Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Rudolph Marks


Born circa 1867 in Odessa, Ukraine. His father, Mikhal HaLevy Radkinson, was a well-known mashkhil in Russian and later also had translated the Talmud in English, had edited Yiddish, Hebrew and English journals and in general was an important figure in the contemporary Yiddish literary societal world [see Zalmen Reisen's "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature, Volume 4, pp. 10-11.]

At the age of fifteen M. wandered off to London and here quickly began to act in Yiddish theatre.

"It was his liveliness and his natural mischievousness of youth," writes M. Osherowitch--that had brought him onto the stage. He was young, he knew how to dance, he knew how to sing, and when these qualities needed to be expressed. He had found the best place for these [qualities]--the stage."

About M.'s acting in London, according to Z. Zylbercweig, Max Rosenthal tells: "In London (in 1885) there was two Yiddish theatre companies (troupes.) One with Jacob P. Adler at its head, and one with Israel Gradner. In one of the two companies an actor Max Radkinzon was acting, or as one used to call him "Maksl." Every actor used to look with esteem on this young actor, because he knew that he was "an educated person"....they also regarded the young Radkinson as a young, capable actor, for certain, that soon became noticed: Radkinzon joined Gradner's troupe and there performed in the melodrama, "Moshele soldat (Moshe the Soldier)," and he created a furor. From then on Radkinzon became a popular member of the Yiddish actors' family in London."

Due to the shortage in repertoire, M. tested his power by translating and adapting plays. His first work in the field of translation was the free translation [according to a production in the English theatre] of the English melodrama, "The Stowaway," under the name, "Der saylor [matroz] in gefar, oder, Der yesoymim in gefar."

As Max Rosenthal tells it, M.'s knowledge of Yiddish and Hebrew was weak or close to nothing. Despite his poor Yiddish, the play enjoyed a great success, because it had a deep subject and several good roles. In the play, M. played three small character roles ("Rentshek," "Shreyer," and "William the Newsboy"), and in each of the three roles he had success. This gave him added courage, and he realized that such melodramas could give him continual success, and some weeks later he (he continued at night attending the English theatre) wrote down by memory the melodrama, "The Silver King," which at first was performed with great success in Manchester and then in London. In the play M. acted in two roles.

In 1888 by himself M. (not brought over by anyone) arriv3d in America. Here under the pseudonym of Rudolf Marks performed in the Roumanian Opera House in Shomer's "Moshele soldat" and he was very excluded, although in the troupe there was playing the some popular actors such as Mogulesco, Feinman, Kessler, Lipzin, Karp and his wife, Aba Shoengold and his wife, Bina and Mendl Abramowitz, Leon Blank, Israel Weinblatt and his daughter Sabina.

N.'s second performance was in his own adaptation of "Der yesoymim in gefar" with David Kessler as "Seylor." Here M. continued to act in the three small character roles and as it was one of the first plays of non-Jewish life, which then was produced on the Yiddish stage in America, and it made a deep impression. The troupe then went over to Poole's Theatre, where M. performed in a serious father role in the play "Kbod ab" and again he had a great success, especially his death scene.

According to B. Gorin there was staged in 1889 M.'s play, "Di blinde yesoyme, a folks-shtik in five acts" and "Der amerikaner loyer."

On 7 February 1890 M. played in Hengens Theatre (formerly Poole's) his adaption "di tsvey shvester, oder, engel un tayvl," and on 12 December 1890 in the Roumanian Opera House, his adaptation "Der boyery tremp, oder, Der hoypt trefer" In the same year there was--according to B. Gorin--also stageed M.'s plays "Di primadonne," "Di shneiderin" and "Khayim in amerike" [according to Bessie Thomashefsky adapted from the English melodrama "The Burglar"]. In the play, which for a long time remained in the repertory of the Yiddish theatre in America and also then was staged in Europe, M. acted in the role of "Lawyer [advocate] "Harry Harrison" and the idea came to M. to become an advocate. He took to his studies, but meanwhile he continued to act on the stage. Thus M. on 26 November 1891 he performed in the Roumanian Opera House during a benefit production for the "Arbeter-tsaytung" in his "stage adaptation"  as monologue Jacob Gordin's "Pantale palge far dem beit-din shul melh." M. used this monologue very often to perform in the various Sunday concerts in New York and its environs. M. had especially in this time excelled as "Mufti" in Lateiner's "Judith and Holofernes" and "Artshsrh" in Lateiner's "Daniel in leybngrub," "Shmulikl" in Lateiner's "Blimele," and in Lateiner's "Kiddush Hashem, oder, Der yidisher minister." M. also for a short time played in the province, such as in Boston, Philadelphia et al, and he then returned to New York, where on 4 December 1896 he performed in the Windsor Theatre his melodrama "Perele, oder, Farloyrn in nyu york," and shortly thereafter withdrew from the stage.

