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Arthur Kopit Papers

Call Number



1950-2015, inclusive


Kopit, Arthur, 1937-
Kopit, Arthur, 1937- (Role: Donor)


201 Linear Feet in 160 boxes
5.15 Gigabytes
2 videocassettes (vhs)
1 audiocassette

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.


The Arthur L. Kopit Papers contain material generated by Broadway playwright Arthur Kopit beginning in the 1960s. Professional materials include significant documentation of all his major works beginning with "Oh Dad, Poor Dad... " and continuing through "Phantom." Records include research materials, notes, drafts, electronic records, and completed versions of produced and unproduced plays, screenplays, teleplays, novels, and story treatments. Personal materials include correspondence, financial documents, photographs, ephemera and materials generated by Kopit's parents, wife, and children.

Biographical Note

Playwright, writer and director Arthur Lee Kopit was born in 1937 in New York City. His first plays were staged while still an undergraduate at Harvard University. He recieved public and critical attention with his play "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad: A Pseudoclassical Tragifarce in a Bastard French Tradition". Written while still in school, the play was published when Kopit was 23 and went on to productions in London and New York establishing his reputation for fusing disparate genres, absurdism, and a darkly comic world view. Later notable plays include "Indians" (1968), simultaneously a review of America's treatment of Native Americans and a critique of the Vietnam War; "Wings" (1978), a more somber story of a stroke victim's recovery; and "The End of the World" (1984), a mordant investigation of the arms race and nuclear destruction.

Additionally, Kopit has written works for television and radio and books for musicals, often collaborating on the latter with composer and lyricist Maury Yeston. These works include "Nine" (1982), an adaptation of the Federico Fellini's film "8 1/2", and "Phantom" (1991), a musical version of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux that has been overshadowed by the more popular (though less critically acclaimed) version by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Kopit has taught at Wesleyan University, Yale University, and the City College of New York and has been the recipient of numerous awards, grants and fellowships. He currently resides in New York City.


Materials remain in orginal order. Oversized materials were separated and placed at the end of the collection. Folders are untitled; when a title is present in quotations it indicates the material was found in a folder or hanging file or envelope with that inscription. Most materials found in envelopes were placed in discrete folders with the envelope or photocopy of the envelope retained. Later unprocessed accretions were added with boxes listed at the series level at the end of the arrangement.

  1. Series I: Projects
  2. Series II: Magazines, Newspapers and Other Media
  3. Series III: Business Records
  4. Series IV: Personal Materials
  5. Series V: Miscellaneous
  6. Series VI: Scripts and Works by Other Authors
  7. Series: VIII: Oversize Materials
  8. Series IX: Unprocessed Materials
  9. Series X: Unprocessed 2019 Accretion

Scope and Content Note

The Arthur Kopit Papers contain the professional, personal and electronic records covering Kopit's career as a playwright. Kopit began his career while still a student at Harvard, quickly leapt to fame, and continued to produce major works for four decades. This collection thoroughly documents all aspects of his career from work on the stage, in the film industry, and on television. A tireless writer, the collection contains thorough documentation on numerous unproduced works for all media. Records also document Kopit's teaching work, his personal and family life and provide a solid picture of the theater world.

The collection is divided into series as organized by the collection creator. The major series are Projects, Media, Business Files, and Personal Records. The arrangement within each series varies according to how the materials were organized by the creator and received by the depository.

The first series, Projects, is also the largest series, comprising half the collection. The materials are organized alphabetically by project title as there was no order between them. Named project files go back no further than the late 1960's and thus do not include material on the early part of Kopit's career.

The materials for each project present are in no particular order yet the materials fall into identifiable categories. The first category would be books, pamphlets, magazines, newspaper articles, journals, and any other material used as research for the project. This can include government publications in the case of End of the World, or commercial pamphlets in the case of Dream House. Many of the projects contain numerous tapes of interviews with experts, knowledgeable sources or persons relevant to the project's topic. Kopit also seemed to record reflections, notes and thoughts on tape.

The second category would be handwritten drafts of the plays including preliminary outlines, diagrams, and sketches. Kopit worked extensively with index cards to structure the play or piece. He also made use of large sketchbooks and blank notebooks to write out ideas and schematize the work. There are indications that these cards and loose pages would be assembled on bulletin boards or compared against each other to map out the development of a work.

