The Thomashefsky Project was founded in 1998 to rescue, communicate and preserve the story of the Thomashefskys and the contribution of the early American Yiddish theatre to American cultural life. Through its work, many disintegrating scores and scripts have been located, catalogued, preserved and reconstructed to recreate as true a version of the original works as possible. Thousands of pages of scripts, song lyrics, articles from the Yiddish press, memoirs, correspondence and audio recordings have been translated for the first time into English. Under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, the stage production, The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater was developed based on the dramatic, visual and musical elements from this unique collection and presented in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and Tanglewood. The Thomashefsky Project continues to research and catalogue materials in MTT's collection as well as holdings of other archives and libraries. It will oversee the development of the website and the design and distribution of all related educational materials.
Working relationships have been established with the following institutions. Not only do they share their resources with us, but also The Project serves as a resource for identification and cataloguing for some of these institutions' Thomashefsky-related materials:
Stanford University, Taube Center for Jewish Studies
Green Library, Stanford Library
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati
Harvard University Library
Brown University Library
Columbia University Department of Yiddish Literature
Center for Jewish Film, Brandeis University
New York Public Library Jewish Division
New York Public Library Performing Arts Division at Lincoln Center
Library of Congress Music Division
Library of Congress Hebraic Division
Yiddish Book Center, Amherst
Hebrew University Library
YIVO Institute, New York
Cataloguing And Preservation
The Thomashefsky Project catalogued a collection of over 750 documents (mainly scripts and scores) in the Jewish Division of the New York Public Library Jewish Division. These had been given to the Library in 1939 by Harry Thomashefsky, upon the death of Boris Thomashefsky.
The Thomashefsky Project also catalogued the Michael Tilson Thomas' Collection of Yiddish Theatre, consisting of approximately 400 items, including costumes, posters, photographs, playscripts, sheet music and ephemera. Digitizing of the collection for this website is planned for the near future.
Approximately 250 musical documents have been located and copied, including complete and partial manuscripts and sheet music.
Many disintegrating scores have been located and subsequently preserved. Various parts of each score are often found as fragments at different institutions.
Works translated from Yiddish to English include 3 autobiographies, 20 playscripts, 145 articles from the Yiddish press and numerous historical accounts, memoirs, correspondence and audio recordings. Translators have included professors and graduate students at Columbia University, New York University, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Texas at Austin.
A detailed list of translated documents follows.
Aleksander, der kroyn prints fun yerusholaim / Alexander, Crown Prince of Jerusalem [from undated, original manuscript in the New York Public Library Jewish Division Collection]
Dovidl meshorer /David the Chorister [from 1911 published Polish Edition on Loan from the Harvard College Library]
Emigrantn, Di/The Immigrants [from original manuscript copied for Boris Thomashefsky in May 1901, Collection of the YIVO Archives]
Griner bokher, Der /The Greenhorn Boy [from original prompt book with pencil notations, probably 1905, from New York Public Library Jewish Division Collection]
Griner milyoner, Der/The Green Millionaire [from typescript in the Collection of the Library of Congress Hebraic Division, Copyright April 9, 1915; 2nd translation made from undated, original typescript in the MTT Collection]
Khantshe in Amerika /Khantshe in America [from 1915/16 published edition, Theater Library Publishing House Edition, Warsaw]
