ZISL KORNBLIT (September 28, 1872-May 1, 1928)
A playwright and novelist, he was born in Tshan (Teofipol), Volhynia. He received a traditional education, while at the same time reading florid Hebrew works and studying foreign languages. In 1892 he emigrated to the United States. He debuted in print with poems and stories in Arbayter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper). He went on to write for: Di fraye shtunde (The free hour), Tsukunft (Future), Fraye gezelshaft (Free society), Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor), and Forverts (Forward) for which he was a regular contributor. He published stories, newspaper novels (according to Zalmen Reyzen, over thirty of them), and articles on theater (using the pen name Z. Hilelson). In 1903 he began to write for the Yiddish theater and composed twenty-five plays: Der tiger (The tiger), a family drama based on Maurice Maeterlinck’s Monna Vanna; the comedy Ap-taun un daun-taun (Uptown and downtown); Dos emese glik (True happiness), which was more popular under the title Moti meylekh der stolyer (King Moti, the carpenter), which he later reworked as Dos gevezene cabaret meydl (The former cabaret girl); Di yidishe tokhter (heldin fun unzer tsayt) (The Jewish daughter, heroine for our time); Moyshe rebeyne (Moses, our teacher); Di mume fun amerike (The American aunt); and Ir farshpilt lebn (Her forfeited life); among others. Only two of his works appeared in book form: Moti meylekh der stolyer, subtitled “A biography in four acts” (Przemyśl: Amkroyt un Fraynd, 1908), 54 pp.; and Di dramatishe kunst, lektsyes un diskusyes (The dramatic art, lectures and discussions) (New York, 1928), 245 pp. Fraye arbeter shtime published his one-act play Der krizis in himel (The crisis in heaven) and his three-act comedy Der sotn shtraykt (The devil goes on strike) (October 29, 1910; October-November 1926). He translated Osip Dimov’s Shma yisroel (Hear, O Israel) (1907). “As a playwright,” wrote Hillel Rogof, “he found a place in the history of Yiddish theater. He wrote a considerable number of dramas and comedies, and a portion of them remain in the stage repertoire until out time. The majority of his plays belong to the category of melodrama, but none of them can be called trash. The language is pure, literary. The dialogue is often intelligent, witty, and full of content.” He died in New York.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 4 (New York, 1963); Yoyel Entin, in Tsukunft (New York) (November 1911); Naftole Bukhvald, Teater (Theater) (New York, 1943), p. 448; Talush, Yidishe shrayber (Yiddish writers) (Miami Beach, 1955), pp. 232-35; Y. Mestl, 70 yor teater-repertuar (Seventy years of theater repertoire) (New York, 1954), see index; Kh. Gotesfeld, in Forverts (New York) (February 19, 1959); Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).