Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Sigmund Mogulesko
(Zelig Mogilevski)

Born on 16 December 1858 in Zlatopolye, Bessarabia. His father was Yoel Sharigrodski, who changed his family name to Mogilevski. His father was a pious person, had a little bit of learning, and was a mechanic in a factory in Ominsk. His mother, Rukhl-Leah, was a woman of aristocratic descent, the daughter of Lazar Chagall (sp), himself a scholar/religious teacher. She knew many laws, and people in town would say that if she wasn't Jewish, she would have been a rabbi. Her maternal uncle was the Chief Rabbi.

Mogulesko's brother later was the supervisors of cantors in Debretsin (Hungary), and there ended his family name of Schvartsfeld.

At age nine, Mogulesko left his father and the community had given his mother a weekly pension. This had been the case for many years, and the mother gave him away as a choirboy to the Cantor Yosef Heller (called "The New Cantor").

Mogulesko recalls in his autobiography that

as a choirboy to Cantor Nisan Belzer, they ministered to them. and that he was married (gekhnfet) to the older choirboys, and this why they secretly taught him to read notes, which he learned outright in the span of four months, and he soon became known as "Zeligl, the Note Glutton."


After his mother's passing, according to Mogulesko, he was a choirboy for Nisan Belzer in Kishinev, where he received sixty rubles a year, and twelve "marks" from him, which the choirboys "made on the side." Here he continued to learn notes with the choirboy (tenor) Berl Liulkemacher (sp). Mogulesko's name reached Bucharest, to Cantor Israel Kuper, who came to Kishinev and "stole" him away from Nisan Belzer's chorus. With Kuper in the Great Synagogue Mogulesko received twenty francs a month and only sang solos here.

At the age of fourteen he joined the conservatory in Bucharest, where he learned with Professor Britianu and soon after the first year he received a prize. From then, in 1874, he was recommended  as a chorister to a guest-starring French operetta troupe, in which he sang together with the future Yiddish actors Lazar Zuckerman, Danile Mann, and Moses Wald (later a cantor in Hungary), and when the troupe disbanded, he appeared with them as an "Israelite Chorus" at various events. At the same time they also used to sing (in secret) every Sunday in the church chorus. On Saturdays in the evenings with Cantor Kuper they would come together as guests, and Mogulesko used to imitate the actors for them, with which it was him [?], as a chorister, to come out and act. He especially copied the Romanian comedian Milu, in the comedy, "Vladutsu mamu (The Mother's Muzinikl)."

In that time Mogulesko loses his age and can no longer earn a living by singing. For two years then he works as a franzn worker. At first when he got his voice back, as a tenor, he returned to Cantor Kuper, with whom he was also a choir conductor. However, Mogulesko no longer had a desire to be a choirboy -- it took him onto the stage.

B. Gorin recalls:

" ... When at a joyous event they used to call for choirboys, Mogulesko used to entertain the audience, not with his singing, but also with imitating Romanian actors. He also used to display such pieces to the cantor in the house when the fine and well-to-do used to gather with him on a Saturday night, and the public licked their fingers. This reached Goldfaden and immediately after his arrival in Bucharest he sent for the above mentioned four choirboys. At the audition, Mogulesko presented a scene from the Romanian piece, 'Vladutsu mamu,' and this was the original from the future play, 'Shmendrik.' Goldfaden was so pleased with the production, that not only had he take Mogulesko into his troupe, he also said that he will translate the piece and create a Yiddish play for him."

In order to recruit choirboys in the Yiddish theatre, he met up with some opposition from the congregation members. Not being able to punish the choirboys, the congregation warned Cantor Kuper, who himself not only allowed his choirboys to sing in the Yiddish theatre, but he himself used to frequent the theatre.

The essay in the form as was written in the book of the great synagogue in Bucharest with a Yiddish translation, was published in "Archive of Yiddish Theatre" (issued by UVIO, Vilna, 1930).

In Bucharest Goldfaden renewed the offering of his comedy, "Di bobe mitn eynikl (The Grandmother with Her Grandson)," in which Mogulesko played "The Grandson," and in "Di intrige, oder, Dvosye di spletintse (The Intrigue, or, Dvosye the ?)." He played the role of "Rokhele" and the Zaiker (sp) servant."

Gorin recalls:

"Mogulesko copied the young wife so well that when Goldfaden's wife sat in the theatre and looked on as her husband (who had played the dramatic role), kissing on stage with a beautiful girl, She became jealous."

Soon thereafter in Bucharest he appeared in Goldfaden's comedy, "Shmendrik" (with Mogulesko in the title role), which played with great success. This moved Gradner to request from Goldfaden that he write for him a special play. Goldfaden translated and shortly directed Katzeboy's tragedy, "Di vilde inzl (The Wild Island)," in which Mogulesko played as "The Negress" with such success that it made Gradner unhappy, and thus he left the troupe.

The fear that Gradner's performance of Goldfaden's weak group caused the troupe to break up, turned out to be unfounded. The audience was so satisfied with Mogulesko's acting, that they entirely forgot Gradner, and in a short time, Gradner alone engaged Mogulesko for the troupe.

About Mogulesko's popularity among the Jews in Romania, Leon Blank recalls in his memoirs:

"I still think of how my parents, who had never been to a theatre in their lives, used to tell news of the "actor" Mogulesko, of the "evenings", even though they had never seen him. I also remember that every Saturday, when my dad used to take a choirboy as a guest to the table, he used to ask him to eat mimic Mogulesko as he sings the song "Patah Shin Sha" in "Di bobe yakhne." Just one of the choirboys, Velvel, he said -- who did not imitate badly the sounds of the song "Patah Shin Sha," the way that Mogulesko sang this little song. My parents were very pleased with him, and he became a favorite of them. The name Mogulesko in that time was enveloped in the legends among thousands and thousands of Jews who had never seen him; they recalled about him a thousand and one stories, and it is a fact that when someone used to tell a good joke somewhere, which made everyone laugh, they soon said: But, Mogulesko, Mogulesko, a life on him. "It was impossible to imagine that a good joke should not have come from Mogulesko ... If they were forced into a wedding, they tried to dance a "Khasidl" or just "Kazachok," it was "just like Mogulesko." That you became happy at a bris [circumcision], they tried to sing a song, "Just Like Mogulesko" His name was kept in his mouth, with all the joys. It resonated with him throughout the entire Yiddish world [in Romania]. "

After Gradner's exit from the troupe, Mogulesko became the main actor (the troupe called itself with his name), and due to the outbreak of the Russian-Turkish War, he did good business. He now directed Joseph Latayner's play, "Yente pipernoter (Yente the Dragon?)," a comedy, in which he played the title role and in doing so, they gain even greater attachment to the theatre public.

Later Latayner put together a troupe with Mogulesko as the main role player, and among others they played Itskhok Libresko's piece, "Di derfilte libe," an adaptation of Isaac-Meir Diks story, "Di tsvey kleine katerinshtshikes." About the offering Libresko recalls in his memoirs:

"In my play there was a role for a lover, and in the entire troupe there wasn't anyone who should play this role, but Mogulesko, the comedian of the troupe, began to play the lover, because he had a desire to ply the lover."

But the good material conditions in Yiddish theatre in Romania ended when the war ended. Goldfaden, with his troupe left (in 1879) for Odessa, and the owner of the theatre, the Greek Omar -- B. Gorin writes -- "had no concept about the other Yiddish actors in Romania, but here Spivakovski intervened and explained to him about the great reputation that Mogulesko had grown, and what kind of furor he would make in Odessa if he undertook to move with his campaign, with his repertoire. ... Mogulesko and Latayner were then in Botosani, and they barely slept. They seized the proposal, and all four (Mogulesko, Latayner, Y. Spivakovski, and Libresko) immediately went off to Odessa. ... All of them became partners. In order that Goldfaden should not become aware, and even before then, before it was certain that Mogulesko can find some livelihood in Russia, and whether he would have any plays for the theatre. It goes without saying that Omar came to have Goldfaden's repertoire, but they were told there would be no obstacle. Latayner already had some tried-and-true pieces, ('Der dybuk,' 'Shmuel shmelkes,' 'Yente pipernoter' by Latayner et al.), and Mogulesko also brought the 'Poylishn yingel (The Polish Youth),' by Horowitz. With these pieces Omar went away to Peterburg and they allowed them to censor, and when he became sure of a troupe and plays, he unceremoniously threw Goldfaden out of the theatre and brought in Mogulesko with his company (According to I. Libresko, for a certain time there was a Yiddish troupe in Odessa. Abraham Goldfaden then played with his troupe in Nikolaev, and Naftali Goldfaden with his troupe found itself in Kishinev. Mogulesko also didn't take Goldfaden away from the theatre, but only took over a free theatre building.) The first piece they put on was 'Yente pipernoter' by Latayner, and it descended into drums and dances. Only the second piece, which also was Latayner's and was called, 'Shmuel shmelkes,' took off."