Typewritten drafts make up a large portion of each project's files. Whole scripts as produced, annotated early drafts, and many partial copies of various successive versions tend to be present for each work. In some cases, later productions of the work have their own alterations and unique copies of the script.

Lastly, project files contain correspondence with involved parties, contracts, photographs, promotional materials, material on casting, royalty agreements, publication material, copyright records and other files. These types of material are not as present in each project as the above types but still make regular appearances.

The first part of the series consists of projects with enough records to occupy one more whole boxes. The second part of the series, titled miscellaneous works, are the records of productions taking up less than a single box. While these materials reflect all periods of Kopit's career, there is a particular presence of materials from earlier in his career. These are works which either did not require as much research and preparatory work as later projects, or for which more extensive documentation was never retained. Works documented here include "The Questioning of Nick", "Oh Dad, Poor Dad...", "The Day the Whores Came Out to Play Tennis...", "Mhil'daiim", "Secrets of the Rich", "Snatch", "Chamber Music", "What's Happened to the Thorne's House?", "On the Runway of Life You Never Know What's Coming Off Next", "An Incident in the Park", "Promontory Point Revisited", and "The Conquest of Everest". Some obscure unproduced works are present including a proposal and drafts of a screenplay or novel entitled "Fresh Game", works entitled "The Frog", "The Poet", "Fat City", "Edgar's Exploits" and other untitled and unidentified works.

Series II: Media, consist of newspapers, magazines, and videotapes not found with or attached to any particular work. They are described as found. A large quantity of computer media is present. Apart from back up disks of operating systems and programs, the majority of the computer media is labeled disks of Kopit's project work. An additional body of media remains originating from leslie Garis and Kopit's children.

Series III: Business Records is composed of files originally kept in filing cabinets and most often coming out of labeled folders and hanging files. These records are in discrete groups, whether by particular location or time period. Groups overlap in subject and nature of the records. Many business files resemble the project files in that they contain notes and research, correspondence relating to projects, productions, rights, royalties and publication. The business files also contain personal financial records including bank account statements, bills, receipts, ledgers, investment records, and home maintenance and property documents.

Series IV: Personal records contains important documentation on Kopit's early life and professional career. While real juvenilia exists here including grade school and high school materials, papers, reports and notebooks, Kopit wrote numerous plays while still in college that went on to be professionally staged and published. Early drafts of works, correspondence relating both to school and writing, documents of Kopit's activities leading up to and past the Broadway premier of "Oh dad, Poor Dad..." and records running until the late 1960s are present here. Kopit kept voluminous scrapbooks of news clippings documenting the success of his plays and his rise in the New York theater world and society. A significant amount of records are present from his parents, a successful couple in New York City whose lives were closely intertwined with Kopit's during these decades.

Series V: Miscellaneous is composed of two boxes of materials not easily identifiable or attributable to any specific project. It is likely that these two boxes will be assimilated into the above series upon further processing.

Series VI: Other Author's Works comprises manuscripts of plays, short stories, story treatments, novels and books by other people. Some of these individuals may have been students, friends or professional associates of Kopit. Some are people Kopit had worked with or planned to work with. Yet others may have been unsolicited manuscripts. They are in order as found.

Series VII: The material in this series was deaccessioned.

Flat boxes at the end of the collection contain oversized material separated from other series. Box description contain notes on separated materials and the materials are labeled as to their origin.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder. Please contact the Fales Library and Special Collections,, 212-998-2596.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; Arthur Kopit Papers; MSS 141; box number; folder number; Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University Libraries.

Location of Materials

Some materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least two business days prior to your research visit to coordinate access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These papers were donated to the Fales Library by Arthur Kopit in September 2005. An accretion to this collection was donated by Arthur Kopit in March 2019, the accession number associated with this gift is 2019.021.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Advance notice is required for the use of computer records. Original physical digital media is restricted.

Born-digital materials have not been transferred and may not be available to researchers. Researchers may request access copies. To request that material be transferred, or if you are unsure if material has been transferred, please contact [repository contact information] with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Access to audiovisual materials in this collection is available through digitized access copies. Researchers may view an item's original container, but the media themselves are not available for playback because of preservation concerns. Materials that have already been digitized are noted in the collection's finding aid and can be requested in our reading room. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Separated Material

There are five boxes of books separated from the Kopit collection. One box contains books of Kopit's published plays and works. Other books were either used by Kopit for research or simply ones collected for personal use. These books were only separated from the collection when they were not related to any project work or known or supposed to have been used for project research yet not found with or next to any project or project materials. Relevant books found among project materials were left in place. Additionally, two boxes of duplicated books, mostly multiple copies of Kopit's published plays, were removed from the collection. The list of separated titles follows:

