Papers of Joseph Buloff and Luba Kadison
Scope and Content Note
The collection relates to the theatrical careers of Joseph Buloff and Luba Kadison. It consists of manuscripts and printed versions of about 80 plays in Yiddish, English, German and Russian, theater programs from the 1920s-1980s, clippings of reviews of various productions, musical scores for several plays, press notices, flyers, and programs and posters for performances by Buloff and Kadison in the U.S., Israel, Argentina and elsewhere. There are also original drawings and ink drawings of Yiddish theater advertisements by Leib Kadison, photographs of the Vilna Troupe, Joseph Buloff, Luba and Leib Kadison and publicity photographs of Buloff and Kadison.
There is a typescript of Joseph Buloff's memoirs and audio cassettes of Joseph Buloff interviews and recitations conducted by Irving Genn, 1976-1978 and Joseph Buloff’s correspondence from the 1960s-1970s, mainly having to do with his theatrical career.
Language of Materials
The collection is in English, Yiddish, German, Russian, Romanian, and Hebrew.
The collection is open to the public. Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained in writing from the YIVO Archives.
There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:
YIVO Archives, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011
Joseph Buloff was born December 6, 1899, in Vilna, Lithuania, to a father who worked in the fur trade. He joined the Lodz Dramatic Theater in 1919 and then began acting with the Vilna Troupe in 1920, where he soon became a lead actor. Luba Kadison, born December 13, 1906 in Kovno, Lithuania, was the daughter of Leib Kadison, a founder of the Vilna Troupe, which performed serious plays by Yiddish writers as well as Yiddish translations of Russian and French playwrights throughout much of Eastern Europe. The troupe moved to Warsaw in 1916 where Luba, as a young girl, was cast in boys’ roles. She had a small role in the first staging of Sholem Ansky’s The Dybbuk on December 9, 1920 at the Elyseum Theatre in Warsaw. She would soon go on to play Leah, the female lead in the play, which would become one of her most well-known roles. In 1922 the troupe went to Romania, where they were enthusiastically welcomed, particularly in Jassy, famous as the birthplace of Yiddish theater. While in Romania, Buloff directed and acted in many of Ossip Dymow’s plays, including Der Zinger Fun Zayn Troyer (The Singer of His Sorrow). Joseph Buloff and Luba Kadison married in Romania in 1924.
In 1927 Maurice Schwartz brought Buloff and Kadison to New York to act in his Yiddish Art Theater at Second Avenue and 12th Street. In addition, they established their own theater, the Folks Theater, at 149th Street, where they tried unsuccessfully to run the Vilna Troupe. They returned to Romania for a short time but were back in New York by 1930. Kadison played many roles in Schwartz’s company, including Leah in The Dybbuk, while Buloff began to direct in addition to acting with Schwartz’s company. Kadison was the female lead opposite Schwartz in many plays, including I.J. Singer's The Brothers Ashkenazi and Sholem Asch’s Three Lilies as well as opposite Stella Adler in Asch’s G-d of Vengeance. In the 1930s, the company toured Europe and South America and Buloff and Kadison also went to various theater markets on their own and played with the resident Yiddish companies.
By the mid-1930s, Buloff was performing in English as well as Yiddish, acting on Broadway and in Hollywood. He made his Broadway debut in 1936 in Don’t Look Now, followed by roles in three Mike Todd productions. After the war, the New York Yiddish theatre declined and Buloff moved into more English-speaking roles, although he continued to act in Yiddish theater until his death. On Broadway, he created the charachter of Ali Hakim, the Persian peddler, in the original 1943 Broadway production of Oklahoma and played the Greek landlord Mr. Appopolous in 1940’s My Sister Eileen and Fishel Shpunt in the dramatization of John Hersey's The Wall in 1960. He made his film debut in 1940 in Let’s Make Music and had roles in films such as Silk Stockings (1957) and Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956). In the early days of television he played Pincus Pines in The Goldbergs (1949). Yiddish theater survived longer in Buenos Aires than in New York, and Buloff and Kadison toured their Yiddish version of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman there in 1949, in which Kadison played Linda, and a Yiddish version of Anna Karenina in the late 1950s, with Kadison in the title role. The Yiddish Death of a Salesman was also quite successful in its New York run. Mr. Buloff also frequently directed and produced plays, including Mrs. McThing in 1951, starring Helen Hayes. In 1980, Buloff starred in The Chekhov Sketchbook on Broadway, based on three short stories by Chekhov that he and Kadison had translated and dramatized. The 1968 Yiddish version of the play, which ran in Buenos Aires, had been Kadison’s last stage role. Thereafter, she worked mainly behind the set and in translating plays into Yiddish, including Anne Frank, Inherit the Wind, The Visit, and The Deadly Trap.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Buloff was a mainstay of the imperiled Yiddish theater, receiving praise for his performances in Hard to Be a Jew by Sholem Aleichem, The Brothers Ashkenazi, Yoshke Musikant (Yoshke the Musician, 1972), which he also directed, and The Fifth Season. He also began to make annual pilgrimages to Israel, where he appeared with local Yiddish acting groups. In 1974, he was awarded the Itzik Manger Prize for his achievement on the Yiddish stage. Among his most successful roles was that of Gregory Solomon in The Price by Arthur Miller in 1979.
