Subseries 4: United States, 1907 - 1939
Scope and Contents
This series contains materials related to performances and activities of theaters and theater troupes, organized by geographic location. Some files also pertain to a variety of local organizations that presented theatrical events and concerts, as well as organizations that promoted and supported Yiddish or Hebrew theater. The last subseries, Yiddish Theater (General) and Unidentified Materials, contains a small grouping of materials not related to specific localities, including manuscripts, clippings, and unidentified materials.
The materials in this series consist predominantly of theater programs; ephemera such as fliers, invitations, and tickets; and newspaper clippings (occasionally scrapbooks). The series contains, in all, an estimated 1700 to 1800 programs. The programs pertain to plays; revues; recitations; concerts, including cantorial concerts; dance performances; honorary evenings; and various special events of local organizations.
To a lesser extent, there are also publications and periodicals; and sometimes generic correspondence such as letters to supporters and fundraising letters, and, occasionally, manuscripts of articles about the given theater troupe, typically intended for publication in newspapers. (Some of the latter items were evidently donated by Zalman Reisen, editor of the Vilner Tog.)
The materials of the above types found under any given heading for a theater troupe, theater, or organization, are typically of mixed provenance, collected by various different individuals.
This series also occasionally includes small amounts of original records of theater troupes, such as correspondence and financial records.
Original letters from troupe members or leaders addressed to the literary historian and newspaper editor Zalman Reisen are found in the files for the Vilna Troupe (Folder 533); and "Ararat" (Folder 596). In the case of the Varshever Yidisher Kunst-Teater (VYKT), there is a small amount of original correspondence received by the troupe, including a letter from Richard Beer-Hofmann (Folder 500).
Fragmentary financial records are included for the Vilna Troupe, 1922 (Folder 538); and a ledger book for the "Baveglekher Yidisher Dramatisher Teater," 1921-1922, under the geographic heading for Warsaw (Folder 633). (According to an entry in Zylbercweig, VI: 4993, the latter troupe was founded by Jonas Turkow.)
Other notable provenance-based groupings of materials in the subseries for Poland are found under the following city headings:
Łuck (Lutsk, Ukraine): papers of the theater director Abraham Kolodny related to the "Yidishe Fraye Bine," 1910-1920 (Folders 621-622), along with theater programs likely collected by him.
Brześć nad Bugiem (Brest, Belarus): a scrapbook documenting performances of the Brisker Dramatishe Studye, 1927-1929, created by M. Sarwer (Sarver), the group's artistic director, along with programs evidently collected by him (Folders 696-697).
Częstochowa: receipts of impresario N. Zolotarew related to a tour of Lidia Potocka (Folder 668).
Also noteworthy is a scrapbook pertaining to a 1934 revival of the experimental Yiddish puppet theater "Khad Gadyo" in Łódź (founded in 1922, a collaboration between and Moyshe Broderzon and the artist Yitskhok Broyner); it contains the script of the performance, photographs and clippings (Folder 615).
Troupes represented with the most substantial amounts of materials include:
In Subseries 1. Poland, under the sub-heading "Poland by Theater Troupe": Varshever Yidisher Kunst-Teater (VYKT); Varshever Nayer Yidisher Teater (VNYT); the Vilna Troupe; Yung Teater/Nay Teater; and the "Kleynkunst," or revue theaters "Azazel," "Ararat," "Sambatyon," and "Yidishe bande."
In Subseries 4, United States, the Yiddish Art Theater, New York (directed by Maurice Schwartz).
In Subseries 6, Palestine (Eretz Israel), the Hebrew theaters Habimah and Ohel, respectively.
In the case of these major theater troupes, most of the material related to them is gathered under their name heading, found under the geographic locality with which they are primarily associated; however, the materials found there also include items pertaining to their tours in other parts of the country or region, and internationally.
On the other hand, files for specific towns, cities, or countries, in general contain many programs and clippings pertaining to guest appearances of individual performers, as well as smaller ensembles and troupes, who are based somewhere else.
Clippings are generally classified according to the main topic of the article (i.e. not necessarily according to the locality where it was published).
It should be noted that throughout the series, a distinction is usually made between professional theater and concerts, on the one hand, and amateur theater, or 'dramatic circles' on the other; when materials are related to amateur groups that distinction is typically specified in the heading. The distinction is especially clear in the subseries for Poland, which includes a separate sub-subseries for Amateur Theater (this follows the scheme established by Jonas Turkow during his preliminary organization of these materials at the YIVO Institute in New York).
Finally, as background, it should be noted that the programs that form the backbone of this series in representing the troupes, theaters, and localities, were among the materials that were organized and cataloged by Jonas Turkow at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, in the late 1950s to mid 1960s. They bear stamped or handwritten item numbers (falling within the range 175167 to 177690) that Turkow assigned based on his initial sequencing of them in alphabetical order according to the names of the authors of plays (with concert programs grouped together at the end). Subequently, he selected certain programs to form groupings under peformer names (see Series II, subseries 1. Programs) and others to form groupings under the names of theater troupes and geographic headings (constituting the present series). The selection of the programs found in this series under general geographic headings, for particular towns, cities, and countries (as opposed to headings for the featured performer or director, as in Series II) thus reflects the arrangement devised by Turkow, documented in the cross-references he provided on his catalog cards for the programs. For further details, see the Scope and Content Note for Series I, Subseries 2, Programs.
- 1907 - 1939
Language of Materials
Predominantly in Yiddish and English, with occasional Polish, Russian, and German.
The collection has been digitized and is available online without restrictions. The physical collection is closed.
1.4 Linear Feet (3.25 boxes; 80 folders)
Arranged in the following subsubseries:
- Yiddish Art Theatre (New York), 1919 - 1939
- Other New York City theaters, 1907 - 1939
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, undated, 1919-1933
- Chicago, Illinois, undated, 1919-1937 Archival Object
- Other Cities, undated, 1918-1939