BRIGHT STAR OF EXILE: Jacob Adler and the Yiddish Theater by Lulls Rosenfeld

BRIGHT STAR OF EXILE: Jacob Adler and the Yiddish Theater

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Yevraiski aktiori!"" Hebrew actors! They triumphed despite the scorn of orthodox religionists and Jewish intellectuals (Yiddish was an unworthy language), and perhaps the greatest was Jacob Adler--a peer of Bernhardt and Duse, Broadway's Shylock, the father of Stella and Luther, and the grandfather of author Rosenfeld. Lifting and paraphrasing freely and uncritically from Adler's play-it-to-the-balcony memoirs, she takes the wenching novice actor Yankele from his Odessa home through ragtag tours of borrowed-from-Bucharest plays and folksong-sketches (""We can show all of Russia our Shmendrick!""). Affairs, symbiotic rival troupes, the ubiquitous ""Serpent of jealousy""--until fate (the Tsar's 1883 ukase banning Yiddish theater) propelled the rather directionless Adlers to a less than hospitable London, where Jacob's talent bloomed in tiny clubrooms. And more fate four years later--a fire disaster in the Whitechapel theater built for Adler by a butcher-landed the growing band (second wife, infant son) in New York, where Boris Thomas hefsky was already building a Lower East Side audience and where Rosenfeld widens the focus to include the diverse, non-Adler factions: Kessler, king of the historical operettas; Mogulesko, the great comic spirit; and playwright Jacob Gordin, whose determination to raise the Yiddish consciousness led to such peaks as The Yiddish King Lear (Adler) and Mirale Efros. Family tragedies and backstage feuds (Adler's daily greeting to rival-ally-neighbor Thomashefsky via dumbwaiter shaft: ""Thomashefsky, a black year on your head!"") matter more here than literary or social history, but there's enough of everything--in straightforward, passionate, unscholarly sequence--to recreate the way it was on the road and on Second Avenue before the Catskills and Hollywood lured most of the ""Yevraiski aktiori"" away.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1977
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell