

K. also wrote two vaudevilles, which were played in English: "A Family in the East Side," and "Uncle Sam in Berlin," which he alone played in the "National" Theatre.

Becoming ill, K. was taken into New York's "Guild for the Jewish Blind," from where he wrote for the "Daily Morning Journal" his memoirs about former Yiddish actors, and also various episodes from the Yiddish theatre.

K.'s sister, Ida, has played on the Yiddish stage.

On 9 May 1964 K. passed away and came to his eternal rest in the cemetery plot of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance.

Sh.E. and M.E. from Charles Cohan.

  • J. Kirshenbaum -- Louis kremer velkhe hot gekenigt in vadevil, iz itst "a fargesener," "Morning Journal," N.Y., 17 Nov. 1939.






Home       |       Site Map       |      Exhibitions      |      About the Museum       |       Education      |      Contact Us       |       Links

Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6,  page 4954.

Copyright Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved.