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
 

Boris Thomashefsky
(Baruch-Aaron)

 

Born in 1886 in Ositniashke, a village in Kiev Gubernia, Ukraine. Raised in the nearby location of Kamionke (Kamenka), where his grandfather was the city's cantor. Father -- a cantor, later an actor and playwright in America.

At the age of eleven, he left home for Berdichev, where he became a choir boy for (Cantor) Nisan Belzer.

In a memoir article written by T., he wrote: "At age thirty-two [according to T.'s account, it was in 1881, one must accept it as 1879] I stood here for two-and-a-half years as a first soprano and ripped my lungs for the Berdichev audience. With Kopilovsky I was for the first time in the attic, I was for the first time involved in performing in Meiner [?], a self-composed drama, "Der oyfgekumener eushr (The Emerging Rich?)," "Mirl the Choirboy" (in 1913 a cantor in Berdichev), and Moshe Kopilovsky, and the cantors, and a son Yidl--were my actors."

In his other memoir, T. recalls that when he sang with Nisan Belzer in Kishinev, Mogulesko had come to the synagogue and heard him sing, who then invited him to the theatre, and this was the first time that T. had seen theatre playing.

After the pogroms T. with his family wandered off to New York (1881). Initially he worked in a paper factory on Chatham Square in New York with Jacoby, and here he had the opportunity to lay the foundation for Yiddish theatre in America.

About that time T. writes in his memoirs: "Attending me was a red-headed boy (today he is a blonde.) He was a cigarette maker from his hometown. This was Avraham Golubok. Near him also sat a young boy with a very long nose. This one was called Rosenblum, who said that he was a Yiddish actor in his country. We subsequently went on that he was a stand-in with the opera (operetta) "Koldunye (Sorceress)," and with "Dybuk" (by Latayner) in the Marinskii Theatre in Odessa.

Rosenblum used to sing pieces from Yiddish theatre: "Di bobkelekh," "Vos toyg mir mayn simkha, az mikh nemt zi nisht," "Bristelekh lebedike, lebedike bristlekh," "Oy vey dales" et al. The last song is that every cigarette maker was in love. The entire factory had helped in the chorus. ..When the foreman told the boss that I had sung with the great cantor Nisn Belzer in Berdichev (not far from Germany), I had to sing for them, indeed in the middle of work, Nisan's "Yehi rotsn," from the Rosh Chodesh prayers, the "Rabenu shel olam," and so somehow it was a solo from a Jewish composer. For my singing the boss always used to attribute to my account a hundred cigarettes. ..The London theatre poster (an advertisement that Avrom Golubok had brought from London, where his brothers who were performing in "Koldunye" had made a big impression on someone about me. ...He decided (Golubok in a conversation with T.) that they would both come to America and bring a troupe with them, but they didn't have the money for the trip. I could not have slept with them that night. ... During that time I had two incomes: I made "Samopalne" cigarettes with Jacoby, and he sung every Friday night and Saturday morning in the Henry Street shul (synagogue). ...A certain N N (Frank Wolf), who had maintained a beer salon (bar), corner of Essex and Hester Street, and on a large sign there were [the words] "Dos arbeyter fraynd (The Workers' Friend)," who then was the president or vice-president, and as such was a member of the Henry Street synagogue.... This N.N. liked my singing, and every Saturday after praying I had to go to him at his home to eat lunch and sing a few Yiddish pieces for him. Until one time, on a Saturday after Musaf, ...We fell into a notion to tell the few people there about Yiddish theatre, and what a treasure with money there is in the business. ..Mister N.N. was a pious Jew, and he didn't do any business on the Sabbath, but on Sunday at eleven in the morning, he went away with us and Avrom Golubok to a Jewish ticket office (ship-ticket business), somewhere on Canal Street, and sent off to London eight tickets, third-class."

Several weeks later, the troupe arrived from London, and two weeks later they were ready to perform in Turn Hall, Fourth Street, between Second and Third Avenue, the first Yiddish production in New York.

The presentation was held approximately in July 1882. (The "Lexicon of Yiddish Theatre" reports that it was difficult to be accurate with the dates given in the Yiddish press and the police department).

According to T.'s memoirs it was noted that on a poster that "Boris Thomashefsky was both the manager and the choir master," and that the song "Bobkelakh" would be sung by the world-famous singer Boris Thomashefsky."

On that same evening when that same poster was printed there was (according to T.O.-- all the tickets were sold out and the scalpers were asking unimaginable prices.)

The representatives of the Yiddish immigrant-committee at that time demanded that the play not be presented because in the play "Koldunye" Jews are ridiculed.  "They warned us---says T.--that we would be better off learning a decent trade or to go out into the countryside peddling our wares and not to play in Yiddish theatre in America. However, should we not listen to their advice, they will drive us out of America and send us back by ship to Russia and then onto Siberia."

Similarly, Joseph Barondess tells us in his memoirs: "It must be noted that on the evening of the opening of the Roumanian Opera House--which was to be the first Yiddish theatre in America--a committee with the Jewish coroner (a clerk in the Justice Department research sector whose job entails following up on catastrophic deaths, suicides etc.) named Livay, turned to the troupe at that time, warning them that 'the recognized Jewish leaders, important Jews in New York, would not allow anyone to insult or embarrass other Jews in any theatre that uses 'jargon' (Yiddish) in their performances. We must remember the newcomers, the 'greener' Jews and among them also the 'green' Yiddish actors, regarded the power of this coroner as being most important.   ...These very same actors displayed characteristics of duplicity. Livay had the official role to stop this, when it occurred in a Yiddish play in the Yiddish language. He then warned them that he had all the power behind him of rich and influential Jews to pay them money to compensate them substantially for their time in preparing any play that they were rehearsing. He would do so till they could find other useful employment. This would be recognized to the credit of those Jewish actors who were involved in this new period of Yiddish theatre. Although many of them were extremely poor who were reduced to eating "free-lunches" supported by Yekhiel Shreiber who had a bar in his beer-saloon on Canal Street near Rutgers Square. With heroic courage and with great care they could show these disgraceful bribers off.

The Prima Donna Madam Krantzfeld according to T.--was indebted to the immigrant committee and did not want to come to the performance. Finally, she agreed to give a spoken recital but not to sing. In the theatre this became a scandal: The audience whistled, threw fruit on the stage, and the performance ended with a fight and insults.

According to B. Weinstein, who was an eyewitness, the first Yiddish performance in New York took place earlier (approximately 1881) in the Bowery Garden, its address was 113 1/2 Bowery. It was produced by the young Golubok in the title role. Goldfaden's 'Shmendrick'  was a flop, but--writes Weinstein--"Israel Barsky (the arranger of the performance) did not even take into account the possibility of the first theatrical performance in the golden land (aka USA) being a failure." He became involved once again with "actors," and they began to learn a new play. Once again trouble arose: They couldn't find a leading lady to play the lead role of Mirele. They found a young man, a singer with a fine soprano voice, who agreed to play this role. This was, the yet-to-be discovered Boris Thomashefsky."

This play was, according to B. Weinstein, performed in Bowery Garden Theatre.

The other actors who appeared in this play- -tells us--according to B. Gorin--"that there was no big rush for ticket sales to this play. The prima donna, Krantzfeld, did not sing, because she was hoarse. They also don't recall if the immigrant committee put any constraints upon this play."

"In the end, this first performance paid off much worse than anyone anticipated,"--writes B. Gorin. "The fact is that the entrepreneur behind this production was not involved, and it was many years before he would once again underwrite another production. Not only did he not get involved with theatre for al long time, but he was personally burned by Yiddish theatre. Eventfully he came forward to underwrite another performance but this time he did it with partners.... A single angel did not come forward, and even Frank Wolff had to find two partners to back a second production. One of them was a butcher from Billard Street, and it was necessary to make all the arrangements for the performances on the dates for the Jewish holidays."

"The troupe grew larger and more detail-oriented. Actors came from London during the summer months. They were joined by dilettantes who dabbled in theatrical matters without much knowledge and other hangers-on. The company was now comprised of the following persons: Leon Golubok, Myron Golubok, Spector and his wife, Barsky, Rosenblum, Boyarsky, Bernstein (not the famous comedian Bernstein), Simon Zshupnik, and B. Thomashefsky. As we can see from this list, there was a lack of interest by female actresses and men had to play female roles. B. Thomashefsky began, at that time, to gain fame playing female roles. Since Thomashefsky had just begun to appear on the stage, his performances had to be edited especially to suit him. This means that they had to cut the spoken lines and focus on his singing those parts written for women. During the week of Sukkos they played all the old familiar pieces from Goldfaden's repertoire: "Koldunya," "Capricious Daughter," "The Grandmother and her Grandson," and in recognition of the holiday they extended the length of each performance. However, the holiday did not help sales, and the "take" from ticket sales during this holiday was very sad. The directors lost money and became disillusioned with Yiddish theatre, and the actors were left abandoned.

Finally Golubok succeeded in interesting the manager of "The Old Bowery Garden," and he made arrangements to stage Yiddish plays there twice a week; on Friday evenings and Saturday matinees.  ..."The Old Bowery Garden" opened for Yiddish plays a couple of months after Sukkos, which was nearly the end of 1882."

As B. Gorin relates, "The troupe was the same one that had played a few years earlier in the first performance. The repertoire was, apart from Goldfaden's plays, comprised and enriched by plays by Shomer-Sheikowitz, "The Penitent," "The Jewish Nobleman" etc. Also plays by Barsky (a member of the troupe) were included: "The Crazy Women," and "The Pogrom." They played twice a week, with very poor ticket sales. In addition, the small income became a bone of contention among the actors; quarrels broke out till T.'s father quit the troupe and rented the "National Theatre" (in place of the "Old Bowery Garden"), where he commenced to perform together with his son, two daughters and a fellow factory worker. But, here too, because of poor ticket sales this theatre closed and the majority of the actors left the stage disillusioned.

"I myself"--writes T. in his memoirs---"'The small Thomashefsky' as I was known, lost my soprano voice and I had to wait for several years till I could perform in my own voice and return to the theatre. I left New York City and moved to a small village on Long Island, Sag Harbor. There I started to attend school and began to study piano and organ too." (According to B. Gorin the Thomashefsky family moved to Philadelphia where they played in the local theatre.) The entire time that he lived in that village--T. tell us--he didn't write to anyone and seemed to have lost all interest in the theatre. Over a period of time he began to write plays: "The Female Pioneer or Dovid Velvl," (based upon of a play by Shimon Beckerman called "Hadassah the Pioneer, or Dovid Velvl Eats Compote"), and "Blood Libel, or Menachem Ben-Yisrael."

When he felt that he could once again sing, he returned to New York City, where for the first time he saw a professional Yiddish theatrical performance (Moishe Silberman and his wife, Moishe and Sara Chaimovitch, Moishe Karp, H. and F. Borodkin, Y. Wachtel and Y. Latayner), who in 1884 arrived in New York, and since he was not invited to join this troupe he decided to go into competition with them. Once again he put together an ensemble made up of his former troupe members (most of them had in the interim become shirt-makers.) They played under the name of Boris Thomashefsky's and Leon Golubok's Theatre Ensemble." Israel Barsky was the writer. He traveled with them to play in Chicago.

According to Bessie Thomashefsky, T.'s troupe came from Chicago to Baltimore approximately in 1882 and started to perform in Concordia Hall.

