Scope and arrangement
The Dora Weissman papers document Weissman's acting career; her work as a talent agent and as an acting coach; her relationships with friends, family, and colleagues; and her activities in the Jewish theatrical community. The collection contains photographs, scripts, correspondence, event programs, theater programs, scrapbooks, clippings, articles, periodicals, business records, and Weissman's notes. The collection dates from the 1880s to 1973, with the bulk of the materials dating from the 1930s to the 1960s. Materials are chiefly in English but also in Yiddish. The collection holds scripts by Weissman's father, Yiddish playwright and translator Reuben Weissman, dating between the 1880s and 1912.
Materials documenting Weissman's acting career consist of photographs, theater programs, scrapbooks, clippings, correspondence, contracts, résumés, and short biographical articles. Publicity photographs of Weissman and other Yiddish actors, including group shots of performers on stage, are present. Two printing plates depicting Weissman are here. Most of the images date to the 1920s or 1930s; the earliest is a signed photograph of Bertha Kalich from 1906. Clippings and programs in Yiddish and English document Weissman's career from the 1930s to the 1960s. A small number of magazines and other materials from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) are present.
Weissman's charitable and social activities in the Jewish theatrical community are documented through event programs, souvenir booklets, and correspondence. Her work with the Ladies' Welfare League of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance from 1939 to 1943 is best-represented; however, there is not a large amount of material related to any one organization.
Weissman's personal records consist of notebooks, appointment books, photographs of family and friends, correspondence, short scripts, speeches, stories, and memorabilia. Correspondence comprises letters, telegrams, and greeting cards to and from friends, family, clients, colleagues, and organizations. Many of Weissman's correspondents were active in the Jewish theater. Family photographs include portraits of Anshel Schorr and Bessie Bain. Weissman's handwritten notes, in English and Yiddish, appear in appointment books and notebooks, where she drafted or copied out scripts and story ideas, correspondence, articles, and prayers. Her notes also appear on materials throughout the collection.
Full-length scripts are for television, radio, and theater. The collection also holds a script for the 1953 film The Guerilla Girl. Some scripts have annotations and revisions. The bulk of the television scripts are Goldbergs scripts from 1949 to 1955; these scripts have numerous handwritten changes and additions by Weissman. Other television scripts include comedy shows and episodes of anthology programs, such as "Holiday Song," a 1953 episode of Philco Television Playhouse written by Paddy Chayefsky; "Finkle's Comet," a 1956 episode of The Alcoa Hour; and "Night Cry," a 1958 episode of Kraft Mystery Theatre. Radio scripts are from the 1940s and early 1950s. They include episodes of The Story of Bess Johnson, Abie's Irish Rose, Young Dr. Malone, The Goldbergs, The House of Glass, and the audition episode of The Saga of Constance, based on the life of Constance Bennett. Plays include works by Ben Hecht and Jules Michelson (Julius Michaelson). Several Yiddish theater scripts can be found in Reuben Weissman's records.
Reuben Weissman's records date between the 1880s and 1912. They consist of notebooks containing three handwritten scripts in Yiddish: an original play, and Weissman's translations of two plays, The Great Person: Comedy in 4 Acts and Happiness: A Play in 3 Acts. Also present is a notebook containing writing in Yiddish and Hebrew; the writing includes commentary on Jewish religion and history.
Talent agency materials date from the 1950s to 1968, and consist chiefly of actor photographs and résumés. Other materials related to Dora Weissman's work as an agent comprise agent lists, correspondence from clients and would-be clients, clippings, contracts, casting breakdowns, and form letters composed by Weissman, recommending her clients for roles. Some notes and correspondence relating to Weissman's clients can also be found scattered throughout her personal records.
The School of Theatre Arts materials consist mostly of scenes, sketches, monologues, and other short scripts for vocal and acting exercises or auditions. Student lists, print advertisements and advertising copy, and ledgers are also present. These records date from the 1940s to the 1960s. Many of Weissman's students were also her talent agency clients, and most of the theater school materials are intermixed with talent agency materials.
Materials are arranged in four categories: personal records documenting Weissman's acting career and private life; School of Theatre Arts and talent agency records, which are largely intermingled; TV, radio, and theater scripts; and Reuben Weissman's scripts and notes.