According to B. Gorin, in the same year there was also performed M.'s play "Gelt, oder, tremp."

According to Max Rosenthal M.'s withdrawal from the stage was attributed to the fact that he had always strove to be a serious dramatic actor, but his figure moreover had prevented him from this. He therefore was forced to play character roles, and even though he also had found success in them, he lost the rights (?) nevertheless to the stage.


About this Ab. Cahan writes: "We cannot deny that Rudolph Marks was a very talented actor who played a very important part in Yiddish drama. However, he could never be compared to Mogulesco." And M. Osherowitch writes: "It did not take long for Rudolph Marks to make a name for himself as a very talented comedian on the Yiddish stage in America. It is said by some spokespeople: "Rudolph Marks is Moguelsco's greatest competition." His (Marks) ambition was always to be a comic like Mogulesco. He always knew that he would never achieve this. Albeit that at that very time, the financial status of the Yiddish theatre was very difficult. Therefore, Rudolph Marks decided to forsake the stage and began to study to become a lawyer."

"M., however, seldom worked as an attorney. His few appearances in the court were on behalf of charity cases such as benefits on behalf of Mogulesco's widow, or for the pioneer actor Moshe Zilberman (6 January 1915 in Kessler's Theatre). Incidentally, M.'s translation if Franz Molnar's "The Devil," for the Yiddish theatre, was presented on 11 September 1908 in the People's Theatre. In those years, when he was no longer active in the Yiddish theatre, M. Osherowitch wrote that from time to time he would drop in on the Yiddish theatre. But he never wanted anyone to know that he would be coming, nor did he want anyone to make a big to-do about his appearance. Quietly he would enter, see the presentation, and after that he didn't speak to anyone. He was very guarded about every word he spoke, But from time to time he would pronounce: "In the old days it was different."

Apparently, even though M. had distanced himself for so many years from the Yiddish theatre, he never became completely estranged from it. Max Rosenthal, the actor, said that back in 1928, "M. mentioned that he was going to be involved once more with Yiddish theatre in New York. He also indicated that he had written several new plays for the Yiddish stage."\

In his last years M. returned to his name of Radkinson and under that name worked as a lawyer.

On 6 May 1930 M. passed away in New York. His body, according to the instructions in his will, was cremated.

M. also wrote many songs that were sung in his plays, or in other plays of that period. Especially popular on their own were M.'s couplets, "Hello, Hello," "The Mirror of the Bowery Tramp" "Far, Very Far," "Beautiful and Large," "Together with You" and "Praying from One Prayer Book." According to Jacob Kirshenbaum, "The songs were written half in Yiddish and half in a combination of Russian and German, but for the theatre at that time they were exactly what was needed because the plays were themselves in that sort of language." Some of M.'s songs were printed in Minikes' "The Yiddish Stage" (New York, 1897).

According to B. Gorin M.'s play "Uncle Moshe" was also performed.

Y. Fishman characterized M.: "From all of the disappearing perso0ns, Marks was perhaps one of the remarkable, that a son from such a famous secular family should be attracgted to the theare. Even more remarkable was Mark's sudden separation from the theatre. Furthermore, it was a wonder that his solution was to be an acgtor. At that time he was very involved with the audience, but he himself appreciated his talent as an actor less than did other performers. "I'll never be a Mogulesco" was repeated by many of his crowd. This was a modest feature of an actor."

  • B. Gorin-- "Gesh. id. teat.," II, pp. 49, 151, 289.

  • Z. Reyzen-- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vol. IV, pp. 69-70.

  • [--]-- Idishe aktoren ferginen zikh nit, ober nit imer, "Forward," N. Y., 6 January 1915.

  • Bessie Thomashefsky-- "Mayn lebens-geshikhte," New York, 1916, pp. 106, 131.

  • Jacob P. Adler-- "Mayn leben," "Di naye varhayt," N. Y., 7 April 1925.

  • Nekrologn in der yidisher prese, New York, 7 May 1930.

  • M. Osherowitz-- Geshtorbn rudolf marks, Der amohliger barimter komiker, "Forward," N. Y., 7 May 1930.

  • Y. Fishman-- Fun tog, tsu tog, "Morning Journal," N. Y., 8 May 1930.

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum-- Rudolf marks--radkinson, actor, loyer un dramturg, "Morning Journal," N. Y., 8 May 1930.

  • Z. Zylbercweig-- Interesante eyntseleyten vegen dem okorsht geshtorbenem rudolf marks, "Forward," N. Y, 8 May 1930.






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Translated from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1269.
Translated by Steven Lasky and Shaul Azaroff.

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