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March 12: The Grand Theater

lawrencebush
March 12, 2014
n-theatre-grand-01The Grand Theater, New York's first theater built to house Yiddish productions, was founded on this date in 1902. Among its founder-owners were Sophia Karp, a soprano from Romania who became known as the first professional Yiddish theater actress; Joseph Lateiner, a playwright, also from Romania; and Moishe Finkel, business partner to Yiddish theater greats Abraham Goldfaden and Sigmund Mogulesko. The Grand opened at 255 Grand Street the following year. The four-story building was designed by Victor Hugo Koehler. Three years earlier, the Hebrew Actors Union was founded. Later Yiddish theaters in New York included the Second Avenue Theater, the National, the Yiddish Art Theater, and the Public. In December, 1909 the Grand was leased to Bedford Theatrical Company, and by 1913 was featuring a mix of vaudeville acts and motion pictures. The theater was demolished in 1930. "The Yiddish theater . . . came into being in 1876 in Iasi, Romania, and arrived in New York six years later. This novel form of entertainment quickly took hold; within less than a decade, New York turned into the undisputed world capital of the Yiddish stage. Supported by a constantly growing Yiddish-speaking immigrant population . . . it produced celebrated stars, generated a wealth of dramatic material, and presented a rich spectrum of productions ranging from sentimental melodramas and quasi-historical operettas to sophisticated experiments inspired by the latest trends of the European, particularly the Russian, stage." —Edna Nahshon, All About Yiddish Theater