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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Date (inclusive): 1950-1979
    Collection number: D-055
    Origination: Cole, Toby
    Extent: 26.25 linear feet in 20 boxes
    Repository: University of California, Davis. General Library. Dept. of Special Collections.
    Davis, California
    Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Special Collections Department.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Purchase of the Toby Cole Archives was made possible by the University of California Systemwide Shared Purchase Program and a gift from the UCD Library Associates. The Archives was purchased in 1981 from Toby Cole through Andreas L. Brown (Gotham Book Mart and Gallery, Inc., New York City).


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    The Library can only claim physical ownership of the Toby Cole Archives. It is impossible for us to determine the identity of possible claimants of literary property. Responsibility for identifying and satisfying such claimants must be assumed by users wishing to publish the materials.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item] TOBY COLE ARCHIVES, D-055, Department of Special Collections, General Library, University of California, Davis.


    Biography/Organization History

    Toby Cole (Marion Cholodenko) was born in Newark, New Jersey, on January 27, 1916. She graduated South Side High School, Newark, 1933. Later she attended New Theatre School, New York City, 1936-1938.
    Cole 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.
    With this considerable experience behind her, 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. As might be expected, Cole 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 established residence in Venice, Italy in 1973, but kept her New York office functioning with the aid of assistants. Since 1985, she has spent considerable time in Berkeley, California, arranging plays that "speak to the critical issues of our time."


    • Acting: A Handbook of the Stanislavsky Method 1947
    • Actors on Acting, (with Helen Krich Chinoy) 1953, 1963
    • Directors on Directing, (with Helen Krich Chinoy) 1953, 1963
    • Playwrights on Playwriting c1961, 1967
    • Venice: A Portable Reader 1979
    • Florence: A Traveller's Anthology 1982

    Scope and Content

    The Toby Cole Archives consists of materials relating Cole's activities as a theatrical-literary agent based in New York City from 1957 to 1979. 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 important 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.
    Documentation is also provided by business records containing over 3,000 file cards. These files give an exact breakdown of royalties and commissions, and, according to Cole, list every production that she ever arranged.
    The legal documents consist primarily of client contracts. There is also a significant file on actor Zero Mostel regarding a complex litigation between him and Cole.
    The archives as a whole offers a remarkable look at the activities of a theatrical agency.