Lives in the Yiddish Theatre
SHORT BIOGRAPHIES OF THOSE INVOLVED IN THE Yiddish THEATRE
aS DESCRIBED IN zALMEN zYLBERCWEIG'S "lEKSIKON FUN YIDISHN TEATER"

1931-1969
 

Samuel Rosenstein
(Shmuel)

 

Born on 5 January 1879 [1876?] in Iasi, Romania. His father worked in the municipal bathhouse, hung (glued) posters for Yiddish theatre and was an usher in a Romanian theatre. He learned in a cheder, folkshul and attended a middle school. From his early youth he sang in the Neyshats synagogue, and due to his father's friendships was virtually raised in a theatrical atmosphere. Together with his friend Yosele Sherman, he left home and began his youthful wanderings across the province as a song singer, singing songs from the Yiddish and Romanian theatre. After wandering across cities and villages in which they sang in bars and coffee houses, both of them returned home, but on the way they met with theatre director Segalesko who he took them into the chorus of his Yiddish troupe.

When Abraham Goldfaden visited the Segalesko troupe, he encouraged R. to become an actor, and immediately afterwards he debuted as "Herman" in Goldfaden's "The Time of the Messiah." R. remained in Segalesko's troupe as an actor. Two years later R. went over to Avraham Akselrod's troupe, where he acted in lover roles. From there R. went over to Kalmen Juvelier's troupe, with whom he arrived in American in 1900.

Zalmen Zylbercweig writes about this:
"Rosenstein then was young, elegant, and handsome with a beautiful tenor voice, and with stage abilities. It is therefore understandable that he soon was recognized as a "young lover," 

 

and when two years later he went over to the People's Theatre to Boris Thomashefsky, Thomashefsky also had him perform in lover roles, and he often performed in the roles that he, Thomashefsky, had performed in. It was not long before R. , now known as Samuel, not Shmuel, became the "matinee idol" ("Der nokhmitog-libling"). ... Rosenstein became the darling of the "beautiful sex," [but] he did not exploit this. It is no exaggeration to say that Rosenstein, along with his father, had not conformed to the accepted principle of the free life of the actor. He did not even smoke, drink or play cards, and he would not go to a wealthy home and not try as a donor [menedzsher]; he would not fall into the difficult economic conditions like recently."

From Thomashefsky R. went over to Adler's "Grand Theatre," where he received more roles in dramas, and here he created two individual, strong types: in Gordin's "Without a Home" ("Morry"), and "Golus galitsye" ("Der prush"). From Adler R. went back to Thomashefsky, where he acted for seven or eight seasons and performed in the main role of Thomashefsky's "The Jewish Crown." From 1912-13 R., together with Louie Goldberg, Rosa Karp and Leon Blank, took over the "Lenox" Theatre in the Bronx, but the theatre existed for only a short time, leaving over a great sum [debt]. R. returned to rejoin Thomashefsky-Louie Goldberg at the "National Theatre," where he acted for three seasons and made a strong impression in Rumshinsky's offering of "The Broken Violin." Later R. acted for two seasons in the "People's" Theatre for Edelstein, then for a season in the "National" Theatre, where he again was with Edelstein in the "Second Avenue" Theatre, again having a huge success in the Bader-Rumshinsky operetta, "The Rabbi's Melody," for which R. also wrote the "lyrics," and he then returned back to the "National" Theatre.

Alter Epstein, under the pseudonym of "Uriel Mazik," characterized him as such (in 1917):

"Rosenstein is without doubt one of the blessed people on our stage. He is handsome; his figure is beautiful. His figure reminds us of a Greek god. His voice is good. It is pleasant to hear. They really loved him, his life, but with playing good theatre, he had nothing to do (awk.) ... He is not a god-blessed actor. ... Rosenstein is a beloved artisan on our stage. Besides this, if you will not give any account, you will think that for you here stands a good actor, but when one thinks about the role in which he performs, how he acts in it, then you feel that it is not, that something is missing from him. You still don't have to do it because it's an artisanal work. ...We saw Rosenstein in many roles. With the strongest attention I have watching his acting, but never have we not seen some creativity in him. We always carried that feeling, that he is an actor who acts, but no artist who creates."