She talks about the first performance: "On the stage stands a tall, slim Jewish female with a kerchief on her head. She sings the prayer for lighting candles in a thin voice. A bit further on the stage there is a Jew with a gray beard sitting. He is shokling (moving back and forth in prayer). The tall, thin woman finishes her song and approaches the man. She says something to him and then she leaves. A non-Jewish female enters and says something in Ukrainian. The old man responds in Yiddish and suddenly a Hassid, a tall young man with long peyes (sidelocks), handsome with large green eyes enters dressed in a shimmering kaftan. Apparently the shiksa wants him as a suitor and the young man together with the old man run off. The shiksa whistles and two gentiles bring in the corpse of a dead child, hiding it in the Jew's home. At that moment the curtains fall. In the second act all the Jews are in jail including the young man with the green eyes. The gentiles are beating them, it is so pathetic. The young man sings a mournful prayer to God, asking God to deliver the Jews from the hands of the non-Jews. The audience is crying and cursing the goyim. Soon in the third act the Jews are in Siberia. They are apparently so cold that several women from the audience start to throw their shawls onto the stage in order to warm these poor Jews. Alas, in the fourth act the gentiles want to kill the Jews because they murdered a gentile child and made matzos with its blood. The audience springs to its feet and screams out: 'It's a lie: We know, that the Jews are not guilty. Those swinish gentiles killed the child. It's a libel, a blood accusation, murderers, you should all die!' The audience got its way... the Jews are freed and the entire audience applauded and shouted 'Bravo' with all their strength."

"I want him (her brother-in-law Louey) to introduce me to that tall actor"--Bessie Thomashefsky tells us in her memoirs--"But Louey tells me that at this moment the actor is too nervous as a result of his performance. This was he who had acted as the Jewish woman who was lighting candles, the Hassid who was exiled to Siberia and also the one who sang the couplets... Then Louey told me that his name is Boris Thomashefsky."

Later, T. appeared (with longer breaks between one appearance and another) as "the grandmother and the grandchild" (acting in the role of Mirele) and as Skribs "Zhidovska" (appearing as "Prince"). Later he left that troupe and embarked upon a plan to open an acting school. The outcome was that he founded a club with dues of fifty cents a week for men and ten cents a week for women. From this endeavor, T. had a weekly income of nine dollars a week.

Along with the members of this club T. rehearsed "Rothschild's biography," a  drama in four acts written by Pinchas Thomashefsky and music by Boris Thomashefsky,"  which was staged a month later with him playing "Anshel Rothschild"  and Bessie Kaufman (later Bessie Thomashefsky) in the role of "The Bride." He also presented the Pioneer (Halutsah), but almost immediately after this the club fell apart and T. together with Bessie and her sister Rachel, appear in Shlegels Hall. Joining them, from New York, was Gartenshtein, who didn't succeed on the stage.

T. became a  frequent guest in the Kaufman home and convinced them that that their daughter Bessie should travel with him to Boston, where he was to present Goldfaden's "Shulamis" in the Boston Music Hall (Absalom played by Boris Thomashefsky and Shulamis--Bessie Kaufman). The other roles were to be performed by Marian Strauss, Sam Shenkman, Zangwill Shenkman and Morris Weisman. After that he brought the actors Max Abramowitz, Annette Finkel, Morris Karp, Mrs. Werbel, the conductor Finkelstein and Avraham Goldfaden and his wife. It was staged in 1887 in the same hall as Goldfaden's "The Two Kuni Lemels." However just before the first performance T. abandoned them due to a difference of opinion. He went to Philadelphia where he puts together a new troupe, consisting mostly of members of his own family (Boris, Bessie, Pinchas and Fanny Thomashefsky). Fanny's husband Greenberg and Emma (later married to Finkel). They played in the dramatic club on Gaskell Street, Pinchas Thomashefsky's play "Yankel Yungatsch" (Yankele was played by Boris Thomashefsky). By the way, though the play was poorly attended, the performances were well reviewed, and with the departure of Pinchas Thomashefsky it was decided to establish a permanent Yiddish theatre in Philadelphia. The troupe was enlarged by Mary Epstein and her husband. The plays were presented on the basis of a partnership. Pinchas Thomashefsky wrote a play "The Spanish Inquisition," a musical opera in four acts with music by Boris Thomashefsky."

At this time T. married Bessie Kaufman who performed from then on as Bessie Thomashefsky.

Based on the initiative of a certain Mr. Dorf the troupe moved to a new base in the Thalia Theatre where they presented the play "Uriel Acosta" with T. in the title role.  After several performances, T. and the troupe traveled to the nearby cities and towns. Due to bad planning they returned almost immediately to Philadelphia where the troupe was strengthened with the addition of Mr. and Mrs. Simon and Elias Glickman. They presented Goldfaden's "Bobbe Yakhne" (T. in the title role). This play was presented several times with great success. Then T. presented himself and his wife in his own play "Rabbi Akiva with his Twenty-Four Thousand Students," a large dramatic opera in four large acts presented by the great artist Boris Thomashefsky, music from Boris Thomashefsky, dance and marches by Elias Glickman, with the permission of Boris Thomashefsky."

Due to a lack of a new repertoire, T. went to New York and returned with some new "material" from various plays, which were presented in Philadelphia.

Bessie Thomashefsky relates in her memoirs about this time: "Thomashefsky returned from New York with 'Judah Maccabee, or, Hannah and Her Seven Sons.' The entire play was written by him on a small scrap of paper. He was in Silverman's Oriental Theatre at that time where he saw this piece of theatre, and while it was being performed he wrote all the scenes on a scrap of paper of 'Hannah and her Seven Sons.' This means he 'borrowed' the plot, and so long as he had the essence of the plot he would be able to put together his own prose. Thus a new play for Philadelphia was created. It took Boris and his father three days to put together the script for the new masterpiece from New York, and we began rehearsals for 'Hannah and Her Seven Sons.' The music was pieced together from a wide range of our previous plays and thus was born a new work for the Yiddish theatre."

However, the Thalia Theatre was rented out to Gartenstein, so T. with his troupe had to go back to the Dramatic Hall. At that time Tantchuk, a New York actor appeared, having recently arrived from New York. But the competition from the other troupe was so strong that  T.'s troupe stopped performing. He and his wife went to Boston where they appeared with Bessie's sister Rachelle in a hall, and there in Chelsea they staged "Hannah and Her Seven Sons." Then they returned to Philadelphia, where T. once again put together a troupe that performed Shomer's "The Card Player," with T.s father in the role of "Eonom."

The competition between both troupes grew more heated. According to what Bessie Thomashefsky tells us: "Gartenstein  put out a poster written in thick letters: "Extra, Extra! Jews, do not attend the other toilet which they call theatre, for only clowns perform there, not actors; don't let them fool you into paying good money! Jews, workers, ladies and gentlemen--come to our theatre, we are true artists." Soon a second poster appeared with even thicker letters, produced by Boris Thomashefsky, "Irresponsible language: Jews, Sisters and brothers! That Bastard is a bluffer and an embarrassment for all Jews, for the whole Jewish nation. What he says is comparable to a dog's howling, and I am turning over a shoe and let us say Amen." And a picture of an upside-down shoe appeared on the poster.

As a result, a competition arose between the two plays broke out. Since Gartenstein had announced that he would soon present the play "The Sailor in Peril," by the actor Rudolph Marks who had played previously in Gartenstein's troupe.  Shortly thereafter T. announced that he is going to present his own play, "The Sailor, or the Green Shoemaker," but since Rudolph Marks left the troupe, forcing Gartenstein to pull out, and T.'s troupe was now the only theatrical troupe performing in Philadelphia. For a short while the troupe appeared once again in "Concert Hall," with an entrance price of  five and ten cents.

From Philadelphia, T. played in Baltimore. But his father was now leading a second theatrical troupe. Describing the character of this competition, Bessie Thomashefsky tells us in her memoirs: "Here were played out scenes from the two directors of the two companies. Even the great Moliere could not have come up with a more ridiculous plot. The father announced that he and only he is the true Thomashefsky... The son responded that he is certainly the only Thomashefsky. The father then wrote that his son is a 'rebellious son.' The son answered that 'Father is a lame transgressor, a complete nothing and not an actor.' ...It was a happy time. The Yiddish theatre 'howled' like wild dogs. Both companies performed, the audiences lost interest in watching this comedy between the two troupes and stopped going to both theatres. We finished playing our plays and left Mr. Pinchas and Baltimore. We went home, back to Philadelphia."

 But in Philadelphia Edelstein's New York troupe was performing. So T. went to Pittsburgh to act and later returned once again to Philadelphia, where he performed for a short while with Rudolph Marx and brought the Tanzmans to join the troupe.

T.'s name became popular as a director and joining him (1890) were the well-acclaimed actors Sophie and Moshe Karp, who came from New York to act with him, including Sonia Chaimovitch-Heine (later Adler), Jacob P. Adler and Dinah Adler (later Feinman). After that T. went to Chicago where he performed together with Jacob P. Adler in the Standard Theatre, and then in a theatre (Holsted Street near Depuster Street) as the  "Adler-Thomashefsky Theatre." They were joined by Professor Horowitz with his play, "The Jonestown Flood." T. was invited through Adler to play in his New York Poole's Theatre (8th Street), where the plays were performed only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A dispute broke out between T. and Adler due to a dispute over roles. Adler becomes disillusioned with the Poole's Theatre, and T. became the sole proprietor of the Poole's Theatre, but after several performances T. left the theatre and returned once more to Chicago where he played for several weeks inn [813] Jefferson Hall (Jefferson Street), and afterwards in the Standard Theatre, where they were joined by the New York actors; Mogulesco, Feinman, Israel and Sabina Weinblatt, and later also by Adler and Sonia Chaimovitch-Heine.

During the 1890-1891 season T. were engaged to appear in the New York "Roumanian Opera House," where he became popular in his role "Joseph" in Latayner's "Golus rusland (The Exile in Russia)," and in a play that Latayner wrote especially for him and his wife: "Ezra, oder de eyviger yude (Eza or The Eternal Jew)."

During the season 1891-1892 T. played in the Roumanian Opera House, where he appeared in Joseph Latayner's "Ashes Chayil or the Ayngeshparte Princesn (A Woman of Valor, or The Stubborn Princess)." On 18 January 1892  T. played "Pavlik Trubatsh" in a Gordin role for the first time. The play was "Der pogrom in rusland (The Pogrom in Russia)" (under the supervision of the author). Immediately after this they returned to their Latayner repertoire (Dinele, oder a gast fun yener velt (Dinale or a Guest from The Other World)." 

Due to the competition between the newly arrived actors from Europe (Bernstein, Fishkind, Tabachnikoff, Mary and Bernard Wilensky), who had played in Adler's Union Theatre, T. gave up the Roumanian Opera House, and before the 1892-1893 season he put himself under the management of Chaimovitch, Adolph Prince, Livay and Sheinberg in, at that time the  deeply German Thalia Theatre, where he presented Latayner's "Aleksander, oder, Der kroyn prints fun yerushalayim (Alexander, or the Crown Print of Jerusalem)." (T. in the title role).

