- (1860-1920)The Yiddish actor-manager began his stage career in Russia, where he was born. He came to America around 1883 with several other Yiddish actors, who soon became rivals to Boris Thomashefsky. Although Kessler had little education and was physically well suited to the big hearty peasant roles, he aspired to good material. As an actor and as a manager, he showed a preference for plays by Jacob Gordin, which offered a degree of realism, and he found his greatest success in the leading role of Gordin's God, Man, and Devil. Most of his work, however, was standard Yiddish fare with strong effects; for example, the title role in Leon Kobrin's Yankl Boyle (The Village Youth). In 1907, he ventured away from Yiddish theatre to Broadway in The Spell by Samuel Shipman. The New York Times reviewer (22 September 1907) referred to him as "a natural actor . . . of the old German school," using "emotional gymnastics and physical contortions." The Second Avenue Theatre was built especially for Kessler in 1909.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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