Khaznte, Di / The Cantor's Wife or The Singing Rabbi [from original typescript, circa 1918, in the collection of the New York Public Library Jewish Division]
Kishefmakherin, Di / The Sorceress [from 1917 published edition, Hebrew Publishing Company, New York, 1917]
Minke di dinstmoyd / Minke the Maid [from undated original typescript, MTT Collection]
Pintele yid, Dos / A Little Spark of Jewishness [from 1911 published edition printed in Warsaw, from the Collection of the Frances-Henry Library of Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles]
Sheyne amerikanerin, Di / The American Beauty [from original 1908 manuscript in the collection of the YIVO Archives, Sholem Perlmutter Papers]
Shma Yisroel / Hear Oh Israel [from original typescript, circa 1907, in the collection of the YIVO Archives, Sholem Perlmutter Papers]
Shteyger protses / The Steiger Trial [from original manuscript in Boris Thomashefsky's hand, circa 1925, MTT Collection]
Shulamis / Absalom [from 1972 published edition, Avrom Goldfaden: Oysgeklibene shriftn (Selected Writings), YIVO Publications, Buenos Aires]
Suzi Bren / Suzi the Firebrand [from undated manuscript in the collection of the YIVO Archives, Sholem Perlmutter Papers]
Vaybershe melukhe, Di / The Women's Kingdom [from undated typescript in the collection of the YIVO Archives]
Vi miner libn / How Men Love [from original typescript, circa 1919, YIVO Archives, Sholem Perlmutter Papers]
Yidisher yenki dudl, Der / The Yiddish Yankee Doodle [from original 1905 typescript, Collection of the New York Public Library Jewish Division]
Yisheve bokher, Der /The Yeshiva Boy [from 1908 published edition, Yudishe Bihne Publishers, Warsaw, microfilm provided by Harvard University Library]
Book of My Life, by Boris Thomashefsky, published 1937
The Story of My Life: The Trials and Joys of a Yiddish Star Actress, by Bessie Thomashefsky, published 1916
Memoirs of a Yiddish Dramatist, by Leon Kobrin, 1925. Selected chapters.
"The Repertoire of the Yiddish Theatre in Russia, 1911-12 Season", by A. Mukdoni, from Yearbook for the History of Yiddish Literature and Language, Vilna 1912
"The Repertoire of the Yiddish Theatre in America, 1911-12 Season" by B. Gorin, from Yearbook for the History of Yiddish Literature and Language, Vilna 1912
My Life in the Theatre by Bernard Young, 1950. Selected chapters.
"The Story of Eili, Eili," article by Boris appearing in Zylbercweig's Teater zikhroynes (Theatre memoirs), a set of reminiscences by thirteen Yiddish theatre personalities from Europe and America, 1929, Vilna
Teater Shriftn — Boris Thomashefsky's Writings on Theatre, 1908
"A Few words from a Former Choirboy," by Boris Thomashefsky, appearing in The History of Hazanuth, NY Jewish Ministers Cantors Association, 1924
JOURNAL AND NEWSPAPER ARTICLES
Bessie's Beauty Tips - series of 12 installments in the Warheit, 3 June to August 19, 1917
"Bessie in Hollywood" — series of 8 interviews with Bessie Thomashefsky, conducted by Gershon Einbinder for the Morning Freiheit, September-October 1943
"Appearance of Making Up," gossip item about Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, The Freiheit, 12 September, 1930
Bessie Thomashefsky Obituaries, The Forward, 14 July and 16 July, 1962
"Interesting Stories from Backstage" — Series of 4 articles by Boris Thomashefsky in The Forward, February 1914
Articles by Noyekh Prilutski on Boris Thomashefsky's 1913 appearances in Poland, Moment, Warsaw, July 4 and 13, 1913
Boris' Account of his 1913 European Tour in The Forward, 21 September to 18 January, 1914
Bessie's Second Memoirs — series of approximately 80 installments in Der Tog, October 12 and December 27, 1935.
Selections from Yidishe Bine (The Jewish Stage) Weekly journal published by the Jewish Stage Publishing Company (Boris Thomashefsky, President; Bessie Thomashefsky, Secretary) between November 19, 1909 and April 19, 1910.
Selections from the Kobrin papers at YIVO comprising letters and telegrams from Bessie and Boris Thomashefsky written between 1907 and 1924.
Audio Translations & Transcriptions
Ted Thomas' Interview of Bessie, recorded March 12, 1960, North Hollywood
Ted Thomas interviewed about the Federal Theatre Project, October 19, 1977
Ted Thomas narration on the beginnings of Yiddish Theatre in America