According to B. Botwinik, an eyewitness, writes in his memoirs that Mogulesko began is productions in Odessa in 1880. For the first production he offered Latayner's comedy, "Der dbuk, oder, Di bobe khava (The Debacle?, or, The Grandmother Chava)," with Mogulesko as "Grandmother Chava," and later "Der lets (The Buffoon?)," which presented itself before "Dbuk." Then there was played Latayner's "Di libe fun tsion (The Love of Zion)," Horowitz's "Dos poylishe yingel (The Polish Youth)" (Mogulesko in the role of "Shmuel Gorgel"), and Shomer's "Der yidisher printz (The Jewish Prince)," with Mogulesko as "Leiserke der krumer": "At the end of the first production, Mogulesko appeared on stage dressed in a suit and sang a couplet, with which greatly impressed the audience. He was called out so many times, until he became tired. They wished they could see Mogulesko playing in Goldfaden's plays, but the first time that Mogulesko appeared in Odessa, he didn't have permission to perform in Goldfaden's plays." But -- Weinstein continues to write -- Later in America I realized that many of the plays that Mogulesko had played in (the second time he acted in Odessa), were indeed Goldfaden's. He changed the plays and gave the names because Goldfaden had not allowed him to play it. ... In a small period of time, after that, Mogulesko's director became Lerner. He was a journalist, and he had received permission from the powers that Mogulesko should be able to play in Odessa all of Goldfaden's plays. In Goldfaden's plays Mogulesko at first made a great impression in Odessa."

According to Bina Abramowitz, also an eyewitness, the troupe consisted of Mogulesko and his wife, Aba Shoengold and his wife, Mogulesko, Zylberman and his wife, Sh. Goldstein and his wife Sophie, Paulina Edelstein, Mogulesko Teich, the child Sabina Lakser, Latayner was the author for the troupe, Joseph Edelstein was the cashier, and the manager of the troupe was Y.Y. Lerner.

In the period under Lerner's direction, Mogulesko appeared in Shomer's "Di kokete damen (The Coquettish Ladies)" (in the role of "Yerakhmiel") in Dr. Shlomo Ettinger's "Serkele." He participated in the offering of Moshe-Leib Lilienblum's play, "Der tsveyvaybernik."

About the acting in the play, Jacob P. Adler tells in his memoirs:

"In Lilienblum's play, for example, he played a character role, which had been serious in itself, even tragedies. Mogulesko was born to the role. The press and the public shrugged him off." According to B. Gorin:

"Before the closing act a scene appeared that was completely foreign to him (Lilienblum). In the first minute he did not understand what this was like, and from where it took place. Soon, however, he pushed himself to [discover] what it was. The two comedians who had played in the piece, Mogulesko and Weinblatt, weren't completely certain if the play was suitable."

Mogulesko took the Yiddish audience in Odessa by storm. The theatre was in a fiery mood. The press was excited. In the Russian reviews compared him to Koklen (sp). Azmidov, the editor of a Russian anti-Semitic newspaper, greatly praised Mogulesko as an actor and openly printed his regret that he [Mogulesko] was a Jew. Once after playing [Mogulesko], young Russian students surrounded Mogulesko's wagon by the theatre, stretched the horse and he stretched himself to guide him.

Mogulesko especially made a hit as "Shmuel gorgel" in Horowitz's "The Polish Youth," then in Shomer's "Jewish Prince," and in "Katorzhnik." Playing Shomer's play, "Der protsentnik (The Percentage?)," Mogulesko copied a local weekly "Kafka," and this was received with enthusiasm from the theatre community.

Due to the death of Alexander II in 1881 it was forbidden to play Yiddish theatre.

Mogulesko still published in Odessa a collection of his couplets: (comic couplets and humorous compositions for the allbekantin comedian and singer Mogulesko. First part. 1881, Odessa, 32 pp., 16o).

However the ban on Yiddish theatre was not valid for long. Soon again they began to play Yiddish theatre. Mogulesko for a certain time toured with his troupe and with other troupes, until he returned to join in with Goldfaden and played "Papus" in "Bar kokhba" (5 May, cir. 1883), for which he also composed the music to "Dos pastukhl" and "Gekumen iz di tsayt."

On 17 August 1883 a new ban came out on Yiddish theatre, and the Yiddish-Romanian actors traveled back to Romania. here Morris Finkel began to manage troupes, and Mogulesko was one of the members of his troupe. Due to a conflict regarding economic matters, Mogulesko left the troupe and founded a quartet in Bucharest (Mogulesko, Lazar and Mindl Zuckerman, and David Hirsh), which performed in a garden with Romanian, Russian and Yiddish numbers. After singing and dancing, Mogulesko used to go around with a plate to collect an "honorarium" among the attendees.

After Mogulesko's appearance for Finkel's troupe, there the number of attendees got smaller. Finkel therefore compulsorily following Mogulesko's efforts and afterwards joined the troupe (Bucharest, Jignitza Garden). The business got better. A short time later the troupe traveled to Iasi, but Mogulesko became very dissatisfied with Romania and left with Finkel for London. Here Mandelkern was found, who came to engage Adler for America, but not he wasn't able to come with him. He proposed to Finkel and Mogulesko to travel with him to America, where he would create events for them, and he would bring them with their troupe to America. So, in 1886, all three traveled to America.

B. Gorin writes:

"In the month of July 1886 they arrived in New York. The name Mogulesko had rang far and wide, and in a couple of days they went over, and they signed a contract with a director. The director was a Chicagoan and did not have a theatre here in New York. However, he knew that Mogulesko with his troupe will make an impression anywhere they played. The deal was that Mogulesko should immediately travel back and bring the company here. He sent a little money for expenses, and he had to make some performances along the way. The bill was that when the company would announce that they were going to America, and gave their last productions. The customers will become much larger than usual. With the strength from such customers, the company will be able to drag itself to New York."

Leon Blank, who later came with Mogulesko's troupe to America, recalls:

"In his younger years, Mogulesko moved with confidence to people and, as he knew very little in business matters, it was no more than natural that on his first visit to the United States, he should be so entertained that afterwards he could not intrigued that he could not extricate himself. In no more than three days, and in the course of that short a time, he said with complete certainty that no one would hire him, so he entered into a contract with entrepreneurs (Drozrovitsh and Rosengarten), that his troupe must play in America. Where in America, in New York, in Chicago, or just in Passaic (a small town). ... The managers, who entered into the contract with Mogulesco, did not yet have a theatre. However, they had asserted that per Mogulesko, they would acquire the National Theatre (on Bowery). ... And in the meantime Mogulesko already traveled back to Romania and immediately brought the troupe to America."

At the end of 1886 Mogulesko brought his troupe to New York and "finally -- writes B. Gorin -- it is him (the Chicago director) [who] managed to take the Terrace Theatre on 58th Street on the week of Sukkos, and there the company gave nine productions. ... In the nine productions there appeared three pieces, and they played each piece three times. The pieces were, "Blu bard ( Fr.: Barbe-bleue) (Blue Beard)" and "Perikola (Fr.: La Périchole)," two Offenbach operettas, and "The Coquettish Ladies" by M. Shaykevitsh. Disregarding this, the campaign had disturbed theatre visitors from New York, and the audience with great impatience, waited to see the new actor on the stage, had a cold wind blew in the theatre when they appeared in the cited two operettas, and the audience left the theatre disappointed. The strange operettas were not liked by the audience, and the theatre visitors felt in the theatre like they would have fallen into a foreign marriage. Thus when "The Coquettish Ladies" appeared, the mood became elevated, a holiday-like atmosphere in the theatre. The theatre visitors felt as though they were at home, and the satisfaction of the public increased with that performance. The actors immediately rose in the eyes of the public, and what this piece has taken away, The fingers of the actors have been licked more and more."