Regarding his success in this play Bessie Thomashefsky in her memoirs tells: "The greatest success in this play was given to my husband. The role of 'Alexander' gained him many fans. He played a prince even better than any prince, simply with his good looks alone! Even many men could not stop being dazzled by his good looks in that role. He enchanted everyone with his 'Prince of Jerusalem.'  One evening a woman in the audience had an attack of nerves and it became necessary to take her to a hospital. 'My King' she screamed out, 'He is my King, the handsome Alexander.' "

In that same season, T. presented his play "Eyner nakht in Bleeker Street, oder, Dos ungliklikher medschen, drama mit gezenge un tentse (One Night on Bleecker Street, or, That Unfortunate Girl, a drama with song and dance)," also a reworking of the English melodrama, "The Wages of Sin" and Latayner's "Korakhs oytsres, (Korach's Wealth)" and "Bas-Sheva (Batsheba)" (20 October 1893).

Due to the competition of the nearby Windsor Theatre, T. presented for the first time on the Yiddish stage (24 November 1893) Zeifert's (a "reworking") of Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

How the audience of those times received this presentation, Bessie Thomashefsky tells in her memoirs: "The public did not understand what this was all about, and thus the play Hamlet became a success... We played the play for several weeks and business was very successful, however, we did have one headache; why did the audience applaud, scream and beg for the playwright? Shakespeare should come forward and bow before the curtain... My dear servant girl, Becky, even offered us some advice, that we should dress up a Jew and send him out as Shakespeare. We, however, appealed to the audience to pardon us for not having Shakespeare come out to take a bow. This was because he lived too far away, in London, and that is the reason he isn't present..."

Right after "Hamlet" we presented Professor Horowitz's "Yafas To'ar, or Belem's Donkey (Strikingly Beautiful, or, Balaam's Ass)."

In the 1894-1895 season T. staged Latayner's "Kenig un boyer (King and Builder),"  Horowitz's "Yoyneh hanovi (Jonah the Prophet"),  Jacob Gordin's "Di litvishe brider luria (The Litvak Brothers Luria)" (15 September 1894), in which he played the role "Gedaliah luriah," Gordin's "Makhmud un di yudn (Mohammed and the Jewess)," an Arabian historical opera in four acts, music by  Reverend Kurentman (18 October 1894), and Zeifert's "Di Bas Yekhida (An Only Daughter)."  About the same time T. appeared for the first time in New York as "Uriel Acosta."  Bessie Thomashefsky describes an episode that occurred at the same time:

"After performing the 'Thomashefsky Dramatic Club'  (a circle of T.'s fans) carried out my husband as though he was the crowned king through the streets and called out 'Hurrah for Thomashefsky!' As they passed Adler's Roumanian Opera House, the boys and girls shouted 'Hurrah! The one and only Acosta in America, Hurrah!.' Suddenly it began to rain buckets of water, not, God forbid, from heaven but from the Roumanian Opera House, and it was not done by angels but by Adler's patrons... "

According to B. Gorin in that same season "Richard the Third" was being performed as arranged by Thomashefsky.

During the season of 1895-1896 T. played in the Windsor Theatre--(Prince and Sheinberg had left the Thalia Theatre), and there they staged Horowitz's "Kuzari," Morris Rosenfeld's "Der letste kohen hagadol (The Last High Priest)" and Jacob Terr's "Di zilberne hokhzeit (The Silver Anniversary)." In 1896-1897 in the same theatre: Latayner's "Yudele (Little Judah)" (in Europe it was known by the name "Yudele der blinder  (Little Judah the Blind)," Feinman's "Gibor hakhayil (The Brave Soldier)," the play "The Huguenots" and Goldfaden's "Akeydes yitshok (The Binding of Isaac)." But in the midst of the season, T. and his wife joined Edelstein in the Thalia Theatre, where they instituted a "star-combination-presentation" (T., Kessler and Adler).

About that union, T. writes in his memoirs: "The classical plays (in which Kessler himself had appeared) had no impact on the cashier sales and business was not going as well as could be expected. One night I met with Adler in a coffee house and Adler proposed a plan that we should unify in a three-man union: Adler, Kessler and Thomashefsky. We three together would conquer America. I was young, business did not preoccupy my thinking, and to be in a three-man union with Adler and Kessler was a pleasant thought. So I accepted their offer and Edelstein brought us together. I went over to the Thalia Theatre. The three of us, Adler, Kessler and I played for the first time in Gordin's "Yidishe galakh (The Jewish Priest)."

In Gordin's "Jewish Priest" you cannot even imagine what took place, especially in New York, with the patriotic theatre-world. Speculators escalated their ticket prices ten-fold. The street (Second Avenue), the buildings on Canal Street right up to the Thalia Theatre, were besieged. Mounted policemen on their horses were called upon to control the crowds, allowing those people who had good judgment to purchase tickets beforehand, to get into the theatre. Brilliant business opportunities were created. The second performance was Gordin's "Di litvisher brider lurie (The Lithuanian Brothers Lurie.") Kessler played the coarse young man. Adler played the elderly rabbi, and I played "Gedaliah Lurie.")

About this very play, Bessie Thomashefsky tells us: "All three stars were on the stage at the same time, and it became lively. Kessler started almost immediately on the stage to mimic Thomashefsky's mannerisms. I was shocked. Thomashefsky had a scene where he throws a plate on the ground, where it breaks. He started off by throwing two plates at the same time. Kessler was not to be outdone, and he too threw two plates...after all he too is a star.... Adler, seeing that the two other stars were having a great success due to these antis, began to "show off his star power," and he also broke plates. In short, before this act came to its conclusion, the three stars broke every single plate and dish that were on the set that evening. Not only that, but it appeared for a while that they were going to smash up the furniture on the set too."

T. remembered this episode in his memoirs. "The end of the three-star combination performance [came about] after several weeks of performing together. Kessler left for Chicago, and T. and Adler started working in the Windsor Theatre, where T. (with his wife) played from 1897 to 1899, during which time T. directed among other plays, "Antigonus the Hero."

According to B. Gorin, in 1898 T. staged Terr's "Der sheik oder, Der zikhes fun shabes kodesh (The Sheik, or, The Privilege of the Holy Sabbath)." Afterwards Kessler returned, but he later left the troupe once more, so that it became necessary to reorganize the combination performances with T. And Adler. In that same season, T. had the opportunity to perform with the guest performer Morris Morrison.

In the course of time Jacob Gordin's play, "Dovid'l meshoyrer (David the Singer)" (with T. in the title role), Leon Kobrin's play, "Mina," (which was a great success), Gordin's "Devorah'le meyukheses (Dvoyrele of Excellent Lineage)," in which T. gained great renown and fame for his performance as "Shimshon Eizenshtal"), and Solotorefsky's play, "Di shvarts khupe, oder, Der yudisher martirer (The Black Bridal Canopy, or, the Jewish Martyr)" (later popularized under the name "The Yeshiva Student," or, "The Jewish Hamlet"), in which T. portrayed "The Young Avigdor."

During the 1899-1900 season, T. formed a partnership with Edelstein in the People's Theatre, where he and Adler played together for three seasons. Here he also presented a brand new repertoire, which included Gordin's "The Gaon" (27 November, 1900), and "Di yidishe geto (The Jewish Ghetto)."

After Adler's great success in Tolstoy's "Di makht fun finsternish (The Power of Darkness)," T. performed in two Spanish plays, "Di 400 yor (The Four Hundred Years), and "Little Gabriel" (famous throughout Europe under the name "Khinke pinke," which later, much like another play "The Pintele Yid," became the synonym for "shund" in Yiddish theatre. here a strike broke out, backed by the younger actors, together with T. and his actor associates: Bessie Thomashefsky, Adler and his wife, Paulina Edelstein. However, the not-so-young actors--Katzman, Jacob Frank, M.D. Waxman, Morgenbesser and his wife Bela Gudinsky, and Sabina Weinblatt, remained on the stage and fought a battle against all of the unions. However, after a few weeks, the young actors with the stagehands returned to the stage.

In 1901 T. and his wife traveled to Europe and took that opportunity to perform in Berlin in Latayner's play, "Dovids fidele (David's Violin)," in support of the Yiddish actors there.

Upon returning to the USA he played once again with Adler in the People's Theatre. After Adler left the theatre, T. was left as the sole partner, together with Edelstein when he presented with great success Shomer's "Di goldene media (The Golden Land.)"

Regarding those days, Bessie Thomashefsky tells in her memoirs: "My husband organized his dressing room as though he was taking up residence there. It was completely decorated in an 'artistic style.' It was a proper star's dressing room with all kinds of innovations: golden mirrors, expensive blue tapestries, lamps in all sorts of colors, rich furnishings that were fitting and beautifully crafted divans and other wonderful things. It was a sumptuous dressing room."

At the same time T. presented Shomer's "Di yidishe imigrantn (The Jewish Immigrant)," which enjoyed a great financial success. According to B. Gorin during the same season, T.'s play, "Der shvartser yungermantshik (The Black Young Man)," also ran.

The following season was known by Bessie as the "Green Season," meaning that in the winter the People's Theatre was bathed in "green." "Di grine moyd (The Green Girl)" (based on an English melodrama "Rachel Goldstein"), "Di grine kinder (The Green Children)," "Di grine vaybl, oder, Der yidishe yenki dudl (The Jewish Yankee Doodle)," and "Di grine bokher (The Green Boy),: in short a green season with a lot of green dollars, amounting to tens of thousands.

On 7 November 1902 T. presented Leon Kobrin's drama, "Der farloyrener gan eydn (The Lost Paradise)," in which he (T.) played the role of "Benny Laidman."

His success in this very role had a large influence on his expanding his repertoire. Leon Kobrin wrote about this in his memoirs. "Thomashefsky's sucess in 'The Lost Paradise' was followed by several other successes in quick succession, which were among his best plays and hardly ever a play by another hand. It is a fact that he presented better plays than did Adler or Kessler in their theatres. ...At that time many famous American playwrights such as Norman Hopgood, Hutchkins, and John Korbin wrote many articles reviewing Thomashefsky and his company's acting ability.

Regarding T.'s performance as "Benny Laidman," Kobrin writes: "This play, without exaggeration, was the biggest artistic endeavor in his career as an actor. ...Thomashefsky made the deepest impression upon the audience with such a display of tones that no other human being had ever achieved upon the Yiddish stage. Notes that emanate from suffering within catastrophes and notes that within them the dearest love wriggled calmly; tones that ran juicy with gall and tones that were happy and clear as if they poured forth sunshine; tones that threatened, and still other tones that appealed with duplicity; angry tones within which a tortured moan screamed out, drunken tones within which duplicity was suffocated."

On  4 December 1902 T. presented for the first time in Yiddish, Goethe's "Faust" (translation by Leon Kobrin), playing the role of "Mephisto," but the play was almost immediately withdrawn. On 23 January 1903 he presented A. Mesko's play, "Tkhies hameysim, oder, Tsvishn himel un erd (Resurrection, or, Between Heaven and Earth.)" On 12 February 1903--Solotorefsky's translation "Der bis hamedrash unter der erd, oder, Di yidishe shtrasn-zinger (The School Beneath the Earth, or, The Jewish Street Singer.)" A (yiddishized) dramatic work by Victor Hugo, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." On 10 April 1903, [he presented] N. Rokow's, "Di shvue baym seyfer toyre, oder, Der yidishe romeo un yulia (The Oath on the Sefer Torah, or, the Jewish Romeo and Juliet," and he concluded that season with the presentation of Leon Kobrin's symbolic play, "Got un der trost (God and Trust.)"

