ADLER , U.S. theatrical family. The founder was jacob adler (1855–1926), one of the leading Jewish actor-managers of his time, and a reformer of the early Yiddish theater. Born in Odessa, he first acted with amateurs, and in 1879 joined one
of Abraham *Goldfaden's touring companies. Good looks assured him early success in young-lover roles and he continued touring until the Czarist prohibition of Yiddish theater in 1883 forced him to leave Russia. In London, he appeared with his second wife, Dinah Lipna, in melodramas and in Gutzkow's Uriel Acosta. Success brought him invitations from New York, but he remained in London until disaster struck the Jewish Theater at the Prince's Club in January 1887 when a false cry of "Fire" caused a stampede and the death of 17 people. Arriving in the U.S., he found himself crowded out of New York and he could play only in Chicago. He returned to Europe on a tour which included Warsaw, Lodz, Lemberg, and London, and which made his reputation as a dynamic actor of striking personality. Returning to New York in 1890, he opened at Poole's Theater with a play that failed, but he quickly followed it with Moshele Soldat ("Soldier Moshele") which was an immediate success and made him an idol of the Yiddish theater.
As an actor, Adler was often criticized as stagy, but he could always captivate an audience and he displayed remarkable power in heroic roles. He was dissatisfied with the melodramas and operettas then in vogue, and looked for plays that gave him dramatic scope. He found them in the work of Jacob *Gordin, a serious writer whose plays other actors had rejected. The two produced Gordin's Siberia (1891) and inaugurated what has been called the "golden epoch" of the Yiddish theater. They followed this success with Gordin's The Great Socialist, Der Yidisher King Lear, and Der Vilder Mensh. In these productions, Adler achieved a triumph which was capped by his appearance as Shylock in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, 1893, playing in Yiddish while the rest of the cast played in English.
In ensuing years, Adler controlled various theaters such as The People's and the Grand, where his children often performed with him. He interspersed serious plays with melodramas. After World War i, now almost a legendary figure, he went on brief tours, appeared in the film Michael Strogoff, and was portrayed in a Broadway play, Cafe Crown, which satirized his flamboyant way of life and his large family. Illness made his later appearances infrequent, but he never lost his glamour for the Jewish public. His memoirs, serialized in Yiddish in Die Varheit, mostly between 1916 and 1919, appeared for the first time in English in 1999 as A Life on the Stage. In it he describes his tempestuous actor's life in the Ukraine and the pogroms he barely escaped.
sara adler (levitsky; c. 1858–1953), Adler's third wife, played opposite her husband and became associated with his pioneering work. She appeared in hundreds of plays, most notably as Katusha Maslova in Gordin's adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's Resurrection, which established her reputation as a great star of the Yiddish stage. Her autobiography, My Life, was serialized in the Yiddish daily Forward (New York, 1937–39).
celia (1889–1979), daughter of Jacob Adler and Dinah Lipna, appeared at the age of nine with her father in Der Yidisher King Lear. In 1919 she joined Maurice *Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theater, directed her own repertory company, 1925–1926, with Samuel Goldenberg, and in 1937 appeared in the Yiddish film, Vu iz Mayn Kind? Of the children of Jacob and Sara Adler, frances (1892–1964) toured America in Yiddish repertory. julia (1899–1995) played Jessica to her father's Shylock, following this with roles in Jacob Gordin's plays. Stella *Adler (1902–1992) acted on the English-speaking stage and became a founding member of the New York Group Theater and a renowned acting teacher. luther (1903–1985) was a noted actor on the New York and London stage and in motion pictures. His successes included Ben Hecht's drama of Israel A Flag is Born, Clifford Odets' Golden Boy, and Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge. He also played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, the musical based on stories by *Shalom Aleichem.
B. Gorin, Geshikhte fun Yidishen Teater, 1 (1918); L. Kobrin, Erinerungenfun a Yidishen Dramaturg, 2 (1925). add. bibliography: L. Rosenfeld, Bright Star of Exile: Jacob Adler and the Yiddish Theater (1977, 19882).