Similarly Mogulesko recalls in his memoirs: He did not take part in Offenbach's opera "Blue Beard," because he played here as a statesman, and the theatre community expected to see him in a Jewish role. In particular, he greatly disappointed his Russian and Romanian countrymen, who still saw him in their old home playing a Khasid. Also in the the second operetta ("Perikola" by Offenbach), he fell in love with the Yiddish theatre audience, except for German visitors. First when he appeared in Shomer's "The Coquettish Ladies," had taken the audience by storm.

Leon Blank, in his articles about Mogulesko, remarked: "Just like the Jewish exodus from Europe to America in that time, in the beginning of the eighties, the Jews of Russia and Romania were very large, and there moved (to America) the "Mogulesko legend," even before Mogulesko came here by himself. There were therefore no signs. All who rejoiced at his coming waited so much in anticipation of his first performance. And there is no doubt that when our three managers knew how to use the auspicious moment, Mogulesko's fate in America at the beginning took quite a different direction, and the entire troupe of ours was barred from suffering as much as it suffered in its first years."

The first performance of the troupe took place in an unknown region for Jews, but nevertheless there were -- according to Leon Blank -- all the tickets were seized that had Mogulesko's name, from the "old home." Mogulesko appeared (in "Blue Beard") as "Papaloni," a role without jokes and without dance. Blank recalls: "After the first act, in the theatre, there was a tumult; people shouted and suffered -- They were deceived! This is not Mogulesko! It is a bluff! Outside too there was darkness -- It is not Mogulesko. ... After the second act Mogulesko alone had to go out onto the stage to quiet the audience."

Mogulesko answered that he hadn't any large role. Therefore tomorrow he will appear in the "Coquettish Ladies," where he already had a large role. In any case, the first production was a failure. The competition took advantage of that. The failure was noticed, and when Mogulesko already had appeared in "The Coquettish Ladies," the theatre was almost empty, and even those who had come to the production -- as Blank tells it -- also remained cold, because the play was without a chorus, and they spoke simple "Yiddish," and not any "German." The new failure of Mogulesko, worked even more strongly on Mogulesko, and when he came up to perform "Pericola," he did not seem to participate at all. The small audience, which was (at the first production of "Pericola"), arrived in the theatre and did not carry the play, and made noise again.

David Kessler, who also was a member in the arriving troupe, portrays such in his memoirs, the first productions of the troupe: "We had a full house. We thought that everyone was satisfied except Mogulesko, who was by nature evil and capricious in nature. Once (in the first production of "Perikola") even Mogulesko checked in and out completely, without singing while playing. It even was an useless role, which is what was needed. The audience already had come together in the theatre, when Mogulesko had learned that he wasn't allowed to act because he wasn't healthy. Among themselves friends knew that this was Mogulesko in anger because of the role he had. It was too small for him, but he did not want to say this publicly. We asked him in vain -- He is not going. In the meantime, the audience filled the theatre. It became eight, half-past eight, no, half an hour later. Mogulesko, after all, the world had taken to clap with their feet, clapping the hands and shouting. We then handed over Mogulesko's role to "Leybele Turbe" (Schwartz), who she knew very well. The audience, an exasperated one, met out own play that evening with cold and no pleasure."

The managers then demanded that Mogulesko go with his troupe to play in Chicago. Mogulesko, however, Mogulesko refused, and as they had a contract with him when he was due to play in the United States, by a court ruling, they removed the costumes and banned the troupe from material bargains, until they succeeded in getting rid of the ban and began to play under the direction of Goldman, Levy and Roth at the National Theatre, Giving it the name, "Roumanian Opera House." Then they also brought to America "Professor" Horowitz.

According to David Kessler, Mogulesko took action towards the court's ban against the troupe, and at first, thanks to the then attorney and subsequent judge Leventre, the actors were released from the contract with Mogulesko and entered the National Theatre on 1 January 1887, where they began to play the operetta, "Rashi." Later they united with Mogulesko, and with the future "Professor" Horowitz (Kessler's statement was categorically denied by the eyewitness Leon Blank.)

The first play that Horowitz produced was his tsaytbild, "Tisa Eslar (The Trial in Tiszaeszlar?)," for which Mogulesko and Gavriel Finkelstein wrote the music. About Mogulesko's playing in the play, Leon Blank writes in his memoirs:

"In the play he played the role of Moritz Sharf, the young boy, who is persuaded by the anti-Semitism. ... In the role he had serious dramatic moments that he did in a splendid manner. He also had comedian moments, which he performed so brilliantly that he had the entire audience cooked with laughter. ... In the role, Mogulesko had composed a song called 'Shalakh mones,' and it was just like in the other songs that he had written by himself for himself and also for others. He relied lightly on known passages in Jewish history."

In the second play by Horowitz, "Shlomo hamelekh (Solomon the King)," Mogulesko plays the shepherd "Sholom." The role -- Leon Blank recalls, was just not in Mogulesko's genre; he played Sholom the shepherd, who is madly in love with the beautiful Shulamis, on whom King Solomon alone has cast an eye, and she is taken into the palace, where she became one of the king's thousand wives. It was initially thought that the role would certainly be played by none other than David Kessler, since he was the main lover in the troupe. Most of us were surprised when they heard that the role of Sholom the Shepherd was given to Mogulesko. ... But Mogulesko, the miracle man, Mogulesko the wonder-worker of the stage, had shown that he was able to play a lover role exactly as well as a comedian. In the role he had so strongly taken off that the audience simply went wild with excitement. In the operetta he created a song, and by himself also wrote the music. The small song was supposed to express the idea that Sholom the shepherd is more seriously in love than the king, and that is generally not a big deal to be the beloved of a king because he, the king, bathes in the blood of his subjects and lives richly on their account. ... The poetry that was lacking in grammar [?], was in his artistic appreciation of the song and the way he sang it."

It was characteristic that when one time M. became hoarse and Kessler had represented him in this role -- according to Leon Blank -- in the theatre a great scandal broke out as an expression of dissatisfaction on the part of the theatre audience.

In 1887 -- Mogulesko played "Valentin" in Horowitz's play, "Yehuda un yisroel, oder, Sh'ma yisroel (Judah and Israel, or, Hear O' Israel?)," a free adaptation of "Di tsvey serzhantn." In the same year there was also performed Horowitz's "Don Yitzkhak Abarbanel," with music by Finkelstein and Mogulesko.

The season in the Roumanian Opera House ended without a cent before the summer. Mogulesko traveled with the troupe and some productions  to Philadelphia to Thomashefsky in the Thalia Theatre (Callowhill and 3rd Street).

Bessie Thomashefsky recalls:

""The first play they played was 'Coquettish Ladies.' Here, when I wanted to convey the impression to every actor who was participating in the play, would I not have been loyal to the actors and not to myself alone, because the impression that remained with me then, was not from the whole company, but only from one artist, one genius -- Sigmund Mogulesko. ... Mogulesko didn't play 'Galman,' he lived 'Galman.' In the scene a young man burned, A young Odessa life, [and] a fire raged in his every move. Every little look had a soul. Then came the second act, and there appeared 'Shprintze the Broker.' It was impossible for him to recognize not only this, so the 'Shprintze,' who was being played here, was not a living 'Shprintze,' brought here from home. With his gracious charm, with his genial imagination, Mogulesko played 'Shprintze,' the old Jew, who brokers services with such conviction that it was impossible for him to recognize not only this, who first played as a youth, a flame-firing young life, but it was hard to recognize 'Shprintze,' and not 'Shprintze,' but Mogulesko, neither she nor he."

Leon Blank recalls:

" ... In Shomer's 'Coquettish Ladies,' he played an three roles entirely -- two male and one female. The two male roles were so far, one from the other, as the east is from the west. In one role he was young and lively, and in the second role -- old and broken down. And in the same play, he played the role of 'Shprintze the Maker,' three various characters, three various types, and in each character, he was a great and true artist."

Also Ab. Cahan characterizes him in a similar fashion:

"The role of Shprintze that Mogulesko played, and all the time Shprintze was on the stage -- the theatre audience didn't cease to rage and thunder. the role of the young charlatan in the first act, and the role of the old drunk in the last, were both played by Mogulesko. In the Jewish quarters they did not have to speak about the wonder that he demonstrated by playing three roles in one play. A born high-minded artist, he was however, his personal grace had just as much to do with his success, as his strength as an artist. He had the theatre visitors amazed with his singing so well, as with his acting. His voice itself used to electrify his listeners, whether while he was singing, or whether he was speaking. His every turn was loved by the audience."