On 23 December 1903 T. presented M. Goldberg's Yiddish translation of William Shakespeare's tragedy, "Di yidishe kenig lier (King Lear)," which however was closed early, and on 6 November 1903 Leon Kobrin's drama, " Der blinder musikant (The Blind Musician)," which remained in his repertoire.

On 6 May 1904 he staged M. Goldberg's Yiddish translation of Leon Mantel's reworking of Richard Wagner's "Parsifal," which was removed from the stage almost immediately. On 23 December 1904--under the supervision of Israel Zangwill, Kobrin's translation of Zangwill's "Tshildren ov di geto (Children of the Ghetto)" and still later Leon Kobrin's play, "Di tsvey shvester (The Two Sisters)."

On 8 February 1907 T. presented Sholem Aleichem's play, "Yidishe tekhter (Yiddish Daughters)," which sadly to say had no appeal and was immediately removed. On 21 February 1907 T.'s own "folk piece" in four acts with music by Friedsell, called "Di lemberger moyd, oder, Der nayer star (The New Star)," which held on for a short while. On 7 October 1907 he presented Ossip Dymow's "Shma yisroel (Hear O Israel)" (translated by Z. Kornblit), which was highly praised by the critics, and on 9 November 1907 in his own translation, Gerhardt Hauptmann's drama, "Der veber (The Weaver)," which Bessie Thomashefsky tells us about in her memoirs: "That season we presented 'The Weaver,' which became a great success. However, immediately after 'The Weaver' we once more dealt with small plays that brought in the dollars. This was how my husband continuously managed things: one or two good plays in order to give the press something to rave about, and then once again plays that the larger world loved so much and was willing to pay a high price to see. In other words, 'Something for God and something for the plain folk'."1

During the summertime T. performed in his own summer theatre, "Thomashefsky's Paradise Gardens," at his summer villa.

In his winter repertoire, T. included Libin's "Der troymer (The Dreamer)," and Abraham Goldfaden's "Ben-Ami" (Son of the People) (25 December 1907). "Ben-Ami" was Goldfaden's last play.

About T.'s direction Bessie Thomashefsky tells in her memoirs: "The father of the Yiddish stage Abraham Goldfaden felt that 'Ben-Ami' was his last work, and he did not wish for his last work to be a mere frolic where the music plays without any rational. He, therefore, demanded that 'Ben-Ami' should be presented as a drama, without music, but the director of the theatre had given instructions for there to be music. And it was left as the director wished, and not according to the instructions of the author. At first the play was a failure. It was decided to remove it from the season's offerings and replace it with another. However, Goldfaden suddenly became very ill. In a few days cold death stole him away from our world. Goldfaden died, and with his death a 'boom' for his works burst forth. The play 'Ben-Ami' became not merely a success, but a runaway [hit] (it played for fourteen weeks straight.)"

Writing about this phenomenon, B. Gorin says: "It is completely otherwise according to T. in an article about the play. I (T.) arranged this play according to how Goldfaden had written it. Goldfaden appeared at the last two rehearsals. He sat in the loge and watched the rehearsals. Thomashefsky--he said to me-- you promised me that I would be crowned for my "Ben-Ami," and I say that you must receive the crown for your direction of my "Ben-Ami." I can see from these rehearsals that you brought my characters alive, you planted a soul into my thoughts. ..."Ben-Ami" was staged only a few days later. At the first performance the spirit of the audience was like a storm. They called out for Goldfaden to come before the curtains over and over again."

On 11 September 1908 T. directed Franz Molnar's "Der tayvl (The Devil)" (in the version written by Rudolph Marks), in which he played the role of the Devil. On 9 October 1908 a reworking of Adolf Philip's play, "Der grosery man (The Grocery Man)." On 19 October 1908 he presented his reworking of Simeon Yuskevich's darma, "Der kenig (The King)," (with T. playing the title role). On 6 November 1908 Latayner's "Der ganef, oder, Der yidishe burgermeister (The Thief, or, The Jewish Mayor.")
On 27 November 1908 Jacob Gordin's last play, "Dementia amerikana, oder, Der vanzin nokh gelt (American Dementia, or, Insanity for Money)" (in T.'s competing theatre.) Jacob P. Adler in the Windsor Theatre simultaneously presented a play by Gordin, "Meshugenes in amerika (Crazy in America)," which was announced anew a week later under the name "Dementia amerikana," in which no one had the right to perform, other than Thomashefsky, and as the play that was performed in the Windsor Theatre was in truth one of Gordin's older plays, "Amerika (America)," which had been staged eight years earlier, but without his name.

Regarding the preparation of "American Dementia," B. Gorin wrote: "This play was purchased by Kessler, but in the middle of the production he became frightened and regretted this purchase. After this Thomashefsky decided to undertake the staging of the play, but not being secure about how the audiences might accept such a production he staged the play on the road. Only after that did he stage it at the People's Theatre. The play was not well received, causing further heartbreak to this reformer of the Yiddish stage at the end of his life.

T. himself writes about the performance of the last play by Gordin. "I had an arrangement with Jacob Gordin that he would not get involved with the preparations of any of his plays (Gordin himself used to direct his plays, or at least they were staged according to his wishes.) I myself made the arrangements for one of his plays, and Jacob Gordin came in the evening to see the first performance, exactly like any other ordinary theatre goer. He and his family seated themselves in a loge and marveled at his play. In the third act, Jacob Gordin was called out with enthusiastic applause. Jacob Gordin thanked the public, and then he thanked me for my direction. He then gave a speech saying: 'From all of my plays that he (Gordin) directed in New York, no other play was so realistically staged and played so beautifully.'"

In his "History of the Yiddish Theatre," B. Gorin came to the conclusion that the failure of "American Dementia" was a sign that the days of the best Yiddish dramas upon the Yiddish stage had ended." In truth T. staged his "family drama" in four acts on 11 December 1908 titled "Der mames kind (The Mother's Child)," with music by Friedsell. B. Gorin wrote: "The long battle between the various music halls (vaudeville houses) and the other theatres was finished with the latter winning the war. Thomashefsky was offended. He felt that something different was happening, and that he had arrived too late to take advantage of it. In 1908 he staged a bit by Terr's "Di yidishe neshome (The Jewish Soul), aka "Di yidishe neshome, or, Berl Kokhlefel, a musical drama in four acts, arranged by B. Thomashefsky," published by "Melodia," Warsaw, 5670 (1909), 56 pages, 16o). He wrote: "If the theatre goer attaches himself to Yiddish theatre, without a Jewish heart, he will also be captured without a Jewish soul." He was not wrong. His play was not to have a lesser success than Kessler's. (Latayner's play, "Dos yidishe harts (The Jewish Heart)" was playing at the same time with a great success by Kessler in the Thalia Theatre.) Kessler had triumphed for the first half of the season, and he (T.) triumphed during the second half of the season. But not withstanding this, Thomashefsky was not satisfied. He now had more free time, and he undertook to demonstrate that when it was necessary to stage a play with artistry, he could defeat all the other directors. And certainly in the following season (29 September 1909), and even before that on 11 February 1909, T. presented his comedy, "In kolombuses medina (In Columbus' Country.") He prepared a play by Zeifert called "Dos pintele yid (The Essential Jew.") This was done on the assumption that if the plays "The Jewish Heart" and "The Jewish Soul" succeeded, then "Pintele yid" would certainly find a following. He knew what he was doing. The success of "Pintele yid" surpassed everything else that until that time had occurred on the Yiddish stage. For more than twenty weeks after that, the play was a success, bringing in lots of revenue. It is interesting to note that M. Zeifert had left the company himself and was not given any recognition for his role in the play.

("The Pintele Yid" was advertised by Boris Thomashefsky [as such]: "The subject by M. Zeifert and music by Perlmutter and Wohl" was performed immediately in Europe and advertised as T.'s play. As a result it played for a longer than usual season by almost all the Yiddish troupes in Europe. It outperformed all the other dramatic and melodramatic repertoires. The play was later presented in Warsaw without the supervision of either the author or arranger.)

B. Gorin further writes: "After the unbelievable success of "The Pintele Yid," there was only ridicule over the other dramas. In the box offices of the other plays, they ridiculed anyone who even mentioned another play. The other directors literally were blinded with envy, and they searched for another play, which was capable of comparing to "The Pintele Yid."

On 1909 T. attempted to use his talents to edit a lengthy literary journal. He founded a weekly theatrical journal, "The Yiddish Stage." A publication devoted to all branches of Yiddish drama and Yiddish music." The journal sold for two cents a copy. It had eight pages and was printed in the format of a newspaper. It lasted from 19 November 1909 until 29 April 1910 (a few issues of this journal can be found at Dov-Ber Circle in Philadelphia.)

In his journal T. printed more articles and memoirs about Yiddish theatre, and also several selections of his never-ending novel, "Tsvey shvester (Two Sisters), an original novel of life in the Yiddish theatre." Apart from T.'s works, we can also find in his journal much news freshly released about the Yiddish theatre, articles about Yiddish theatre written by others, including correspondents from various international cities and countries, biographies and biographic notations of Yiddish actors and critiques of performances on Yiddish stage.

In December 1909 in the journal, there was also announced T.'s plan to found a theatre school. The students would have to pay a fee of two hundred dollars for the year in installments. In the printed application form that each student had to fill out, it was strongly emphasized the necessity and the sacredness of correct Yiddish pronunciation for the stage. However, out of this effort nothing materialized.

On 17 January 1910 in the People's Theatre, there was presented T.'s rendition of "Di sheyne amerikanerin (The Beautiful American)," which was based on Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," with music by Perlmutter and Wohl; on 26 August 1910 -- "Di [Der] Nyu-yorker border (The New York Border)--(a comedy-drama); on 13 October 1910 "Der poylisher yid (The Polish Jew)" was staged with music by Perlmutter and Wohl, which later was often performed on the Yiddish stage throughout Europe; on 10 November 1910 -- "Der meshumed (The Convert)" (adapted from Herman Reibach); on 16 March 1911 -- "Jacob's Children," a drama, adapted from a Russian play and translated by Boris Thomashefsky himself, and on 13 April 1911 his operetta "Dos dorfs-meydl (The Village Girl)," based on an idea by Rakow, with music by Perlmutter and Wohl.

From time to time T. also staged plays by Kobrin, Libin and Solotorefsky. Then he stage-directed and acted in the leading roles in Kobrin's "Froyen-libe (Womenly Love)" (27 August 1909), Solotorefsky's "Dos tsveyte vayb (The Second Wife)" [in T.'s adaptation], Kobrin's "Der shturm fun lebn (The Storm of Life)" (16 September 1910), and Libin's "Gerekhtikeyt (Justice)" (23 December 1910).

In the summer of 1911 T. traveled to Europe and acted in several productions in Yiddish theatre in London.

