50 Features of Special Collections: Toby Cole Archives

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This week we are highlighting the Toby Cole Archives as part of our 50 Features of Special Collections series.

Toby Cole was born Marion Cholodenko on January 27, 1916 in Newark, New Jersey. She developed an interest in theatre at an early age, and embarked upon her theatrical career under the auspices of The Workmen’s Circle, a Jewish socialist fraternal organization. From 1938 to 1956, she demonstrated her penchant for socially committed theatre, participating in such groups as The Newark Jack London Club, The Newark Collective Theatre, The New Theatre League School, and the Federal Theatre Project. She also served as assistant to the producer on Broadway productions of Counterattack and Finian’s Rainbow, and as producer for Children’s Holiday Theatre in New York.

Cole established an actor’s agency in 1957, operating from an office in the Sardi Building. Zero Mostel, whom she represented for many years, was her first “star.” With the founding of the Toby Cole Actors and Authors Agency, Cole added playwrights and translators to her clientele. She concentrated on playwrights whose works appealed to the Off-Broadway producers. That is, she promoted plays that she considered high quality and socially/politically relevant, thereby introducing to the U.S. such seminal playwrights as Sam Shepard, Edward Bond, and Simon Gray. She also brought to the New York stage translations of foreign plays by Brecht, Pirandello, and Witkiewicz, among others. Moreover, Cole circulated plays outside of New York and acted as agent for amateur as well as professional rights.

Cole passed away on May 22, 2008.

The Toby Cole Archives consist of materials relating to her activities as a theatrical-literary agent. These materials include books, business records, clippings, correspondence, financial papers, legal documents, photographs, programs, promotional materials, and scripts.

Among numerous scripts are those by Saul Bellow and Sam Shepard. Some of these works are originals, some are unpublished, and some are in several versions. These plays are supported by extensive correspondence discussing them and their production.

Correspondence also reveals Cole’s arrangements with many other playwrights and actors such as William Alfred, John Arden, Eric Bentley, Edward Bond, Bertolt Brecht (estate), Barbara Garson, Simon Gray, Sam Jaffe, Zero Mostel, and Luigi Pirandello (estate), among others.

The collection as a whole offers a remarkable look at the activities of a theatrical agency.

Toby Cole LetterheadToby Cole Letterhead