The second play that Mogulesko, with his troupe, played in Philadelphia, was "Yehuda un isroel," and the third -- Horowitz's "Dos poylishe yingel (The Polish Youth)," about which Bessie Thomashefsky recalls:

"The entire company had played, but I only saw 'Shmuel Gorgel.' This Mogulesko played. Here it was no longer possible to compare him with any other actor. As an aggression tree plant, so did Mogulesko with his genial charm, rise above all the [other] Yiddish actors."

But Mogulesko's success in Philadelphia ended soon: Forbidden to play on Sunday, once on a Saturday night at twelve o'clock, when the show had not yet been completed, the stage became dark, and the curtain was let down. The public did not consider it an obstacle on the part of the state administration, but rather as a fraud on the part of the actors and the attendees. The next shows became ever smaller. The troupe tried to go over to another place (Christian Hall), but also here business did not improve, and they had to return to New York, where they began to act in the Roumanian Opera House.

As Mogulesko recalls in his memoirs, the troupe there played on "markn," but the director applauded the actors, Mogulesko protested against it and went on strike. the managers then utilized Goldfaden's arrival in America (1887), and put Mogulesko out with the troupe of the theatre.

The business with Goldfaden went badly. The directors then returned and invited back the strikers, and Mogulesko joined as a partner.

In the 1887-88 season Horowitz, together with Yekhiel Shreiber took over the Poole's Theatre, wherein M. went over to them with the entire troupe from the Roumanian Opera House. As Mogulesko tells it in his memoirs, he was an actor here, and a composer, chorus director and dance teacher. Soon , however, a conflict broke out among the management of the organization [?], "Dovids harfe (David's Harp)" (see "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre, pp. 697-98), and its founder, "Professor" Horowitz, and Mogulesko became a leader of the organization.

Mogulesko became very active. He wrote music to N.M. Shaykevitsh's, "Rivka, oder, A funk yidishkeyt (Rebecca, or, a Spark of Jewishness)," in Pooling's (sp) Theatre -- formerly the Roumanian Opera House), and to "Tsvey meysim gayn tantsn (Two Dead Men Going Dancing?)," (staged on 27 December 1889).

Later, however, he left the troupe and united with Heine-Chaimowitz, playing for a short time in Turin Hall. When, however they felt like former actors, both of them went off to London in 1890, in order to bring from there Jacob P. Adler. In London, Mogulesko played in some productions.

Returning to America, M. became partners with Heine-Chaimowitz in the Poole's Theatre (with Adler as the guest performer). It didn't take long, and they went entirely into the Thalia Theatre. For that time this was an event in the Yiddish theatre world, because it was the first time that they received such a large theatre for Yiddish. The theatre was found in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, and they did very good business. However, soon the troupe of the Poole's Theatre went over to the Thalia Theatre, and Mogulesko, with Heine went back to Poole's Theatre, later in Pooling's Theatre, and from there again to the Thalia Theatre.

In that time (1890), there appeared Sigmund Feinman's "Di froy, oder, Tsvey khasenes oyf lhcheis," with music by Mogulesko, and on 25 December 1890, Zeyfert's "Der yidisher folkovnik," with music by Mogulesko and Minkovski.

On 13 November 1891 at the Union Theatre, there appeared Jacob Gordin's first play, "Siberia."

Leon Blank recalls -- "In dividing the roles, he was given the role of the servant 'Penduk' ('Shpendik'), and Mogulesko turned round and round, and everything worked on his nose. Adler, noticing this, was prepared for Mogulesko, and he said, 'I want you to know that this is not one of those plays usually played in Yiddish theatre. It is, you understand me, literature.' Mogulesko listened to him with a very serious look on his face and answered this way: 'Yes, this can be, but ... but I am afraid that our Yiddish audience will not catch it ... He will surely fall asleep.'

The end of this was that Mogulesko had composed a song "Vot tebye, vot tebye, khantse knish," which he wanted to include in the play, "With this -- recalls Blank -- Gordin ran out of patience, and clapping with his stick, he was even more distressed: 'Svolotsh' (Lump)! "Throws out his black beard -- M. is already Also out of the klim -- "Who needs him here? Why does he abuse me?" And Mogulesko concluded: He had sung the song as a protest to Gordin not coming to the premier of the first play.

In the 1893-94 season Mogulesko was the manager of the Windsor Theatre. Here he wrote, together with L. Friedsell, the music to Horowitz's "Di akeyde (The Sacrifice)," and the music to Jacob Gordin's "Der vilder mentsh (The Wild Man)" (in which he played the role of "Vladimir Vorobeytshik").

As Mogulesko tells it in his memoirs, in the season when he had heard about the terrible crisis in America, he lost his entire fortune, and in the coming season he joined Edelstein and Adler. But out of resentment he began to drink. Leon Blank tells about this:

"On the fact that he was a prisoner, an impulsive artist, said he, the great artist, nobody could ever be completely happy. Even in the best of times he had somehow lacked it. Even in the best moments he was not entirely happy. ... The audience turned his head on him -- he had always felt miserable. He had always thought that he was a cursed man. He felt the slightest crinkle too strongly. He used every experience in the depths of his beautifully felt soul. He has always had great troubles, and as time went on it was very bad and people were not sure about that, what the morning will bring. Mogulesko certainly must not have felt any trouble, and this was one of the causes -- why, from time to time, he sought to forget by drinking a bit ..."

In this season Mogulesko  worked on his skills. "Professor" Horowitz, who was the "author" of the theatre, continued to compose new plays in which Mogulesko performed. And after the performances, Mogulesko had to write the music to the operetta. He therefore simply did not have time to sleep and would sleep very often sitting at the table in the middle of the work. He had no time to study the roles, and he used to learn them during the rehearsals.

About Mogulesko's songs and his music, Leon Kobrin writes:

"Many plays on the Yiddish stage owe their success to Mogulesko's songs, their authentic Yiddish melodies.  Speaking, he (Mogulesko) did not care about his acting and not about his roles that he had created, but about the songs that he had composed, and with such artistic enthusiasm he had about the spoken [word]. Several of them, for us, he had quietly abandoned and overlooked with solemn joy in their eyes. The music of the songs -- his music -- was melodic, hearty and Yiddish, but the words of the songs ... My God, when he looked at them with a demure smile, it appeared to me as if a fountain of sun-rays would at once have sprayed [us] with dirt and leaves ... "

And Leon Blank recalls:

"In most of the songs that he had written for the stage, he displayed an inclination to historical events, and the Jewish past, and when he was far from learned, it was nothing more than natural, that he should at times fall into a mistake; so he could catch the Sanhedrin for the first time, when the Jews came from Egypt into the land of Canaan. But to him it wasn't important. ... The main thing about him was not the content of the song, only the possibility that the song gave him artistic penetration into the hearts of the Yiddish audience ... Writing a song Mogulesko had the stage every once in a while. How can he not just sing the song, but also act. As in serious songs, so in comedy."

On 18 October 1894 in the Windsor Theatre there appeared Latayner's play, "Blimele," with Mogulesko's music. Leon Blank recalls: "In 'Blimele' Mogulesko plays the role of 'Zeligl the Musician.' That is, simply be yourself, because they were actually calling after him when Mogulesko was a choirboy -- Zeligl the Musician ... besides that, that he composed all the music for the orchestra, He has the role of a naiveté, a religious young man Zeligl, played so beautifully, so graciously, that it was a pleasure to look at him anyway."

In 1895 there was staged in the Windsor Theatre Horowitz's play, "Kazari," with music by Mogulesko.

In 1896 there was a dispute in the Windsor Theatre between the troupe and the director. The manager Edelstein broke the unity between the actors by taking Thomashefsky as a partner. This fact was very difficult for Mogulesco. About this, Leon Blank tells: He had a terrible gekrivdet, and at that time, he was drinking a lot because of his troubles ... In his simplicity, Mogulesko was not overwhelmed with whom to associate, and with whom not, and that finally led him into a circle, which didn't matter to him at all. ... The hoarseness made him feel ever stronger and stronger, and he had to sail to Europe, where he began to act once again. But later again he became hoarse again and stopped playing ..."