For the 1911-1912 season T. opened the People's Theatre with Avraham Shomer's play "Eykele mazik (The Reformed Convict)," which he stage-directed. The leading role was performed by Rudolph Schildkraut, who T. had engaged for the troupe, and with him in the title role there was also staged on 27 October 1911 Z. Libin's "Der gedanken-lezer "; on 6 October 1911 T. staged "Di neshome fun mayn folk, oder, Der ungarisher zinger (The Soul of My People, or, The Hungarian Singer)," an operetta by Boris Thomashefsky, music by Perlmutter and Wohl." The operetta soon thereafter had a great success performing across all the Yiddish stages of the world, and without the knowledge of the author, it opened in Warsaw under the name "Di neshome fun mayn folk (Di neshome fun yisrael) (The Soul of My People [The Soul of Isr, an operetta in four acts by N. Rakow [!], publisher M. Goldfarb, Warsaw, 1926" [40 pp., 16o].

On 30 November 1911 T. staged Libin's play "Blinde libe (Blind Love)," which he also in the future seasons very often played, and on 28 December 1911 -- Dr. Thedor Herzl's "Di naye geto (The New Ghetto)." In the middle of February 1912, S. left the troupe, and T. again became the main actor of the troupe. Here he, on 22 February 1912, staged Z. Libin's "Fremde kinder (Foreign Children)," and on 31 March 1912 "Di rayze nokh amerike (The Trip to America) by Boris Thomashefsky, based on a subject by Dr. Schnitzer, music by Perlmutter and Wohl."

For the 1912-13 season, it began with an agreement between Adler and T. In a short while T. appeared on the People's Theatre stage, there was performed in Adler's People's Theatre in his previously performed repertoire. Over time there was built (on Houston Street and Second Avenue) by Louie Minsky and Max B. Stoyer a new theatre under the name "Adler-Thomashefsky's National Theatre," with Adler and Thomashefsky as lessees and directors, and with Max R. Wilner and Joseph Edelstein as general managers. The theatre's opened with a blaze of glory on 24 September 1912 with a holiday production, in which there were staged a single act from Z. Libin's "Blinde libe (Blind Love)" (with Boris Thomashefsky), Shakespeare's "Shylock" (with Jacob P. Adler), and Jacob Gordin's "Shloimke sharlatan" (with David Kessler). The next night, on 25 September 1912, T. staged his operetta "Di yidishe kroyn (The Jewish Crown," based on a theme by Rakow, music by Perlmutter and Wohl." The operetta was later performed for a long time almost on all the Yiddish stages. The productions would now be divided between Adler and T. : sometimes Adler used to stage his repertoire, and T. used to go out to perform in the province, and sometimes the reverse.

On 13 December 1912, T. staged Solotorefsky's "Der eyntsiker zun (The Only Son)," and then went out on a long tour across the province, where he also directed for the first time Leon Kobrin's comedy "Britsh of promis (Breach of Promise)," acting in the main role of "Bertshik," under which name ("Bertshik in amerike"), the comedy was also later performed. Returning to New York, he directed the same comedy on 21 February 1913 in the National Theatre. After a strike (in March 1913), T. directed on 22 April 1913, Solotorefsky's musical drama "Di yidishe fon, oder, Mayn natsion (The Jewish Flag, or, My nation), music by Perlmutter and Wohl," and went out in May 1913 to Europe, where he also took with him his newly written operetta "Dos farblonjete shefele (The Lost Sheep)."

Regarding the story of Yiddish theatre in America, and for the reasons why T. traveled to Europe, Gorin wrote, "In New York, in that season there was a fantastic rush of ticket sales for the theatre. The Yiddish music halls now were completely sold out, changing the face of the theatre. Income and receipts were counted by the scores. The directors of the theatres decided to create a 'trust,"' and after long delays they accomplished this task. However, even before they had time to consider all the details a problem arose. Their thinking had arisen in order that competition could flourish among the various theatres. In this manner it would not be necessary to have a separate theatre for each star. It seldom occurred that every theatre would have great successes at the same time. When one or two big theatres made out well, the third had financial problems. It could never been anticipated which theatres would have the good fortune, and would therefore be the first to succeed and receive the greatest share of the "take." Supposedly they would divide the money two ways to the stars engaged in these two theatres. At times, the Thalia Theatre was empty, and the People's Theatre would be rented out for non-Yiddish performances. The issue was on one hand economic, and on the other hand this system liberated a star from having to play in new York. He would be able to play outside of New York and develop more business for the trust than, for example, when he was engaged in a New York theatre. Apart from this the directors hoped that together they could gain an advantage over the Actors' Union, and it would be trust that would dictate their profits. Truthfully, before there was a trust, and within a few months, a strike broke out in both theatres... The trust lasted one season, and the mourning for the trust lasted briefly into the next season. In order to improve their own profits, Kessler and Thomashefsky left for Russia the following summer between the two New York seasons.

From May to June 1913 T. guest-starred (together with Celia Adler and Jacob Hochstein from America) in London's Yiddish Pavilion Theatre, where he presented for the first time Libin's plays "Gerekhtikeyt (Justice)" and "Blinde libe (Blind Love)," Kobrin's "Britsh of promis (Breach of Promise)," under the name "Bertshik in amerike (Bercik in America)," Goldfaden's "Ben-Ami," and several plays from his performed repertoire. Soon thereafter he went to guest-star (without Celia Adler) in Poland (Warsaw, Lodz), Galicia (Lemberg) and Russia (Odessa), where he also presented Kobrin's plays "Der farloyrener gan-eydn (The Lost Paradise)" and "Der blinder muzikant (The Blind Musician)."

T.'s guest appearance had evoked a great interest, because first of all, guest appearances by foreign Yiddish guest-actors were quite rare, and secondly, T.'s name was very popular both as the founder and one of the prominent representatives of Yiddish theatre in America, in addition to being one of the foremost operetta composers.

These guest appearances also attracted the greatest attention of the Yiddish theatre critics. Regarding his successful reviews of T.'s work, Noah Prilutsky wrote: "It is clear to the human eye that nature endowed this person greatly: an imposing figure; lively flexible movement, completely endowed with freedom, softness and grace; an expressive face with an independent playfulness of light and shadow. He is truly miniature stage, upon which voices, feelings, emotions, thoughts, intentions, come forth and unite clearly, precisely and animated, a gracious voice with a conventional timbre and deep chesty tones that are sometimes lubricated with sweet womanly softness." To sum up Prilutsky's critique: "In no play did T. create that which when someone in the future will write a more concise description of Mr. Thomashefsky--in the history of Yiddish theatre, perhaps in an encyclopedia entry--can someone attribute a more positive explanation of his love for Yiddish theatre."

And Dr. Mukdoni writes in his memoirs about T.'s guest-appearances: "I must say that Thomashefsky had made a very good impression on me. I saw before me a magnificent acting figure. Such a figure is seldom encountered even on the larger stage. However, on the Yiddish stage I have never encountered a similar figure. Even in those days he was handsome. His hair was perfect for an acting face. His performance made an excellent impression upon me. He appeared in several very good plays, and he had very appropriate roles. Above all, I appreciated his appearance in several comedic roles. Comedy didn't possess the same value any longer, nor beauty as in his performances. His dramatics was a bit old-fashioned, but his comedy was always fresh, reserved and very fine... I observed this Americanism in his private life: the 'screaming sportsman'...." For example, he had with him two leather wallets containing gold coins, and at every opportunity he would take out one of the thicker wallets and paid for his purchases with golden coins. He was brotherly with everyone, but at the same time he was an 'American snob.' Overall, he made a very good impression. he got along very well with people, telling stories about life in America, and a sea of good stories about American customs and off-color jokes that he knew and could tell them so that they sounded fresh, with wonderful gestures and in general with acting agility."

According to a respectable source in Lodz, where T. guest-starred for several weeks in Zandberg's Grand Theatre, when he returned later to America, he published in the "Forward" (12, 19, 26 October 1913) a series of articles in which he made fun of Lodz's Yiddish theatre, which evoked a rebuttal attack in "Di varhayt" (16 December 1913). After visiting Berdichev, when T. for a short time had performed in Yekaterinoslav and in Odessa where he had begun his artistic career, he returned to America, wherein he had -- through the mediation of Dr. Mukdoni -- brought with him the dramatist Ossip Dymow.

For the 1913-1914 season, T again directed with the National Theatre, where he had on 12 September 1913 staged H.M. Gastwirth's translation of L. Tolstoy's drama "Likht in der finsternish (Light [Shines] in the Darkness)," under the name ""Tolstoy's lebn, oder, Likht in der finsternish (Tolstoy's Life, or, Light in the Darkness)," in which T acted in the role of "Nikolai" Ivanovich Saruntzev. Soon thereafter, T. brought from London the prima donna Fania Zusmer, and from Poland the prima donna Nadia (Esther) Neroslavska, and the actor Lazar Freed, with whom he staged several already performed operettas, and on 15 October 1913 his own new operetta "Dos farblonjete shefele (The Lost Sheep)," music by Perlmutter and Wohl. Here there came under the "Beilis epoch," when every Yiddish theatre staged a play about the Beilis-process, T. also staged on 24 November 1913 Moshe Schorr's time piece "Mendel Beilis," performing in the title role.

On 12 December 1913, T. staged, together with the author, Ossip Dymow's drama "Der eybiker vanderer (The Eternal Wanderer)" (Yiddish: Dr. A. Mukdoni), music by Sandler, acting in the role of "Mordechai Berman."

About this presentation B. Gorin wrote: '"The best plays found their only home in Thomashefsky's National Theatre... Not respecting input from his board comprising the partners and local people, plus the actors who played in the drama and who prophesized, that it would be a shame to be present in the theatre on the evening of the first performance, because the play would surely fail. But this prophesy did not come true, and 'The Eternal Wanderer' was highly acclaimed by the New York audience."

This play continued for several more years to be in T.'s repertoire.

On 12 February 1914 T. staged, together with the author [in the anonymous translation of B. Rivkin] Ossip Dymow's play "Der gedungener khasun (The Hired Bridegroom)" [the play later-to-become-famous "Yoshke muzikant (Yoshke the Musician), oder, Der zinger fun zayn troyer (The Singer of His Sorrows)," in which he acted in the role of "Yoshke." The play had no longevity, and on 20 March 1914 T. staged his own "Himel, erd un shvindl (Heaven, Earth and Fraud?), a melodrama with music and dance in four acts, music by Perlmutter and Wohl," in which he acted in he role of "Barnato the Detective." The play did not stay long, and T. ended the season by performing repertoire, and after the season he went on tour across the American province.

In the 1914-15 season T. opened on 28 August 1914 at the National Theatre with Ossip Dymow's play "Milkhome (War)," which wasn't maintained for a long time, and on 2 October 1914 T. staged his own operetta "Di poylishe khasene (The Polish Wedding), music by Perlmutter and Wohl." The offering was a success and remained for a certain time in repertoire, and initially in 1928 it was staged in Poland by the Kompaneyets troupe, and was thereafter published without the knowledge of the author in Warsaw [The Polish Wedding, a folk piece in three acts with a prologue and epilogue by Boris Thomashefsky, publisher L. Goldfarb, Warsaw 1928, p. 48, 16o].

Sholem Asch arrived here in America, and T. staged his play "Unzer gloybn (Our Belief)," in which he acted in the role of "Lazar." Also the play was not maintained for a long time, and on 24 December 1914, T. staged his own "symbolic play" under the name "A shtikele glik, oder, Der mazeldiker bokher (....)." Also the play soon left from the stage.

