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Yiddish Theatre

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The Joseph Buloff Papers, 1925-1993 at NYPL

Biography

Joseph Buloff was born in 1899. The careers of Buloff, leading actor of Vilnia Troupe, and his wife, Luba Kadison, leading actress and the daughter of the founder of the Vilnia Troupe in Poland, Leib Kadison, were among the most extensive in the history of Yiddish theater.

Actor Joseph Buloff left his native Eastern Europe in 1926 and came to the U.S. when he was invited to join Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish Art Theater. By the mid 1930s he was performing in English as well. He appeared in over 225 Yiddish plays before 1936 when he made his Broadway debut. He created the character of Ali Hakim, the Persian peddler, in the original Broadway production of Oklahoma and directed Mr. McThing on Broadway. Buloff was particularly famous for his interpretation of Chekhov’s Di Mahashefah (The Witch), which he even performed in Johannesburg in 1950. He made his film debut in 1940 in Let’s Make Music.

Luba Kadison (December 13, 1906 - May 4, 2006) was born in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania (at that time part of the Russian empire). She toured with Vilnia Theatre Kovno, Bialystock and Grodno and as a young girl was often cast in boys' roles.

In 1949, Luba and Joseph obtained the Yiddish rights for Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and took it to Buenos Aires, where there was a vibrant Yiddish-speaking community. The Peronist government banned money exchanges, and the Buloffs returned to New York having made a loss. However, the New York Yiddish version was an artistic and financial success. George Gross, in the magazine Commentary, wrote that "the Yiddish play is really the original and the Broadway production was merely Miller's translation into English!" After the war, the New York Yiddish theater declined. Yiddish actors were either absorbed into American theater or retired. Luba, who felt limited by her accent, worked very little. When Joseph Buloff died in 1985, Luba donated his archive to the Harvard College library. She also worked on getting his book, From the Old Marketplace, published, and regretted that Joe did not see this happen during his lifetime. Her memoirs, On Stage, Off Stage, written in collaboration with Buloff, won the 1994 National Book Award.

Scope and Content Note

The Joseph Buloff papers contain scripts, photographs, programs, flyers, reviews, contracts and notes. The scripts include many of the popular plays in which Buloff performed, as well as English adaptations of the Yiddish classics of Scholem Aleichem’s The Crabby Crawler, Eternal Life, Tevye and His Seven Daughters; God Wiil Provide, The Mad Batlan, Temptation by I. Peretz, Chains by H.Levick, The Singer of His Sorrow by O. Dymov, and The Kibitzer by J.Swerling. The scripts include a number of works adapted and translated from world literature, by authors such as Chekhov and Gogol. The collection includes manuscripts and drafts of Buloff’s work, Beggar in Paradise, based on Lame Fishke by Mendele Mohker Sforim. There is also "My Conception of the Part of Linda in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman" by Luba Kadison and her Autobiography.

Arrangement

The collection is organized into three series. They are:
Series I: Writings, 1924-1984, undated
Series II: Professional Papers, 1925-1993
Series III: Oversized Material, 1967

Contact

The Billy Rose Theatre Collection. New York Public Library.
40 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023-7498
(212)870-1639
theatrediv@nypl.org  

http://www.nypl.org/research/manuscripts/the/TheBulof.xml


Processed by: Liavon Yurevich
Date completed: March 2007
Encoded by: Liavon Yurevich


Source: ©2007 The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. All rights reserved.

Related Links:

  • Joseph Buloff: An Appreciation
  • From the Old Marketplace By Joseph Buloff
  • Theatre was my cradle : Chloe Veltman Interviews Luba Kadison -Buloff (1906 -2006 )

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