Bessie Thomashefsky tells of another reason for Mogulesko's exit from the Windsor Theatre:

"Suddenly we lose Mogulesko from our company, what's the reason? Opposite the Thalia Theatre, the sun shone, and Mogulesko had love there to be where sun shines. But the sun is not supposed to be only a theatre sun, that is, both a son and a moon, and everything in theatrical language. The 'sun' was the new prima donna that Edelstein had brought from Europe, Berta Kalich, and the 'moon' was the lover-actor with the name of [Karl] Shramek ... It had even upset us with the story that Mogulesko was passing on to our competitor, for both the guests and him speak against us. We knew that we would do a lot of damage, but it was impossible for Mogulesko to keep up. He was a free bird and there he was, he himself made his guests." Abut the same was written by B. Gorin:

"The entire time Shaykevitsh was away from the stage. When he saw the small theatre, the former Roumanian Opera House, remained empty, he spoke together with Mogulesko, who had a reason to be dissatisfied with the new tactic, what had stopped the comedian in the background, and they both sat in there as directors. Shaykevitsh wrote a piece, where the lead role was for a comedian, And this evoked from Mogulesko the hope of regaining the place of honor on the stage, and to show the tragedians that they do not yet have the birthright in the theatre. This piece was entitled 'Homen der tsveyter (Haman II),' and it has taken a great turn for the public. Only the direction of Shaykevitsh and Mogulesko did not last long. The theatre council did not let it go back. The comedian's time, even from such a brilliant comedian as Mogulesko, was already over, and the direction of the stage did not lead to that kind of piece that Shaykevitsh had produced."

In 1898 Mogulesko for a short time guest-starred in Romania.

With Mogulesko's return to Europe, there was also a whole change in his physical life: "Many people had the impression -- writes Leon Blank '- that Mogulesko is a weak character. However, this is a mistake. He has, on numerous occasions, displayed a remarkable firmness in character, especially when it was about his health. And I remember then, when he was forty years old. Once, he decided firmly, that from now on he will no longer drink, and no longer smoke, and he kept that decision until the last day of his life -- Not drinking and not smoking ...

" ... He believed that a person should not be ashamed to do the hardest and most inconvenient work, My father did not come to anyone, and it's a fact that when he was in America, the great, the famous Sigmund Mogulesko, he was unable to play because, due to illness, he had lost his voice. He had quieted himself so that nobody would know, learning to play on a drum, and becoming a drummer in an orchestra if he cannot get his voice back."

In 1899 M. in the Thalia Theatre created the role of "Zisl Kroynes" in Gordin's "Di shkhite (The Slaughter)," and he played the role of "Motke Bass" in Leon Kobrin's "East Side Ghetto. "About his acting in these roles, the author writes:

"...My wife told me that a few days before the first show, she had stumbled upon a type like Mote Bass on Hester Street. I ran away to Mogulesko at his home. And soon we were on Hester Street and Mogulesko was talking to Jews, who sold him a bag for a small basket ... And at the first production of the 'East Side Ghetto,' every Jew came out, he may be missing a hair [?]. His own voice, his own movements, his own yellow bird with a tailored tail, the same look, the same mines, only with the particular Mogulesko grace, and scared with his spirit. ... In the play the workers came up with good-natured holiday songs with singing. Mogulesko composed a melody without words. And what kind of mood did that Mogulesko melody bring to the stage! The joy of the Jewish beggar, the Jewish laborer echoed in him, a joy soaked in groans and tears. ... In this melody, which they sang in the first act, one felt the entire tragedy of the Jewish worker, which was reflected in the following acts ... "

In the same year he also played in the Thalia Theatre "Matias Fingerhut" in Jacob Gordin's "Sappho." Leon Kobrin writes in his memoirs:

"He appeared as Sappho's father in Gordin's 'Sappho.' Nobody knew him yet. Only soon after his performance, how he holds his shoulders, wears his hat, throws his hands, and specifically the way he turns to his wife -- ' Give me a glass of tea," immediately recognize in him as the lawless Jew with the tiny soul, which is called the left-hand side of the state civilization. He believed in himself, he loved himself … and also his stomach; apart from that he thought of nothing else. You felt sorry for his wife and you were hurting for his daughter. This could have been demonstrated to Mogulesko with a few strokes of the pen. By the way, as for this role, he himself told me that he didn’t care for it at all.

In the same season there was also staged Solotorefsky's "Der kol-boynik, oder, Di yidn in chemnitski's tsayt," with music by Mogulesko.

And about Gordin's own operetta, "Di sheyne miryam (The Beautiful Miriam)," with Mogulesko's music (appeared in the same year), Leon Kobrin writes:

"So also years ago Jacob Gordin's 'Sheyne miryam' Mogulesko's famous song, 'Das pekele,' for its great success, which they were singing in almost every Jewish house.

In 1901 there was staged in the People's Theatre, Shomer-Shaykevitsh's "Di emigrantn (The Emigrant)," in which Mogulesko had been very popular.

Leon Blank writes:

"Mogulesco had played the role 'Feitl Pavolye,' where he used the two words 'Uncle, Pavolye,' which he said so sweet and so lovingly. He just didn't have to be so sure of himself, and it didn't matter to him what he thinks, He employed Mogulesko's words, 'Uncle, Pavolye."

And Bessie Thomashefsky recalls in her memoirs: "Then for him came the greatest bomb, the play that Mogulesko lifted over the clouds with his role as 'Feitl Pavolye.' ... With the play we made a fortune. The Jews were coming to see 'Feitl' with his "Pa-vo-lye.' "

But with his great success in "Feitl Pavolye" M. became hoarse. Leon Blank writes::

"This was for him one of the great tragedies in his life. ... Doctors had assured him that with time his voice will return, and will continue to be play his part. But Mogulesko, the constant doubter, the comedian on the stage, and the tragic one in life -- He embraced the most dreadful thoughts."

Bessie Thomashefsky recalls: "They brought in the greatest doctors to Mogulesko, but nothing helped. he wasn't able to play because he was hoarse, and wasn't able to speak a word. ... I don't remember whose advice this was, who did me such a favor, but it was decided that I had to step into Mogulesko's role as "Feitl Pavolye." ... It occurred to me, as if we were going to put it on stage, and a thousand headaches would rid me and despise me. I learned the role and every word, bathed in blood and tears. I did not want to copy Mogulesko. ... Mogulesko gave me his word that he will protect me, and when I am out acting, Mogulesko will be seated in the loge and in case the audience will show dissatisfaction, let him appear on stage


as "Feitl Pavolye"

soon enough, so the public can see him in his dreadfully sick condition, so I should not suffer any disdain. ... After every act Mogulesko came to us behind the curtains and comforted us, that the production was going well."

Leon Blank similarly recalls: "(Sam) Kasten had to play the role of 'Shmuel Gorgel the Matchmaker' in 'Professor' Horowitz's 'Dos poylishe yingel (The Polish Youth)" -- a role, in which Mogulesko had strongly excelled in. ... Without a scrap of jealousy, with the best feeling, and with the earliest wish, Mogulesko showed Kasten how he handled the role, how he played it, and in the evening of the performance he came to the theatre. On various occasions, one could see Mogulesko's close relationship with his other colleagues. He never provided anyone with a shot. Turned out, he was always ready to help that out -demonstrating, learning, acting in a [certain] way. When he was in a play with another comedian, he saw that the latter should have no smaller role, and no less with a song, And, in fact, the songwriter himself wrote to another comedian and himself adapted the music."

Once when Mogulesko had to play the cantor "Mordechai Itsik Zazule" in Z. Kornblit's play, "Dos emes'e glik (True Happiness?)," a role that Leon Blank in the Thalia Theatre was the first to play, he invited Bloank that he should act for him in the role:

"First later, writes Leon Blank, "I was amazed at what he said about playing a role, which others have already played earlier. He had his own 'theory.' His opinion was that when an actor with whom one must count on to play a certain role in a play, he creates a certain type that carves one in the memory of the viewer. He, the viewer, cannot be released from their first impression, the creative type becomes a living human being, a known, and when he continues with him on the stage -- it may be played by another actor -- he wants to see who he knows, and no other. ... Therefore, the viewer has to see the same type that is in his memory, from whom he got his first impression."

