The primary Stages Off-Broadway Oral history Project

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

Susan Yankowitz

Susan Yankowitz

Playwright, Librettist, Novelist

Interviewed on: Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Location: at Primary Stages
Interviewed by: Casey Childs
Interview #111
Photo Credit: Larry Ho
"The Open Theater…took theatre seriously…I had never seen that type of passion about theatre and its meaning."
Susan Yankowitz Highlights
Video Length: 6 Minutes, 10 Seconds
Susan Yankowitz Interview
Video Length: 2 Hours, 10 Minutes

Susan Yankowitz is a playwright, librettist, novelist and screenwriter. During 1968-69, she began her career as a playwright with The Open Theater, led by Joseph Chaikin, and wrote TERMINAL, a groundbreaking collaborative play about human mortality for which she received the 1970 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Playwright. Years later, with Chaikin, performers from the original production, and others of a younger generation, she revised the piece into 1969TERMINAL1996 for a revival at Performance Space 122. Her other Off-Broadway credits include SLAUGHTERHOUSE PLAY (1971) at the Public Theater, NIGHT SKY (1991) produced by the Women’s Project & Productions, and PHAEDRA IN DELIRIUM (1998), CSC/ Women’s Project Theater.

Susan Yankowitz was born in Newark, New Jersey. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Yale School of Drama. Her other plays include A Knife in the Heart (2002) at Sledgehammer Theatre, Under the Skin (2007), (formerly titled Foreign Bodies),Seven (2008), a documentary play in collaboration with six other women playwrights, The Tragical-Farcical Trial of Madame P and Other 4-Legged and Winged Creatures (2016), Her work as a librettist/lyricist includes helping to develop the musical Baby (1983),True Romances (1977) with music by Elmer Bernstein; the opera Slain in the Spirit: The Promise of Jim Jones (1996) with music by Taj Mahal; Chéri (2005) with music by Michael Dellaira; and Thumbprint (2014) with Kamala Sankaram, which premiered at the Prototype Festival and had a production at the L.A. Opera in June 2017. “Silent Witness,” her first novel, was published in 1976 and her documentary about Sylvia Plath aired on PBS in 1990. Her work has been translated into 31 languages and her archive is held at Kent State University.

Mentioned in Interview

Robert Brustein, Peter Brook, Joseph Chaikin, Gene Frankel, Richard Gilman, Andre Gregory, Gerald Lust, Richard Peasley, Gordon Rogoff, Megan Terry, Paul Zimet, CSC Theater, Cubiculo Theater, The Living Theater, The Open Theater, Primary Stages, Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective, Women’s Project, A-Z BOXES, ALARMS, BABY, THE CRAZY BUT TRUE TRAGICAL-FARCICAL TRIAL OF MADAME P, THE HA-HA PLAY [THE HYENAS LAUGHED], A KNIFE IN THE HEART, NIGHT SKY, PHAEDRA IN DELIRIUM, SILENT WITNESS, TERMINAL, THE THUMBPRINT OF MUKHTAR MAI, UNDER THE SKIN