1925-26 -- R. attempted again (together with Rosa Karp) to become the managers of the "Lenox" Theatre, carrying on but barely for a season, and then went to Philadelphia, where he acted for two months with Mike Thomashefsky and completed the season with Anshel Schorr in the "Liberty" Theatre.

1927-8 -- R. acted in the "Public" Theatre with Louie Goldberg.

1928-9 -- R. was in Chicago with Glickman. Here R. became ill and had to cut short his acting.

1929-1930 -- He acted in Gabel's "Public" Theatre. However, he was ill very often and, in the end, had to cut short his acting and go away to California.

About the period, Zalmen Zylbercweig writes:

"And here there began the tragedy of the actor; in life - a sick person, a broken man, pale and weak, behind the curtain -- dangerously sick, often reduced by feel or other medications; on the stage a cheerful, a hilarious, a cheerful, a singing, a mean, a hard-hitting actor, an actor demands immediate revenge, and Rosenstein begins to pay. He began to look for performances. He began to represent him in his roles, which he was physically too weak to tolerate. Rosenstein felt what it meant to him. He was the sick person who knows that he is sick, and this knowledge makes him even more sick. He began to get nervous and often broke up, until the doctors forbade him to play, that he had to immediately depart for California. Rosenstein no longer used the warmth of the stage lights and applause. He already had to find the true warmth of the California sun."

On the way it gets worse, that a serious illness brought him down in Chicago, where he passed away on 30 January 1930 and was brought to his eternal rest  in New York in the cemetery plot of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance, of which R. was one of the co-founders and the first president.

Joseph Rumshinsky characterizes R. in this way:

"Rosenstein did not need much effort to play a lover on the stage. He did not need to make grimaces with his face to look pretty, he did not have to change his mind to say milk. he did not half to way [a certain way] to be gallant. He knew from the street go up immediately onto the stage and play his role, because he was no maker, no newcomer lover. His place of speech, his walk, his own self, his look, his smile -- everything that was associated with him had confirmed that here goes the 'matinee idol," the lover, the Apollo of the Yiddish theatre."

And Jacob Kirschenbaum portrayed him as such:

"Even though the deceased was over fifty years old, he however always was young and cheerful, and it seemed that time had completely forgotten in him, and that he had something secret to keep young and fresh. He was blessed by nature with every virtue, which an actor needed: a beautiful, slender figure, a beautiful measured face, beautiful dark, curly hair, and a pair of large, burning eyes, which used to speak to an audience, even before they heard his sweet, pleasant voice. He was the 'matinee idol,' the Jewish Rudolph Valentino. ...He noticed that his brilliance was showing off that his son of youth was going down, and that he was striving to remain the youngest ever, graceful lover-singer of the Yiddish stage was to the end."

R.'s brothers -- Avraham and Lazer -- were Yiddish folksingers and actors. R.'s sister -- Rosa Ziegler -- was a Yiddish actress, and the entire Ziegler family -- Yiddish actors.
 

M.E.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre," Vol. II, p. 150.

  • Uriel Mazik -- Bilder-galerye fun unzere idishe shoyshpiler, "Tog," N. Y., 17 February 1917.

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum -- Semuel rozenshtayn, "Amerikaner," N. Y., 12 February 1926.

  • Necrology in the New York Press.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Der farshtorbener semuel rozenshtayn -- zayn karere oyf der idisher bihne, "Forward," N. Y., 3 February 1930 [reprinted hi his book "Theatre Figures," Buenos Aires, 1936, pp. 93-101].

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum -- A trehr oyf dem frishen kvr fun shoyshpiler semuel rozenshtayn, "Moz" "sh," N. Y., 3 February 1930.

  • Joseph Rumshinsky -- Semuel rozenshtayn -- der libhober zinger fun idishen teater, "Forward," N. Y., 7 February 1930.

  • [--] -- Di letste teg fun farshtorbenem shoyshpiler semuel rozenshtayn, dort, 7 February 1930.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- "Album of the Yiddish Theatre," N. Y., 1937, pp. 20, 87.


 

 

 

 


 

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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 2482.
 

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