The interest in Mogulesko's illness was very great, and thousands of people used to come comfort him. A short time later, indeed, Mogulesko began to play again "but -- as Bessie Thomashefsky tells it -- he was not the same Mogulesko as before. His sincere smile and his magical grace, indeed, remained, but his health was broken. His voice had geskript, and not once had Mogulesko, the well-meaning, genial comedian, used behind the scenes while he public had laughted and applauded him."

Leon Blank recalls:

" ... As quickly as they announced that Mogulesko was healthy again, and that he would appear in the role of "Feitl Pavolye" in the People's Theatre, they bought up tickets like it was matzo water. Everyone wanted to see the famous comedian in the role that he had played so adorably, with such talent, that he played so well. In the theatre circles Mogulesko's return performance was strongly anticipated. It was certain that Mogulesko would shine and wander on stage, only Mogulesko himself was not sure. ... The eternal doubt raised him even more, and he became quite frightened. ... Until late at night, he used to move around the house, repeating the role that he knew so well. ... He repeatedly uttered a word, A phrase, always done with the nose -- It does not trigger, that is, it is not good. ... One evening of the break, Mogulesko was very nervous, Even more nervous as he usually used to be on stage. It always seemed that he would fail, He will disappoint everyone ... And maybe ... Who knows? Maybe he'll lose his voice again in the middle of the drinen. A storm of applause made a crash in the theatre. Everyone was delighted when they saw the great comedian again on the stage, and again heard his voice. On that evening, simply ... this, which they heard again so clearly, and just his own voice, which he had for two years in a row. It was so pleasing to him, that he was holding a 'speech' when people called him out on stage -- a thing he never loved. The 'speech' was very dry. 'Vertes publicum -- He said -- I thank you!' "

In 1903 Mogulesko participated in Leon Gotlib's play, "Der nayer dor (The New Generation)." About this, Leon Blank writes, "Mogulesko played the role of Zelig Itsik the Happy Chasid, who does not take heart and does not want to know any worries. In the role Mogulesko spoke Yiddish according to a Polish dialect, and in a scene, where he has to ask, "Is this your child?," he asks, "What a big kid this is!" ... Mogulesko uttered these numbered words thus, that they were then chased everywhere. It simply became a matter of asking, "What a big kid this is!."

In 1905 Mogulesko created in the Thalia Theatre the role of "Shlomo hutz" in Jacob Gordin's "Der umbekanter (The Unknown)." About his acting in this role, Leon Blank writes:

"In the role of Shlomo Hutz the tailor, whomever believes in Providence is persuaded that nothing is happening in the world unless it is previously marked in heaven, Did he say "When you say yes, you can't make one below." Jacob Gordin did not place much weight on the record. But Mogulesko was greatly appreciated And he decided to put the trap on it, so that it spreads fast in the street, and he put it this way so that in every movement the tailor should feel, as it turns out, that he keeps a needle in his hand and sew."

In 1907 Mogulesko visited Europe and played in London and in Bucharest on the same stage that he had played during the first days, when he became an actor. The guest appearance did not have any success.

On 9 October 1908 in the Thalia Theatre, there was staged Latayner's operetta, "Dos yidishe hartz (The Jewish Heart)," with music by Mogulesko and Brody. In this play Mogulesko played the role of "Lemekh," and with it he renewed his popularity. About his acting in the play, B. Gorin writes:

"The play attributed its success to Mogulesko's legs. In this piece, the comedian has to do something with leg up. And Mogulesko has played the role of a comedian. And he did it so wonderfully comically, that the press believed in Shlomo, who, the public is coming to see in this piece because of the stage with the piece."

Leon Blank recalls:

"The play went an entire year with great success, and it was no secret to anyone that they had to thank no one other than Mogulesko. In that time they used to say that the Thalia Theatre stood on Mogulesko's feet. In the same play he had a few words, 'Ay shlekht (It's bad).' He expressed it with so much grace, and It did so well that it soon spread everywhere.

As "Shmuel Gorgel"


On 9 October 1908 in the Thalia Theatre, there was staged Latayner's operetta, "Dos yidishe hartz (The Jewish Heart)," with music by Mogulesko and Brody. In this play Mogulesko played the role of "Lemekh," and with it he renewed his popularity. About his acting in the play, B. Gorin writes:

"The play attributed its success to Mogulesko's legs. In this piece, the comedian has to do something with leg up. And Mogulesko has played the role of a comedian. And he did it so wonderfully comically, that the press believed in Shlomo, who, the public is coming to see in this piece because of the stage with the piece."

Leon Blank recalls:

"The play went an entire year with great success, and it was no secret to anyone that they had to thank no one other than Mogulesko. In that time they used to say that the Thalia Theatre stood on Mogulesko's feet. In the same play he had a few words, 'Ay shlekht (It's bad).' He expressed it with so much grace, and It did so well that it soon spread everywhere. When someone wanted to ask a friend if he had seen 'The Jewish Heart,' he would usually answer so: 'Have I already seen Mogulesko's feet? And if this had happened, that he had not yet seen it, he would answer his friend regretfully: 'Ay shlekt! (It's bad!).' "

And Leon Kobrin writes:

"The illness had cracked his voice, his last ounce of strength. ... The creative spirit that had lived in him so, expressed itself through his foot! ... There Mogulesko had played a Jew who trembles before his wife's cloth. His son-in-law speaks to him alone, that he should see his wife once and

for all, that he is the husband. He teaches him how to do something with his foot. Mogulesko, the unlucky husband, gathered his strength, wanting to obey his son-in-law, correctly wanting to do what he was supposed to with his foot. However, he saw his wife, made with his foot [what he was shown], and his foot became so bent, that we could really observe how the entirely fearful soul of this same little Jew was writhing within itself, hidden within his foot. M.s spirit stifled his voice so that he laughed with his eyes and sang with his face and his movements sucked up all of his energy, so that his foot still moved and laughed for him ... "

In November 1910 Mogulesko again appeared in Adler's Thalia Theatre in some Gordin plays, then he also played as "Schnitzler, the Housekeeper" in Rakow's "A mentsh a malekh (A Man, An Angel?).

In December 1910 he again took a break from acting again due to illness, and in January 1911 he continued in several productions.

About Mogulesko's last years on the stage, Leon Blank recalls:

"Illness, hardship, and various misfortunes and annoyances greatly exacerbated Mogulesko In the last few years of his life. He no longer was involved in any theatre. It was just too difficult for him to play too often. He had to pay more attention to himself, be more careful about his health. Mogulesko did not possess any locked-up capital, and just as life was needed, he had from time to time, when he felt better, given a production in a theatre, or, taken a benefit, performing by himself in one of his successful roles that made him so loved by the public. This was his revenue. From this he made a living for himself and his family. It was not difficult to stop from this, what a great wealth it was for Mogulesko. But not looking at it, he kept it that way, immediately he would not have used any money. When a good colleague asked him to attend his dinner, he gladly participated and did not want to take any money from it."

In the 1912-13 season Mogulesko played from time to time in the Lipzin Theatre.

On 15 April 1913 he appeared in the National Theatre in Latayner's "Di grinhorns (The Greenhorns)," and in May he gave some performances in "Di kishuf-makherin (The Witch)," "The Polish Youth," and "The Immigrants." The productions were announced as separate productions before his trip to Europe. Mogulesko, however, did not travel to Europe in January. In 1914 was the last time he appeared in the National Theatre as "Mishke" in Latayner's "Di grinhorns," and soon after he lied in bed in his small abode. He was not able to move, but when he had felt a little lighter, he joked. At the tomb of Zygmunt Schwartz he said:

"Go stage a great play in that world. If you call me, take me to the Actors Club and give Mogulesko what he has earned by the Jewish public."

On 4 February 1914, half after seven in the morning, Mogulesko passed away in full consciousness, speaking until the last minute.

Mogulesko was brought to his eternal rest in Washington Cemetery [in Brooklyn, New York].

Mogulesko's wife, Amelia, for a certain time, played Yiddish theatre. Mogulesko's only son, a medical doctor, Julius, passed away in 1927 in Denver (Colorado). Mogulesko's eldest daughter, Liza, married a school director Dr. Fichandler. His youngest daughter, Bessie, played on the Yiddish stage.