On 8 January 1915 Max R. Wilner left the partnership, and T. remained the sole proprietor of the National Theatre, which carried from then on the name "Thomashefsky's National Theatre." Here T. staged on 22 January 1915 I. Solotorefsky's time piece "Der yidisher martirer in Amerike (The Jewish Martyr in America)" [the Leo Frank opera], and on 5 February 1915 Avraham Shomer's comedy "Der griner milyoner (The Green Millionaire)," in which T. acted in the title role. The play remained for a long time in T.'s repertoire.

In the same season, T. acted in the film of the operetta "Di tserisene neshomes."

On 3 September 1915 T. opened the 1915-16 season in his National Theatre with his four-act operetta "Dos toyra'le (The Torah?)," (music by Perlmutter and Wohl), which remained on the stage for a long time, and on 15 October 1915 he staged Leon Kobrin's drama "Yisroell's hofenung (Israel's Hope), oder, Heilike libe (Sacred Love?)," in which he acted in the main role of "Israel Poliakov." The play stayed for several weeks, and T. received much recognition from the critics for his acting. On 10 December 1915 he staged Moshe Richter's time-piece "Milkhome korbones (War Victims)," which was simultaneously performed by Adler in another New York theatre. On 4 February 1916 -- Moshe Schorr's drama "Toyt shtrof (Capital Punishment)," and on 9 March 1916 [in Newark], and on 10 March [in New York] Leon Kobrin's comedy "Di nekst-dorike (Next-Door Neighbors)," which remained for a certain time in T.'s repertoire. The season ended with the offering by N. Rakow's musical comedy " Helo nyu york (Hello New York)," music by Perlmutter and Wohl.

0n 22 September 1916 T. opened the 1916-17 season in the National Theatre with his offering of I. Solotorefsky's "Dem tayvels makht (The Devil's Power)," and on 11 October 1916 he staged his own four-act operetta "Dos tsebrokhene fiedele (The Broken Violin)" (music by Joseph Rumshinsky). For the first time on the Yiddish stage in America there was performed in the operetta a ballet, and the orchestra was composed of twenty-four musicians, On 23 November 1916 T. staged with the newly arrived actor Samuel Goldenburg the play "Oyf zindike erd," and left others to guest-act in his theatre, and he went with the repertoire across the province. He left but soon returned, and on 12 January 1917 he staged Ossip Dymow's play "Der gayst fun shtot (The Spirit of the City)," in which he acted in the role of "David Steinman." The play, however, was soon taken down, and on 26 January 1917 T. staged the four-act time-piece "Yidishe milkhome-kales (Jewish War Brides)," by N. Rakow and Miller; on 2 March 1917 -- Z. Kornblit's comedy "Uptoun un Dounton (Uptown and Downtown)," (music by Rumshinsky), and on 7 April 1917 -- Dr. H. Zolotarov's "Far ire kinder (For Her Children)" with Bertha Kalich.

For the 1917-1918 season, T. opened his National Theatre on 31 August 1917 with Z. Libin's play "Der eynitsiker eydes (The Only Witness)." On 26 September 1917 he staged his own four-act operetta "Mazl tov" (music by Joseph Rumshinsky); on 16 November 1917 -- his adaptation of B. Kovner's four-act comedy "Yente telebende" (music by Joseph Rumshinsky); on 21 December 1917 -- Leon Kobrin's play "Tsurik tsu zayn folk (Back to His People)," in which he acted in the role "Artur Blek," and on 11 January 1918 -- his own operetta "Di khazante (The Reverend's Lady)" [subject taken from "Di finf frankfurter"], (music by Joseph Rumshinsky), which remained for a long time in his repertoire. T. ended the season with the offering (22 March 1918) from his own comedy in three acts with a prologue "Mayn vayb iz in der kontry, hury (My Wife is in the Country, Hurray)" (music by Joseph Rumshinsky).

For the 1918-19 season T. opened his National Theatre (30 August 1918) with his own three-act operetta "Di lustike yidelekh (The Jolly Hebrews)" (Music by Joseph Rumshinsky). On 3 October 1918 he staged in his adaptation Semyon Yushkevich's drama "Hunger," and on 11 October 1918 -- Latayner's play "Dos shpil fun lebn, oder, Di makhutunim (The In-Laws)," which also stayed for only a short time; on 1 November 1918 he staged Anshel Schorr's time-piece "Nokh der milkhome (After the War)"; on 27 November 1918 -- a handed-over Gordin play "Vilde kozakn, oder, "Yidn un heyeremakn (....)," in which he acted in the role of "Nikolai" (as the previous offering of the season, the play also did not last long); on 13 December 1918 -- his adaptation of H. Kalmanowitz's comedy "Upstairs and Downstairs"; and on 11 February 1919 his own three-act operetta with a prologue "Dos alte lidele (The Old Song?)" (music -- Joseph Rumshinsky), which he staged until Pesach [April], when he began to tour across the province.

During the 1919-1920 season, T., (united with David Kessler), opened on 29 August 1919 in his National Theatre with H. Kalmanowitz's operetta "Di tsvey khazanim (The Two Cantors), a free adaptation of Boris Thomashefsky, music by Herman Wohl." (The second chief role in the operetta was played by T., as "Mordechai Zilbert," and Kessler as "Yerukhem"). On 8 October 1919, T. staged his operetta "Dos heylike lid (The Sacred Melody), in three acts with a prologue, music by Herman Wohl." (T. as "Grodner the Actor," and Kessler as "Mira Michailovich"); on 26 October 1919 T. staged Solotorefsky's "Kinder kumt aheym (Children Come Home)" (role of "Israel Landau"); on 16 January 1920 -- Ossip Dymow's "Der yom-hadin (The Day of Judgment)" (T. as "Jacob Bauman"). On 6 February 1920 -- Harry Thomashefsky's operetta "Parlor flor un beysment (Palace Floor and Basement), music by Milton and Harry Thomashefsky," and he ended the season (on 4 March 1920) with his adaptation of Gershom Bader's "Di goldene royze (The Golden Rose?)" (role of "Ertsbishof of Lemberg"), and with a large tour across the American province and Canada.

For the 1920-21 season, T. opened his National Theatre with a performance of L. Sniegoff (2 September 1920) in Strindberg's "Der foter (The Uncle)," and of Esther Sniegoff (3 September 1920) in Artsibashev's "Eyferzukht (Jealousy)." Initially on 10 September 1920, T. performed as "Isaac Levkowitz" in I. Lillian's comedy "Mayn tatens vayb (My Father's Wife)," and on 29 September 1920 he performed with Michal Michalesko, Zina Goldstein and Herman Serotsky in Kalmanowitz's operetta "Dos ungarishe meydl, oder, Di tshardash-firshtin (The Hungarian Girl, or, The ...)"; on 12 October 1920 -- Aaron Lebedeff in Wolf Shumsky's musical comedy "Liovke molodets (Liovke the Clever)." At the same time, this almost ended T.'s period as the first actor and regisseur in his theatre. He went out to guest-star for several months across the American province, and when he returned he staged on 24 December 1920 "Dos muzikalishe shtetl (The Musical Town?), an operetta in three acts, a free adaptation by Boris Thomashefsky, music by Leo Loew" (acting in the role of 'Daniel Vin"), then he again went on a tour across America, visiting California, where he acted and wrote about his travels in several articles in the "Forward," and he again performed in New York on 14 April 1921 in Shomer's "Der griner milyoner (The Green Millionaire)."

For the 1921-22 season, T., on 22 September 1921 in his National Theatre, he opened with Rudolph Schildkraut performing in "Der vanderer (The Wanderer?)" by W. Samuel, translation by Henry Gastwirth. At the same time T. opened a theatre, "The Fourteenth Street Theatre," in which he staged and acted on 9 October 1921 in Avraham Shomer's "Hatikva," but after several productions he closed the theatre, and T. returned to his National Theatre, where he staged on 28 October 1921 Yitskhok Lash's "Yoshke khvat (The Dashing Yoshke?)," with Lebedeff in the main role. On 25 December 1921 T. staged his operetta "Lebedik un fraylekh (Lively and Happy?), oder, Vi got in odes," (music by Herman Wohl), in which he acted in the role of "Moshe Leib," then he guest-starred in Gabel's 116th Street Theatre, and initially on 10 March 1922 he returned to his theatre with his new offering "Der goldener fodim (The Golden Thread), a folks-shtik in three acts by Boris Thomashefsky, twenty-four musical numbers selected by A. Goldfaden, arranged by Herman Wohl" (a glorification of Avraham Goldfaden), in which T. performed in two roles: as "Avraham Goldfaden," and as "Boris Thomashefsky."

About his play "Der goldener fodim," Ab. Cahan writes:

"Boris Thomashefsky has taken the history of the people who founded the Yiddish theatre and created a play about it. The hero of the piece is also Avraham Goldfaden. ...Thomashefsky idealizes Goldfaden. He made him a human being who strove to the Yiddish theatre as to a great ideal; he made him a dreamer, who lies only in the sense of art, beauty, light and understanding. Goldfaden's famous song "Shtey oyf mayn folk, ervakh fun dayn driml" created for Thomashefsky a special issue [leyt-motiv]. With this he sought to prove that Goldfaden as involved in the question of how to promote and educate among the Jews. The flimsy side of Goldfaden's career is completely ignored, and there is no pretense. This is not any realistic play; it is a musical-romantic piece, and as such she shines with a poetic thought. Adding such a piece demands a talent, a power of imagination and feeling."

Later T. toured the province and ended the season by guest-starring in the New York theatres.

For the 1922-1923 season, T. opened his National Theatre on 23 September 1922 with his "Toyznt un eyn nakht (A Thousand and One Nights), a fantastical operetta in three acts by Boris Thomashefsky, music by Herman Wohl." On 16 October 1922 there performed in a theatre Clara Young in B.'s "Di grine kuzine (The Green Cousin)," and on 3 November 1922 T. staged to his benefit Yuri's play "Der kenig fun shmates (The King of the Rags" (Y. M. Osherowitz), and guest-starred over the province and in New York's theatres, until he staged on 9 February 1923 in the Lyric Theatre his adaptation "Dos odeser yidl (The Odessa Jews)" by A. Kartozhinski. Around the end of the season T. became sick, and he had to cut short his acting, and his manager Louis Goldberg, together with Mike Saks took over Thomashefsky's National Theatre and called it "National Theatre." When T. visited, he guest-starred in Montreal, Toronto, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and other cities.

For the 1923-24 season, T. opened [for the first time] a Yiddish theatre on Broadway, the "Thomashefsky Broadway Yiddish Theatre" (44th Street, West of Broadway), and he staged with Schildkraut and Satz on 3 September 1923 Kartozhinski's "Di dray kleine biznes-leit" [the earlier produced play "Dos odeser yidl (The Odessa Jew)"] (music by J. Cherniavsky); on 30 September 1923 he directed here in his combined play "Ikh un du (You and I)" with music from Goldfaden, Rumshinsky, Friedsell, Wohl and Cherniavsky; on 7 December 1923 the German actor Adolf Phillip performed in T.'s theatre in Yiddish in his own comedy "Auction Pinochle" (T. acted with), and then T. brought, together with his son Harry and William Rolland, the "Vilna Troupe" from London, where they began to perform in the theatre on 29 January 1924, and in a span of time in which the troupe acted here, T. guest-starred in his repertoire in Brooklyn's Hopkinson Theatre.

