Peter Graf

Career:

1890s –1900s – an actor at Gimpel’s Jewish theatre in Lviv.

1900-1901 – an actor in Gurvitz’s travelling troupe.

1901 – joins Adler Theatre in New York.

1904 – playwright Jacob Gordin writes a number of plays for Peter Graf who played the leading part in each of them.

1904-1930 – an actor at leading Jewish theatres of New York: Tomashevski Theatre, Adler Theatre, Edelstein Theatre, Irving Place Theatre, Grand Theatre etc.


Peter Graf was born in Lviv in a family of rich religious Jews. He studied at a cheder and a school where he was considered a “star” among his fellow schoolboys due to his mezzo-soprano. A teacher, who was also the director of a choir at the synagogue, invited the boy to sing in his choir. However, the boy’s father, a religious Jew, hindered the boy from doing that as he did not want his son to sing in the synagogal choir together with girls. Later, the father still gave his consent but the boy had to sing under another chazzan (synagogal cantor), rebbe Shloyme Sherman, who tought him the basics of music and choir singing for several years.

Peter Graf joined Gimpel’s Jewish theatre on invitation of the director Leon Weinstock. He played only little, secondary roles for a few years until he was by a lucky chance given the leading part in a performance entitled Shloyme the King. From that time on, Peter Graf was the number one actor at Gimpel’s theatre. After Lviv was visited by Abraham (Avrom) Goldfaden and Adler, who invited the most popular actors to join their troupes, Graf “was the support of the whole Jewish theatre”, as Lviv newspapers of that time reported.

In 1900 Peter Graf left Gimpel’s theatre, joined Gurwitz’s troupe and moved to the U.S. In 1904 the actor played his first role in a play by Gordin. The performance was a great success, and later Jacob Gordin wrote some roles specially for Peter Graf (Sturfand The Stranger performances).

Driven by success, Peter Graf moves from one theatre to another. From 1904 till 1930 he changed several theatres, including Tomashevski Theatre, Adler Theatre, Edelstein Theatre, Irving Place Theatre, Grand Theatre etc. 

Performances:

Shloyme the King, Gimpel’s Jewish theatre, Lviv.

Sturf, by Jacob Gordin, Adler Theatre, New York.

The Stranger, by Jacob Gordin, Adler Theatre, New York.

Sources:

  1. Z. Zylberzweig, Leksikon fun yidishn teater 1 (New York, 1931).

  2. Togblat (Lemberg, 1904).

Written by Oksana Sikorska
Edited by Yulia Pavlyshyn