Mogulesko's passing evoked sincere grief among the Jewish population in New York. his funeral procession became transformed into a people's demonstration. The Yiddish press dedicated a large necrology to him.

Until his wife's passing in 1929, every year there was arranged in a large New York theatre a memorial production in which there would be staged a play in which Mogulesko had made popular.

On 25 December 1909 the "Forward" began to publish Mogulesko's autobiography. As Ab. Cahan writes it in his memoirs, Mogulesko used to come every day to the editors, telling certain episodes that Cahan later wrote about anonymously. His autobiography was later written by Leon Gotlib, and after Mogulesko's passing, it didn't end. It was reprinted in the "Forward" (13 January to 24 February 1914).

According to B. Gorin, M. also composed the play, "Der falsher moyfes (The False Miracle?)," however, there is no mention at all of the performance.

According to a notice in the necrology about Mogulesko in "Dos yidishe tageblat," Mogulesko also wrote a play that he called, "A yarid oyf himl," and which contained a lot of Jewish humor. The play should have played in Romania, Austria, Russia, England, and also in America.

Leon Kobrin, in his book, "Erinerungen fun a yidishn dramaturg (Memories of a Yiddish Playwright)," dedicates a special, large chapter to Mogulesko.

Leon Blank in the "Forward" from 15 December 1928 to 29 January 1929, published fourteen chapters of memoirs about Mogulesko.

B. Gorin characterizes Mogulesko this way:

"Mogulesko was great as a character actor, and in that field he had no equal on the stage. No such silent powers were required for such silent roles. Broken, weak, sick as he was last year, would he ever take the top step on the stage when he would appear only in such cases. But he himself loved a free attitude on stage. He loved singing, a jump, and that he could only prove that as a buff-comedian. When he had his sweet voice and his comic roles, the audience never got tired of seeing him dance and hearing him sing, But when he lost his voice and remained legless [regarding his ability to dance], his dancing and singing did not evoke admiration, but instead astonishment. Visitors asked themselves: 'Is this the great Mogulesko?' And often because of the dance, a leg and a voice, new theatre visitors did not notice his great talent in character painting. ... Mogulesko was a diamond man with a strange nature and all who knew him, loved him as a man. All the vanity, all the pride that fixed the air of the theatre was foreign to him. As soon as he walked down the stage and wiped the makeup off his face, he became out of control. In the street, he was a man of the same kind, and he in no way wanted to show pride. Mogulesko, when he didn't act, moved around in a world of melodies. He loved nigunim and playing, and when he had time, his head was occupied with music, and no prouder man could climb (krichn) it. This also explains why Mogulesko died a poor man. According to the great success that he had on stage, he had to be the richest of all the managers and stars. ... But with his constant striving in the higher spheres of music, he didn't understand business. It is also characteristic that to a writer and critic he treated himself with great respect. ... Perhaps Mogulesko was the sole artist who had won great acclaim from both the intellectual and the celebrated theater-goers, and even his actor-friends were not ashamed to express this recognition, and that it is the best way to measure the true greatness of an actor."

 And Leon Kobrin:

"As a performer I I forgot about him, and I have always from the first days that he appeared in New York -- in the year of 1886 -- known that the personal magnetism that he possessed, played a big role in his artistic career. He was known for his immense talent, the greatest of all (the big Yiddish actors at the time) -- talent and for him, quite regardless from his grace. A possessed a wonderful imagination, and also an innate musical taste that was a part of his artistic craft. Everything went along with his innate imagery, with his native fantasy. But all along, it was contrasted with his grace, with which he simply drew hearts to himself. ... As a free man he also had a grace in himself, although grace was of a completely different kind than magnetism, which was part of his great art. On stage he used to be a completely different person ... He rarely proclaimed. He used to intervene in his role and mostly speak with a natural tone. Mogulesko's talent, and stage grace of Balanchine, appeared like a diamond from a swamp. ... Sigmund Mogulesko also played in Gordin's plays, in most of them, and in them he had the opportunity to create strong roles. However, he used to create strong roles in the plays, also from other writers -- even some from Horowitz. In Mogulesko's career, Gordin also had a condition, but not so big as in the careers of the other actors and actresses. ... Mogulesko's talent and his personal deeds brought in a new life in the Yiddish theatre world. He took the world by storm with books. ... Because of this, the interest of the Jewish population in the Jewish theatre in general suddenly increased."

On a unique feature in M.'s, certain roles, G. Zelikovitsh relates:

"Mogulesko's rabbis are surrounded by a philosophical ray of good for the sake of it, from such a divine glitter of mercenaries, his groomsmen, aides, and his peddlers -- they are all good types. ... And just with his poetic grace, a spiritual rabbi. For example, he had a great character in the role of a great rabbi, who stammers a bit, and every time the great rabbi used to pronounce the word 'pravitelstvo (kingdom)', the audience had to laugh a lot. ... Mogulesko was also a natural believer, and that explains why he put such rabbis on the stage."

In Leon Kobrin's "Erinerungen fun a yidishn dramaturg," we find that characteristic about Mogulesko: "His entire appearance is as though whittled by a master’s hand -- slim yet curved and full of movement. Especially appealing is the charming curve of his neck as he stands with his broad shoulders slightly thrown back. Today his face is more endearing, livelier, though made of marble it is folded into rays of light. You would say that his face was the face of the national Yiddish comic. All of his original yet diverse tones and colors possess the Yiddish comic and was delivered through him. The Yiddish comedian once in while loves a dance, so Mogulesko dances. He is a Jew, is dancing, and no one else. The Jewish Chasid dances either at a wedding or for a holiday, in the synagogue or at Simchas Torah during the procession with a scroll of the Torah. Torah is now dedicated anew or for another commandment, another happy occasion, and the Jew dances. The Jewish soul enjoys itself when Mogulesko dances, when Mogulesko also is enjoying himself. And the Jewish people that are the onlookers, feel themselves partaking of this selfsame dance -- they are dancing along with all of their hearts. ... The Jewish comic also loves a spicy joke, which Mogulesko offers with a certain naiveté and innocence, but so naturally and with so much true Jewish charm. You could think that this is the most obvious method to deliver it; that this is how the naďve but still charming Jew should tell it. The Jewish comic loves, from time to time to sing … Sing Mogulesko, always sing the melody that the Jew carries within his heart. …his own little ditty; his own themes and as though it is nighttime, this Mogulesko song is sung for the Jewish listener. He sings their song. ... the most truthful Yiddish song that melts within everyone’s heart, and with which they immediately start to sing along. The Jewish, comedian moans and at that moment the hearts of all of his performers weep.  ... The Jewish comic in all his nuances and shades, with his various tones and colors, his face and his eyes were revealed by Mogulesko, as he stood on the stage. It never came to him to play a comedic type that he would also play as only he could play. Therefore -- I am sure of this -- he would not have been able to play the role of the Mogulesko, non-Jewish comedian. Then he would have played a lot worse than another Jewish comedian who does not possess thousands of parts of his talent. And only because of the great amount of yidishkeyt that his own soul was overflowing with, which disturbed him from properly playing the part of this stranger this non-Jew.

" ... Many of these roles (that he acted in) died together with him, because they had no life of their own. They lived only with the life that he, Mogulesko, had read into them. One glance, one certain gesture, a move, a turn, a movement of the hand in a special way, and you already have a living comical, Jewish type. ... Ang, the roles in Shaykevitsh's and Latayner's plays were more to his heart than his roles in the better plays. He didn't even tell me that. Why? In my opinion, this is easy to explain. In the better plays he did not feel free enough. His winged spirit of creation, which was used in the other plays to create a life of death -- almost nothing -- people characters, here in the better plays, found in a certain sense, bound by a life that already existed, off a character that the writer had already created. Too closely he felt locked in a life, in a character in which his spirit of creation had to be thrown into another. ... In addition, he had to keep the story static -- not singing, not ... dancing when in the other plays of Shaykevitsh, Horowitz, and Latayner, in which  he could do it without blurring, that is, he could also appear to the world with these displays of his talent. ... But he once played in the better plays. Nobody could then imitate him, of the most stupid mishmash, of the most unlucky chaos, he always seemed full of life and Jewish humor, as he did not exaggerate, It seemed natural to him. That was his strength. "

Leon Blank characterized him this way:

"People who have not known Mogulesko personally, were under the impression that not only on the stage, but also in life must he be a spokesperson, a jokester or simply a happy uncaring person. Thanks to that, everyone was eager to get to know him. Many indeed got to known him, due to this, so that he might amuse them. But they were then disappointed, for Mogulesko, the genial comedian on the stage, in life was entirely someone else. In private he did not speak, throwing in any words, did not sprinkle with any jokes and made no conversation. In life he was a quiet and serious human being -- on the stage he always surprised; he was the true good-natured artist who was even able to from the smallest role, make something really big. ... None of the them (the stars of the day) were so beloved as Mogulesko. All the Yiddish theatre-goers in the entire world truly loved him, and this was therefore, that not one of them on the stage created as much joy as Seligl (Sigmund) Mogulesko. Something he had in himself such sorcery, who immediately filled their hearts with such joy from every movement, with what he does, and every word he speaks. Not only did the public admire and love Mogulesko, but also his fellow actors. They loved him not only because he was an exceptionally great artist.

