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James Tiroff notebooks and art works

Call Number: YCAL MSS 358

Scope and Contents

The James Tiroff Notebooks and Art Works document Tiroff’s experiences in Europe as an actor and designer with the avant-garde theatre company the Living Theatre between 1964 and 1966. During these years the company was “in exile” from its home base in New York City, following a guilty verdict against directors Julian Beck and Judith Malina on charges of federal tax evasion. They lost their appeal and served sixty and thirty days, respectively, while the company remained in Europe. Tiroff's ten notebooks contain diary entries describing the Living Theatre company travels, rehearsals, and performances. Notes of company meetings and discussions on a variety of topics often include quotes from Beck and Malina. Productions documented in the notebooks include The Brig, The Balcony, The Maids, Frankenstein, and Mysteries and Smaller Pieces. Tiroff also details his personal experiences with fellow company members and acquaintances including preparation of meals, impromptu music sessions, sexual encounters, alcohol and drug use, and confrontations with police.

Accompanying the diary accounts (and frequently forming collages within the notebooks) are letters to Tiroff from friends and family members; photographs of Tiroff and others; pen and ink and watercolor abstract illustrations and drawings of people, production costumes and sets, and theatre floor plans; and ephemera including performance programs and handbills, train schedules, ticket stubs, hotel business cards, postcards, and newspaper clippings, maps, and organic material. Several letters from Malina and Beck in January of 1965, during their incarceration in the United States, sent to company members in Belgium, describe how set and costume designs should be constructed for The Maids. One folder of Living Theatre performance programs and Tiroff’s Italian motorcycle registration papers follow the notebooks. Tiroff’s art works within sketchbooks and as single sheets include pen-and-ink drawings of Living Theatre productions, nudes, and oil and watercolor portraits, including one self-portrait.


  • 1962-1966


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The James Tiroff Notebooks and Art Works is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Maggs Brothers Ltd.on the Adele Gutman Nathan Theatrical Collection Fund, 2009.


Organized into two series: I. Notebooks, 1962-1966. II. Art Works, 1965-1966.


1.5 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The James Tiroff notebooks and art works document Tiroff’s experiences touring Europe as an actor and designer with the avant-garde theatre company the Living Theatre between 1964 and 1966.

James Tiroff (1939-1975)

James Francis Tiroff was born in Alice, Texas, in 1939. A visual artist, musician, and theatre designer and performer, he was a member of the Living Theatre from the late 1950s, and toured Europe with the company in the 1960s. Before travelling to Europe, Tiroff became a Universal Life Church minister, and was referred to by company members as Reverend Jim. He died of a heroin overdose in 1975.

Guide to the James Tiroff Notebooks and Art Works
by Susan Brady
January 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.