The "Vilna Troupe" performed in Thomashefsky's for only a few weeks, and together moved in order to act in other theatres, closed T.'s theatre, and T. with his troupe guest-starred across the province and across the New York theatres.

In May 1924 T. traveled to South America, where he acted for several months.

[1924-1925 season] T. returned in October 1924 and soon performed in the Grand Theatre in a sketch "Der khazan mit der khazante." Then he again went on tour, guest-starring across the province, and in January 1925 he guest-starred together with Regina Zuckerberg in in New York's Grand Theatre, where he staged on 22 January 1925 a dramatization of his article about Argentina, under the name "Zindike neshomus fun buenos aires, an interesting scene about life in Argentina." After acting for several weeks, T. staged on 2 February 1925 in Loew's vaudeville theatre in English in a sketch "Der griner millyoner (The Green Millionaire)," again soon touring with Yiddish theatre across the American province, returning to New York and staging on 5 June 1925 in the Prospect Theatre his play "Ikh un du (You and I)," and on 13 June 1925 he went to Europe where he guest-starred for a short time.

For a half-season 1925-26, T. was manager of a Yiddish theatre in Toronto (Canada), then again he toured across the American province, where he staged his dramatization of the Steiger process, and on 23 April 1926 he again performed in New York (Amphion Theatre) in repertoire.

During the 1926-27 season, T. led a Yiddish troupe in Philadelphia, and because Sunday performances were forbidden in Philadelphia, he performed on Sundays in New York's Brownsville's Lyric Theatre, where he staged on 12 September 1926 M. Nestor's operetta "Dos rebins hoyf (The Rabbi's Court)" (music by Philip Laskowsky).

Several weeks later, T. went over with his Philadelphia troupe to New York's Lipzin Theatre, where he acted for only a short time.

In February 1927 he staged in Philadelphia's Garden Theatre the operetta "Bar Mitzvah" (music -- Philip Laskowsky, author, Boris Thomashefsky). The playwright Louis Reingold then marked T.'s (see "Forward," N. Y., 25 March 1927) as plagiarized, supported thereof, which (also several songs and new jokes), was the same play that in 1924 was performed through Jacob Silbert at the Hopkinson Theatre under the name "A grus fun der heym (Greetings From Home)" by L. Reingold, and that T. by himself had staged the play later with American guest-starring actors brought to Europe where it was the sensation of the theatre season, and the same operetta, in a new adaptation with music by Joseph Rumshinsky, which on 25 November 1931 was staged through T. in New York's Second Avenue Theatre under the name "Der mames zundele (The Mother's Son)," when T. guest-starred there.

On 24 September 1927 T. opened the [1927-28] season in Philadelphia's Metropolitan Opera with the operetta "Chad gadya" (music by P. Laskowsky). The theatre existed but for a short time and, in December 1927 T. performed in English vaudeville. Later he toured as a guest-star in his old repertoire across the Yiddish theatres of America, and for the 1928-29 season, he founded a Yiddish troupe for California (Los Angeles and San Francisco).

In April 1929 he went to Europe, where he guest-starred (together with Ruth Reney) in England, France, Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia, and for a certain time also with Willy Godik and Ola Lillith. In November 1930 he returned to America and staged on 26 November 1930 in the Public Theatre his operetta "Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel)" (music -- Ab. Ellstein), in which he acted in the role of "Israel."

On 9 January 1931 he staged in the Lyric Theatre his play "Froyn-tayvl" with Bertha Rosenberg in the title role. The play was soon taken off the stage.

After acting for several months in the Public Theatre, and later across the American province, T. decided to found a Yiddish theatre in the English language. The first attempt he made was with the offering of 10 September 1931 in New York's Selwyn Theatre his son Harris' adaptation of his operetta "Di khazante," under the name "The Singing Rabbi" (with music by Joseph Rumshinsky and Harry Lubin, lyrics by L. Wolfe Gilbert, staged by William E. Morris). The offering was very sharply criticized by the English and Yiddish press, and after several performances he closed the theatre. T began now acted in the English language in a sketch "The Green Millionaire" [adapted from Kobrin's play] across the vaudeville houses of R. K. O., then he returned to the Yiddish stage, guest-starring across several provincial cities and joined the Second Avenue Theatre, where he staged on 25 November 1931 a revival of his operetta "Bar Mitzvah," under the name "Der mames zundele" (music -- Joseph Rumshinsky), and then he went over to the Lyric Theatre, where he acted for several months.

For the 1932-33 season, T. took over the Gaiety Theatre in Williamsburg (Brooklyn, New York), which he opened with his play "Di ende fun rusishn tsar (The End of the Russian Tsar)" (music -- J. Brody), which on 21 October 1932 was performed in Philadelphia's Casino Theatre under the name "Rasputin." In October 1932 he staged his operetta "Unzer rabinu (Our Rabbi?)" (music by Joseph Brody), and when he brought as a gust-star from Europe the actor Isaac Samberg, he went by himself to guest-star across the province. The Gaiety Theatre closed soon. T. then went to the McKinley Square Theatre to perform, in which the jurisdiction of the Yiddish Actors Union stood out, and thereby evoked an action of protest against him by the Actors' Union.

THOMASHEFSKY'S WRITINGS

Besides the journal "Di yidishe bine," T. issued ["Di yidishe bine, a weekly dedicated as a branch of the Yiddish drama and Yiddish music," New York, 19 November 1909 -- 29 April 1910], and his book "Thomashefsky's Theatre Writings," New York, 1908 [108 pp., 16o], he also wrote very many articles about Yiddish theatre, and from time to time he published memories about the first years of Yiddish theatre in America, and about the first actors. He also published portrayals of his trips throughout the world, in which despite all the mistakes there was in them existed many characteristic material of the history of Jewish life in America and other countries, especially about Yiddish theatre.

T. began his articles in "Di yidishe bine" from 10-31 December 1909, then he had his travels and acted in Europe (especially in Poland and Russia), writing in the "Forward" (21 September 1913 -- 18 January 1914), published a series of memoirs ("Forward" from 1 February until 19 April 1914), theatre feuilletons, articles about Schildkraut and Sam Shneyer, and travel impressions of Berlin ("Forward," 24 September -- 21 November 1915), travel impressions of Paris ("Forward," 5, 19 December 1915), about Jacob Spivakovski and theatre feuilletons ("Forward," 2, 9 January and 26 March 1916).

On 2 April 1916 T. began to publish in the "Forward" his memoirs of the suppression of Yiddish theatre in America, which was published almost every Sunday until 16 July 1916, then from 26 November 1916 until 24 December 1916,  from 18 March 1917 until 29 April 1917, on 13 May and 3 June 1917, and from 7 October until 2 December 1917, when they were interrupted, and not finished.

In the "Forward" of 28 March 1918 he published an article about the Actors' Union, and in the same newspaper of 31 August -- 5 September 1918 [he wrote] a series of articles about deceased actors Morris Morrison. Later an article about David Kessler (23 May 1920), theatre feuilletons (26 February, 18 November -- 3 December 1921, 6 January -- 4 March 1922), and travel impressions of California (12-26 March 1921), Berl Bernstein (3 September 1922), Moscow Russia's Art Theatre (4 February 1923), memories and theatre feuilletons (25 February, 30 June, 3 August, 1, 7, 10 September 1923), Krantzfeld (11 August 1923), Golubok (18 August 1923), Spector (25 August 1923), Shenkman (10 November 1923), "Vilna Troupe" (12 December 1923).

During and after acting in South America T. wrote ("Forward," 12 July 1924 -- 1 January 1925), of Jewish life in Argentina and Brazil and the Yiddish theatres there, and in the collection book "Di geshikhte fun khazanus" (New York, 1924), he wrote about his memories as a choirboy in his youth.

In the "Forward" of 7 February 1925, he described his fifth performance on the English stage. In the "Morning Journal" (7-26 April 1926), he published his memories of Jacob P. Adler, and in the "California Yiddish Voice" (4 January -- 7 May 1929) about the first Yiddish productions in America.

During his guest appearance in Europe, T. published memoirs about Adler ("Parizer haynt," 10, 11 February 1929), an article about the sad conditions of Yiddish Theatre in Poland and Romania ("Forward," 22 May 1930), and memories about Schildkraut ("Nayer lodzer folksblat," 19, 20 October 1930).

B. Gorin remarked about T.: "Thomashefsky was still a young boy, still a child, when he came to America, and he, more than all the other actors adapted quickly to the so-called American extravaganza. This extravaganza is a purely American product, and the American audiences loved (licked their fingers) with it. The entire event is based on a song, a joke, an innovation with half-clad young women, and special effects... And since Thomashefsky was younger than all the other actors when he came to the United States, this extravaganza made a very strong impression upon him, as it did with all the others. In the theatres in which he appeared he always attempted to bring in the spirit of these extravaganzas. This doesn't mean that his 'shtick' were saturated with the extravaganzas. For the Yiddish theatre this was too airy, too uncontrolled, and too clownish. However, Thomashefsky, unbeknownst to himself, always strove to give in to his 'shtick,' at least a hint of extravaganza. Thomashefsky, more than everyone in the other theatres, tore down the separation between the stage and the audience, and the viewer was invited in a friendly manner to take part in a sing-along in which they all participated.

In Thomashefsky's, more than any other theatre, people enjoyed themselves under the American flag. At the same time that this nationalism began to spread among the American Jews, the blue flag of the Zionist movement appeared on the scene. Thomashefsky, again more than other actors, was drawn to musical-comedy with its gangbuster material from the American stage, which was half-operetta and half-extravaganza. It would not be true to say that Thomashefsky was the one who brought this spirit to the Jewish stage. Even when the early "Reali" (sp) troupe began to perform (1884), this extravaganza spirit could be felt from Max Abramowitz, who joined the Yiddish theatre from the German coffee-house. He was an expert in his trade. And so all subsequent Yiddish theatre had this coffee-house appearance ever since its first steps upon the Yiddish stage in America. However, in Thomashefsky's theatre it was more organic and was able to satisfy the Americanized Jewish youth. This was the stamp that Thomashefsky placed upon the 'People's' Theatre."

In a similar manner, Kahn wrote: "In those years of 'historic operettas' and the 'biblical princes,' he was exactly in the right place. It was impossible to imagine a more handsome prince than Thomashefsky. A biblical prince must wear short pants (so that the women who came to the theatre could see his legs nude above the knees.) Thomashefsky had the nicest-looking pair of legs on the Yiddish stage. Thus he became the darling for the theatre-going world, especially among the women. The girls would forgo the most important necessities and purchase tickets to a play in which they would be able to see Thomashefsky. They would tell one another in such and such a role that he was particularly bare and especially handsome. They would remember every nook and cranny upon which he stood and how he appeared, and from what vantage point it would be best to observe him. -- 'But it appears that when, years later, T. played in a classical role he was, after all, an excellent artist. He exhibited artistic intelligence even more than Kessler. However his pronunciation always was lacking, He finally mastered the 'princely German' tone during the 'Horowitz years.' "

Gershon Bader saw him differently. "Boris Thomashefsky is a good director, very good. The stage comes alive under his hand, but his personas appear pale without a drop of blood. The walls, the decorations, the lighting take center stage. His acting is lifeless... Thomashefsky's successes are never constant in his performances. His stance on the stage, however, with his handsome stature and his youthful appearance was perfect. This impressed the Yiddish audiences. The rich stage also played an important role, and no effort was spared, and no money was held back so that the eye should be satisfied."