They loved him not only because he was an exceptionally good man, but also because of that, that he was an exceptionally good man. ... Mogulesko never made an effort in his work; There was a role in him that formed somehow by itself. As soon as he entered a role, he was no longer the owner of himself; The role had already ruled over him. The role included him completely. There was nothing left of him -- He was completely the role, and it did not matter to him what kind of a role this was -- small or large, good or a bad, a foolish or a wise one. He has, in general, few who have lived in such matters as literature or literature. In this he was adept. The main thing with him was that he had to get in, and then he already cut something like that out of the role, which was a masterpiece for myself, even when it was not closely related to the handling of the play. Before the time that Sigmund Mogulesko was connected to the Yiddish stage, he had some decent roles that have remained as monumental chopped figures in an art gallery to this day. It can really be said about him that even when you forget the play, in whatever he played, you however remember the role that he had produced in the play ...

" ... Just a song, without dancing and without singing, Mogulesko had, in every listed role (from Gordin's repertoire), he excelled so strongly that often times, one came to see the play twice and three times and four times. Many plays in which he played the world simply knew about already, they never got tired of, because they wanted to see him again in the same role. They had to thank him for that, that a play became a great success, because in every role that he played, he created something very important, what the world could by no means forget."

Jacob P. Adler had -- according to Leon Blank -- expressed himself: "For him, for our Sigmund Mogulesko, we need to tip our caps to him. He is such a great artist that he often takes a handful of mud (an uninteresting role in a cheap play), and with a slingshot he aims it at the wall. What emerges is an unusually artistic work of art."

And a second famous actor from that epoch, Morris Moshkovitch, characterized Mogulesko:

"He used to give every one of his colleagues an equal opportunity to be recognized on stage and beyond. ... He may have been the only actor of that time who, with his artistic qualities alone, forced the Yiddish stage to worship him. ... with his impersonal personality. With his noble manners and kindness and tenderness, he had to incite anger and dignity in every one, and for women he had special rights. "

Joel Entin writes:

"They needed a great artist that would attract the people (at the founding of the Yiddish theatre, to stop the religious rebellion, and the surrender to the Yiddish theatre arose. This giant force was Mogulesko, nearly a half of a life of Yiddish theatre. He was his greatest philanthropist, genius, providing humor and music. ... The central force in the former (the epoch of Goldfaden) was the free, brighter, incomplete humor, the level of exaggeration and caricature. The main force of the roles in the second (epoch) was the Jewish song and in both this played a major role in the comedy, as well as the dance, and all this, the joyful, uncomplicated humor, the Jewish melody, the couplet and the dance, Mogulesko gave with his full hand, first of all, more of all, and as the rabbi of all. Mogulesko wasn't just any talent. He was just a genius. Not only was he trying to ... play a role according to the playwright's remarks and statements, but he also knew how to create a role from nothing, to freely create. This means that Mogulesko had an immense wealth of entertainment, No fantasy. ... Along with the power of imagination goes the ability of self-hypnotism, to ignite with a foreign fire and survive a survivor, what is there, in theater language it is called "in the role." ... And Mogulesko possessed this power to a very high degree."

M.E. from Leon Blank and Zygmunt Schwartz.

  • M. Zeyfert -- The History of Yiddish Theatre, "Di yidishe bine," (editor -- Chanan Y. Minikes), N.Y., 1897.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre," Vol. 1, pp. 182-238; Vol. 2, pp. 34-71, 135, 161, 203, 269.

  • B. Gorin -- Zigmund mogulesko, "Der teater zhurnal," N.Y., 6, 1901; 7, 1902.

  • Julius Sand -- Er gedenkt vi mogulesko iz gevorn an aktor, "Forward," N.Y., 7 January 1913[?]

  • (--) -- Mogulesko's tokhter vet shpieln in ir fters a role, "Forward," N.Y., 28 February 1911.

  • Sigmund Mogulesko -- (Autobiography), "Forward," N.Y., 13 Jan. -- 24 Feb. 1914.

  • M. (L. Miller) -- Mogulesko, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 4 February 1914.

  • (--) -- Vi mogulesko iz gevorn moguesko, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 5 February 1914.

  • (--) -- Der ershter yidisher theater. Der ershter yidisher kinstler, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 5 February 1914.

  • (--) -- Mogulesko -- Der foter fun yidishn theater in amerike, dort, 6 Feb. 1914.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- Mayn ershte bagegenish mit moguleskn, dort, 7 Feb. 1914.

  • M. -- Di oylem hba un oylem hzh fun yidishe kinstler, dort, 8 Feb. 1914.

  • G. Zelikovitsh -- Mogulesko "rebins" oyf der bine, "Yidishe tageblatt," N.Y., 6 Feb. 1914.

  • B. Gorin -- Vos es hert zikh in theater, "Morning Journal," N.Y., 9 Feb. 1914.

  • J. Entin -- Mit vos mogulesko hot oysgenumen baym oylem, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 10 Feb. 1914.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- Mayn ershte un letste begegnis mit moguleskon, "Forward," N.Y., 15 Feb. 1914.

  • Leon Kobrin -- Zygmund mogulesko, "Tsukunft," N.Y., April 1914.

  • David Kessler -- Mogulesko firt unz in amerika, "Der tog," N.Y., 25 Feb. 1917.

  • David Kessler -- Unzere ershte teg in nyu york, "Der tog," N.Y., 4 Mar. 1917.

  • David Kessler -- Mir shpieln in neshonal teater, "Der tog," N.Y., 11 March 1917.

  • Bessie Thomashefsky -- "Mayn lebens geshikhte," N.Y., 1917, pp. 117-120, 158-59, 164-65, 232, 236, 262-67.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- 40 yor oyf der bine, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 13 Oct. 1917.

  • H. Lang -- Vi azoy leon blank iz gevorn an aktor, "Forward," N.Y., 19 April 1925.

  • Ab. Cahan -- "Bleter fun mayn lebn," N.Y., 1926, Vol. II, pp. 380-82; Vol. III, pp. 377-86; Vol. IV, p. 345; Vol. V, pp. 328, 338.

  • Leon Kobrin -- "Erinerungen fun a yidishn dramaturg," N.Y., 1926, Vol. II, pp. 13-29.

  • Ch. Ehrenreich -- Teater liedlakh vos barimte aktiorn hobn gezungen mit 15 un 20 yor tsurik, "Forward," N.Y., 8 January 1926.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Zelig mogulesko, "Di yidishe velt," Cleveland, 5 Jan. 1927.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- "Hingtern forhang," Vilna, 1928, pp. 40, 96.

  • Leon Blank -- (Memories about Mogulesko), "Forward," N.Y., 15 Dec. 1928- 29 Jan. 1929.

  • Y.L. Fein -- Di lebens geshikhte fun dem yidish-englishn shoyshpiler moris moshkovitsh, "Forward," N.Y., 25 Dec. 1929.

  • B. Weinstein -- Di ershte yorn fun yidishn teater in odes un in nyu-york, 'Archive," Vilna, 1930.

  • M. Osherowitch -- Geshtorbn rudolf marks, der amoliger barimter komiker, "Forward," N.Y., 7 May 1930.

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

  • M. Osherowitch -- (Bina Abramowitz memoirs) "Forward," N.Y., 21 September, 19 October, 23 November, 30 November, 7 December 1930.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- (series of articles about Mogulesko), "Unzer ekspres," Warsaw, November--December 1933.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1180.

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