The primary Stages Off-Broadway Oral history Project

Celebrating the visionaries who created New York's vibrant Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theater.

Arthur Kopit

Arthur Kopit

Born on Monday, May 10, 1937

Interviewed on: Thursday, June 16, 2016
Location: Primary Stages Offices
Interviewed by: Casey Childs
Interview #69
"Every play is different and the experience and how I do it is different…You have to be willing to just be lost."
Arthur Kopit Highlights
Video Length: 6 Minutes, 5 Seconds
Arthur Kopit Interview Part One
Video Length: 2 Hours, 2 Minutes
Arthur Kopit Interview Part Two
Video Length: 1 Hour, 5 Minutes

Arthur Kopit is an American playwright who became successful through his play OH DAD, POOR DAD, MAMMA’S HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET AND I’M FEELIN’ SO SAD (1960), which won a Vernon Rice Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award when it transferred to Broadway. He originally wrote the play for a playwriting contest to win $250; little did he know that he would win so much more and become immediately well-known in the theatre community. Kopit is also known for his seven works that were published while he was a student, as well as other works written for Off-Broadway, including: BECAUSEHECAN (1999; originally titled Y2K), ROAD TO NIRVANA (1991), ASYLUM (1963), THE DAY THE WHORES CAME OUT TO PLAY TENNIS/SING TO ME THROUGH OPEN WINDOWS (1965), and WINGS (1978), which also moved to Broadway.

A three-time Tony nominated playwright and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, Kopit grew up in New York and attended Harvard University. Some of his Broadway credits include: Indians (1969), Nine (1982), a new adaptation of Ibsen’s Ghosts (1982), End of the World, with Symposium to Follow (1984), and High Society (1998; score by Cole Porter, additional lyrics by Susan Birkenhead). Some of his one-acts include: The Questioning of Nick, Conquest of Everest, Good Help is Hard to Find, Success, and The Hero. A Dram of Drummhicit (written with Anton Dudley) was done at La Jolla Playhouse. Phantom (score by Maury Yeston) was written before the Webber hit on Broadway and is actively produced everywhere else. Kopit has also been a part of several television miniseries including: “Hands of a Stranger,” “In a Child’s Name,” and “Roswell.” His many awards include a Helen Merrill and William Inge Award for Distinguished Playwriting, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Award for Literature from the American Institute of Arts and Letters. Kopit has taught playwriting at the Yale School of Drama, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Wesleyan, the NYU Graduate Department of Dramatic Writing, and the Lark Play Development Center in New York City, heading the Playwrights’ Workshop.

Mentioned in Interview

Roger Stevens, Tommy Tune, Archibald MacLeish, Lars Schmidt, Audrey Wood, Stella Adler, Kenneth Tynan, Binkie Beaumont, Lyn Austin, Jerome Robbins, Frank Corsaro, Hal Prince, Phoenix Theater, La MaMa E.T.C., Ensemble Studio Theatre, New York Theater Ensemble, Players Theater, Lucille Lortel Theater, Theater de Lys, NYSF/The Public, OH DAD POOR DAD MAMMA’S HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET AND I’M FEELIN SO SAD, THE QUESTIONING OF NICK, SECRETS OF THE RICH, BECAUSEHECAN, NINE, WINGS, INDIANS, THE DAY THE WHORES CAME OUT TO PLAY TENNIS, END OF THE WORLD WITH SYMPOSIUM TO FOLLOW