Joseph Buloff died February 27, 1985, at which time Kadison donated some of his papers to the Harvard College library. She also worked on publishing his book, From the Old Marketplace. Her memoirs, On Stage, Off Stage, written in collaboration with Buloff, won the 1994 National Book Award. Luba Kadison died May 4, 2006, having been the last surviving member of the Vilna Troupe.
8.4 Linear Feet
This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Joseph Buloff and Luba Kadison, leading actors of the Vilna Troupe and of the Yiddish and English stage, both in the United States and internationally. Most of the information concerns their theatrical careers, including play manuscripts, drawings and photographs of plays and actors, reviews, flyers, and musical scores. There is also some personal biographical information about Buloff, including his memoirs and audio cassettes of interviews. These materials show the importance and influence of Buloff and Kadison for Yiddish and English theater for over sixty years.
The collection was originally arranged in 11 series and an addendum. Materials are generally arranged alphabetically, although several series have their own arrangement system and these systems have been retained. Many of the materials are organized according to the Hebrew alphabet but the folder lists have been rearranged according to the Latin alphabet. The materials from the addendum, which consisted of oversize box 21, have been intellectually integrated into the original series, although the materials themselves have not been moved.
- Series I: Correspondence, 1920-1988, undated
- Series II: Memoirs, 1991-1996, undated
- Series III: Original Yiddish Plays, 1922-1973, undated
- Series IV: Plays Translated into Yiddish, 1910-1958, undated
- Series V: Anonymous Plays, 1966, undated
- Series VI: Other Stage Materials, 1913-1977, undated
- Series VII: Theatrical Programs, 1924-1987, undated
- Subseries 1: Yiddish Plays, 1924-1973, undated
- Subseries 2: English Plays, 1951-1982
- Subseries 3: Concert Performances, 1935-1987, undated
- Series VIII: Publicity and Reviews, 1927-1987, undated
- Series IX: Music, 1926, undated
- Series X: Photographs, 1917-1985, undated
- Series XI: Miscellaneous, 1927-1991, undated
The materials were given to YIVO in several installments from 1983-1996 by Joseph Buloff, Luba Kadison, Joseph’s sister Fania Buloff, and Irving Genn, who interviewed Joseph Buloff.
Oversized materials have been moved to flat storage files.
The collection was arranged by Solomon Rabinowitz in 1991. Additional processing was completed in 2008.
- An-Ski, S., 1863-1920
- Asch, Sholem, 1880-1957
- Buenos Aires (Argentina)
- Buloff, Joseph
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Drawings (visual works)
- Jewish actors
- Kadison, Leib, 1880-1947
- Kadison, Luba
- Leivick, H., 1888-1962
- Manuscripts (documents)
- New York (N.Y.)
- Programs (documents)
- Sholem Aleichem, 1859-1916
- Singer, Israel Joshua, 1893-1944
- Theater, Yiddish
- YIVO Archives
- Ṿilner trupe
- Guide to the Papers of Joseph Buloff (1899-1985) and Luba Kadison (1906-2006) 1910-1996 RG 1146
- Processed by Solomon Rabinowitz. Additional processing by Rachel S. Harrison as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.