 Leon Kobrin characterizes T. in such a manner: "There are two Thomashefskys, just as in life, so it is upon the stage... The first one is of an artistic nature that can be overtaken at times with a spirit that is childlike and easily moved like a sentimental girl... At times such as this he possesses a warm heart with sincerity in his words and with tears in his eyes... At times his artistic enthusiasm makes a deep impression upon you. If he plays, for example, in a finer play, and if he is successful in it, he actually becomes possessed, at least in his better roles. He swears with the holiest oaths and comes close to making a promise that this is the end of it. Moreover, he says, he will not be reduced to play in vulgar roles. And he is believed when he says this, because he himself believes what he is saying. His enthusiasm for the better plays is at those times honest and justified. He will not even look at the writers of the vulgar plays. At times, when he is full of the spirit of 'literature,' he sends out an order not to allow the writers of the vulgar material into his theatre. At other times, as a joke, he even includes the better writers in his exclusion from the theatre. For the writers of his better plays he opens his heart and even the doors of his car. He gives them gifts and demonstrates for them in many other ways his love of 'literature.' "

So it is when this very same Thomashefsky becomes enamored with something other than literature, he would give composers money with an open hand, and he would freely give them jobs in his theatre. Not because of the publicity as others might do.

Such a man is Thomashefsky--a good inclination, an altogether different Thomashefsky. Under the influence of the bad inclination, he is cold as ice, looking with such fierce eyes that seem to scream out to everyone: 'Go away, clowns!' His demeanor is such that he is completely, from head to toe, a stiff, shiny top hat... This person does not know anything about enthusiasm. This one is practical. He thinks only of himself, and even for his best friend he can show such an appearance. '--What does that clown want? Tell him that I don't want to see him!.' "

He can be like this even on the stage himself--two Thomashefskys. One with a stiff, penetrating top-hat tone, without a soul and lifeless. The Thomashefsky of the cheap coarse plays, and then even the cheaper operettas. And the other--with the lively true artistic demeanor. Full of soul and fire that he always presented in his better plays.

But this very same Thomashefsky, the Thomashefsky of the good inclination had the shortcoming that was unknown in his better plays. Plays in which he had the biggest impression. He would later be stifled and buried. ...And most importantly, the culprit was that he himself was coarse. He wanted to play, especially in his later years, in his own plays. But his own plays never gave him the opportunity for his good inclination to show itself. And Thomashefsky's bad inclination always ruled with its ugly tones upon tones. And in this manner the coarse Thomashefsky choked the artistic Thomashefsky. The first Thomashefsky always destroyed that which the other had built up."

Zalmen Zylbercweig wrote: "Boris Thomashefsky indirectly became a founder of our Yiddish language. ...He formulated and nurtured the Yiddish theatre in America. He was the first to put together a troupe for New York, and the first to create troupes for the surrounding regions. He was the first to experiment with new plays and created interesting personas and characters. He was the man who wrote limitless plays and still later technically reworked plays written by others. He represented the greatest aspects and importance of Yiddish theatre--the large companies, the full orchestras, the special decorations, the first to bring a large first-class troupe of actors to America, the first to bring an assimilated Jewish-Yiddish dramatist (Ossip Dymow), and from the European Yiddish theatre--the Vilna Troupe."

T.'s published plays in Yiddish were:

  1. Melody Publishers, Di yidishe neshome, oder, Berl kokhlefel, a musical drama in four acts by Jacob Terr, adapted by B. Thomashefsky, Warsaw, Tr'e [1909, 56 pp., 16o].

  2. Dos pintele yud, an operetta in four acts by B. Thomashefsky, Warsaw, 1911 [60 pp, 16o].

  3. Di neshome fun mayn folk, (Di neshome fun israel), an operetta in four acts by N. Rakow [really T.'s], publishing house M. Goldfarb, Warsaw, 1926 [40 pp., 16o].

  4. Di poylisher khasene, a folks-shtik in three acts with a prologue and epilogue, by Boris Thomashefsky, Publisher L. Goldfarb, Warsaw, 1928 [48 pp., 16o].

  5. Shloymke un rikl, a comic operetta in four acts by B. Thomashefsky [really J. Lateiner's "Zayn vabs fraynd"].
     

M.E.

  • Z. Reyzen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vol. I, p. 1155.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre," Second volume.

  • B. Gorin -- "Kritik, "Der theater zhurnal," N. Y., 15, 1902.

  • A. K. [Cahan] -- A vikhtige, ernste drame in pipels theater, "Forward," N. Y., 9, 10 October 1907.

  • R. B. [Sh. Yanovsky] -- In theater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 23 November 1907, Tomashevsky's "Theatre shriftn," N. Y., 1908.

  • R. B. -- In theater "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 31 October 1908.

  • R. B. -- In theater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 28 November; 5, 12 December 1908.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- Adler un tomashevsky in amolige tsaytn, "Di yidishe bine," N. Y., 10, 17, 3 December 1909.

  • Z. Kornblith -- "Di shehne amerikanerin," "Di yidishe bine," N. Y., 21 January 1910.

  • Morris Rosenfeld -- Di narishe vokh in pipls theater, "Forward," N. Y, 20 October 1910.

  • R. B. -- In teater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y, 5 February 1910.

  • Gershom Bader -- Gevezene, "Theater un moving piktures," N. Y., 6, 1913.

  • A. Frumkin -- Thomashefsky in london, "Forward," N. Y, 13 June 1913.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- Der repertuar fin's yudishen teater in rusland far dem yohr tre"b, "Der pnks" (Red. Sh. Niger), Vilna, Tre"g, p. 265.

  • M -- m [Menachem] -- Teater-felieton, "Haynt," Warsaw, 30 June 1913.

  • S. Schlansky -- Ferteydigt tomashefskin, "Theater un moving piktures," N. Y., 9, 1913.

  • D. B. -- In theater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 5 February 1913.

  • D. B. -- In theater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 25 October 1913.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- [Unter farsheydene keplekh], "Forward," N. Y., 21, 28 September; 5, 12, 19, 26 October; 9, 16, 23 November; 7, 21 December 1913.

  • Yitshak Zandberg -- Kunst un dankbarkeyt, "Di varhayt," N. Y., 16 December 1913.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Ossip dymov's naye piese in tomashefsky's theater, "Forward," N. Y., 30 December 1913.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- [Unter farsheydene keplekh], "Forward," N. Y., 4, 11, 18 January; 1, 8, 15, 22 February; 15 March; 19 April 1914.

  • D. B. -- In theater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 24 October 1914.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Sholem ash's naye piese in tomashefsky's teater, "Forward," N. Y., 3? November 1914.

  • Olgin -- Der "griner milyoner" in tomashefsky's theater, "Forward," N. Y., 21 November 1915.

  • Gustav Blum -- Boris Thomashefsky -- An Interview, "East and West," N. Y., 9, 1915.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- [Unter farsheydene keplekh], "Forward," N. Y., 2, 9 January; 26 March; 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 April; 7, 14, 21, 29 May; 4, 18, 25 June; 2, 16 July; 26 November; 10, 17, 24 December 1916.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Di naye operete in tomashevsky's theater, "Forward," N. Y., 20 October 1916.

  • D. B. -- In theater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y, 21 October 1916.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- [Unter farshedene keplekh], "Forward," N. Y., 18, 25 March; 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 April; 13 May; 3 June; 7, 14, 21, 28 October; 11, 25 November, 2 December 1917.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Di naye yidishe operete in tomashevsky's theater, "Forward," N. Y., 2 October 1917.

  • D. B. -- In theater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 6 October 1917.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Vider a yidishe operete in tomashevsky's theater, "Forward," N. Y., 22 January 1918.

  • Israel the Yankee [Fridman] -- Di khazan'te, "Yidtagenblat," N. Y., 1 February 1918.

  • Joel Entin -- In un arum theater, "Di varhayt," N. Y., 24 February 1918.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- Vi men nehmt oyf naye mitglider in der idisher aktyoren yunion, "Forward," N. Y., 29 March 1918.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- [Vegn moris morison], "Forward," 31 August 1, 4, 5 September 1918.

  • D. B. -- In theater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 7 September 1918.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Di naye operetke in tomashevsky's theater, "Forward," N. Y., 24 September 1918.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Yuskevitsh'es "hunger" in tomashevsky's theater, "Forward," N. Y., 5 October 1918.

  • D. B. -- In theater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 7 December 1918.

  • D. B. -- In theater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 21 December 1918.

  • Israel the Yankee -- Up-stairs un down-stairs, "Yidtagenblat," N. Y., 10 January 1919.

  • Hillel Rogoff -- Dos "alte liedele" in tomashefsky's neshanal theater, "Forward," N. Y., 29 February 1919.

  • Hillel Rogoff -- "Dos heylige lied" in tomashevsky's theater, "Forward," N. Y., 23 October 1919.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- Tomashevsky dertsehlt vegen zayn bakantshaft mit david kessler'n, "Forward," N. Y., 23 May 1920.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Leow's operete in tomashevsky's theater, "Forward," N. Y., 4 January 1921.

  • W. Edlin -- Leo leow's operete in tomashevsky's teater, "Tog," N. Y., 5 January 1921.

  • Joel Entin -- "Dos muzikalishe shtetl" in tomashevsky's neshanal teater, "Di tsayt," N. Y., 5 January 1921.

  • Aaron H. Rosen -- Leow's "muzikalishe shtetel" in tomashevsky's teater, "Yidtagenblat," N. Y., 5 January 1921.

  • Votan -- Arum teater, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 8 January 1921.

  • Noach Prilutski -- "Yidish teater," Bialystok, 1921, Vol. II, pp. 38-46.

  • Morris Barkin -- Vegen dos "muzikalishe shtetel," "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 29 January 1921.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- [Unter farsheidene keplekh], "Forward," N. Y., 26 February; 12, 20, 26 March; 18 November; 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 December 1921.

  • Der lebediker -- Vintshevsky in tomashevsky, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N. Y., 24 June 1921.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Boris tomashefsky in shomer's a naye piese, "Forward," N. Y., 8 October 1921.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Di naye operetta in tomashefsky's theater, "Forward," N. Y., 12 January 1922.

  • Leon Blank -- Mogulesko tsukrigt zikh mit yakov gordin tsulieb a liedel in a piese, "Forward," N. Y., 22 January 1922.

  • Israel the Yankee -- Lebedig un frehlikh, "Yidtagblat," N. Y., 8 February 1922.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Thomashevsky's "goldener fodem," "Forward," N. Y., 22 March 1922.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- [Unter farsheydene keplekh], "Forward," N. Y., 6, 13 January; 11 February; 4 March; 3 September 1922; 4, 25 February, 30 June, 3, 11, 18, 25 August; 1, 7, 10 September, 10 November, 12 December 1923.

  • G. Rivesman -- Vos far a idisher theater ken hoben erfolg oyf brodvey?, "Forward," N. Y., 15 June 1923.

  • Z. HIlelson -- Ver vet gehn in idishn theater oyf brodvey?, "Forward," N. Y., 6 July 1923.

  • Hillel Rogoff -- Boris tomashevsky oyf brodvey, "Forward," N. Y., 14 September 1923.


 

 

 

 


 

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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 804.

Translated by Steven Lasky and Paul Azaroff.
 

Copyright   Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved.