Sara Adler

Sara Adler
Born Sara Levitskaya
Odessa, Ukraine, Russian Empire
Died April 28, 1953(1953-04-28) (aged 94-95)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting place Mount Carmel Cemetery
Occupation Actress
Years active 1866–1928

Sara Adler (née Levitskaya, Britannica gives Levitsky; 1858 – April 28, 1953) was a Russian Jewish actress in Yiddish theater who made her career mainly in the United States. She was the wife of Jacob Adler and the mother of prominent actors Luther and Stella Adler, lesser-known actors Jay, Julia Adler, Frances, and Florence. [Adler, 1999, passim] The most famous of her 300 or so leading roles was the redeemed prostitute Katusha Maslova in Jacob Gordin's play based on Tolstoy's Resurrection.


Born in Odessa, Russian Empire (currently in Ukraine), she grew up speaking Russian, and only learned Yiddish after through her participation in Yiddish theater. In Russia, she married Maurice Heine, leader of a Yiddish theater troupe; with him, as Sara Heine, she left in 1884 for New York City, after the 1883 ban on Yiddish theater in Imperial Russia. Jacob Adler records that when she first performed at his London theater, around 1886, "she spoke no Yiddish… but came out before the curtain and sang Russian songs." [Adler, 1999, 266]

In 1890 she divorced Heine, and in 1891 she married Adler, himself recently divorced from a brief second marriage to Dinah Shtettin. She and Adler would be among the most prominent actors in Yiddish theater in New York City for the next three decades. After her husband's 1920 stroke and 1926 death, she performed only infrequently.

Although probably most remembered for her lead roles opposite her husband, Sara Adler also, for a time, set out on her own with the Novelty Theater in Brooklyn where she, like her husband, presented, in Yiddish, works of Ibsen and Shaw well before they were familiar to an English-language audience. She also presented works of the French feminist Eugène Brieux. After Randolph Schildkraut quarrelled with Max Reinhardt in Vienna, Sara Adler brought him to Brooklyn to play the husband in Jacob Gordin's stage adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata. That production also included Jacob Ben-Ami (associated with the Vilna Troupe, as well as Adler offspring Stella and Luther Adler. [Adler, 1999, 361 (commentary)]


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