From Media Series
Arthur Kopit, Road to Nirvana (Hill and Wang: New York, 1991) 1 copy paperback, 1 copy hard cover, same pub. date and information
---- Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad (Hill and Wang: New York, 1960) hardcover and paperback
----, Wings (Hill and Wang: New York, 1978)
----, Wings (Hill and Wang: New York, 1984)
Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston, Phantom (Samuel French: New York, 1992)
Jack Temchin, ed., One on One: The Best Men's Monologues for the Nineties (Applause Theatre Books: New York, 1993)
Arthur Kopit, End of the World (Hill and Wang: New York, 1984) 1 copy paperback, 1 copy hardcover
Daniel Halpern, ed., Plays in One Act (Ecco Press: New York, 1991) with Kopit play "Success"
Daniel Halpern, ed., Antaeus (No.66: Spring 1991) Subtitled "Plays in One Act" with Kopit play "Success"
Arthur Kopit, Three Plays (Hill and Wang: New York, 1997)
Snaja Nikcevic, Antologija americke drame (AGM: Zagreb, 1993) with Kopit play "Indians"
Michael Bigelow Dixon and Michele Volansky, eds., A Decade of New Comedy: Plays from the Humane Festival Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH, 1996) with Kopit play "Road to Nirvana"
Arthur Kopit, The Day the Whores Came Out to Play Tennis and Other Plays (Samuel French: New York, 1993) includes the play of the title, "Chamber Music", "The Questioning of Nick", "Sing to Me Through Open Windows", "The Conquest of Everest" and "The Hero"
Arthur Kopit, Maria Luisa Balseiro, transl. El Interrogatorio de Nick, El Dia Que Todas Las P... Salieron a Juguar al Tenis, La Conquista del Everest, Indios (Editorial Cuadernos para el Dialogo Edicusa: Madrid, 1972)
Arthur Kopit, The Day the Whores Came Out to Play Tennis and Other Plays (Hill and Wang: New York, 1965)
Arthur Kopit, Indians (Hill and Wang: new York, 1969)

From Personal Material:
G.B. Trudeau, The Doonesbury Chronicles (Holt, Rinehart and Winston: New York, 1975)
Treasures of Early Irish Art (Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, 1977)
Nicholas Roukes, Acrylics Old and New (Watson-Guptill: New York, 1990)
Bernard Noel, Magritte (Crown: New York, 1977)
Gail Levin, Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist (W.W. Norton and Company: New York, 1980)
Suzanne Delehanty, The Window in Twentieth-Century Art (Neuberger Museum, State University of New York Purchase: Purchase, N.Y., 1986)
Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire, Book of Greek Myths (Doubleday: New York, 1962)
David Macaulay, The Way Things Work (Houghton Mifflin: Boston, 1988)
Martha Zamora, Frida Kahlo: The Brush of Anguish (Chronicle: San Francisco, 1990)
Andrea Rose, The Pre-Raphaelites (Phaidon: Oxford, 1981)
La Belle Epoque: Fifteen Euphoric Years of European History (William Morrow: New York, 1978)
Miranda Harvey, Piranesi: The Imaginary Views (Academy Editions: London, 1979)
Edward Steichen, The Family of Man (Maco Magazine Corporation: New York, 1955)
Alistair Hicks, The School of London: The Resurgence of Contemporary Painting (Phaidon: Oxford, 1989)
Clement C. Moore, The Night Before Christmas (Golden Press: Racine, Wisc., 1976)
Chas. Addams, Monster Rally (Simon and Schuster: New York, 1950)
Jules Feiffer, Jules Feiffer's America (Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1982)
Alex Comfort, The New Joy of Sex (Pocket Books: New York, 1991)
Alex Comfort, The Joy of Sex (Simon and Schuster: New York, 1972)
Alex Comfort, More Joy of Sex (Simon and Schuster: New York, 1973)
Sheila Kitzinger, Woman's Experience of Sex (G.P. Putnam's Sons: New York, 1983)
Charles Panati, Breakthroughs (Houghton Mifflin: Boston, 1980)
Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, Turin Shroud (HarperCollins: New York, 1994)
Nigel Calder, Einstein's Universe (British Broadcasting Corporation: London, 1979)
William Griffin, Endtime: The Doomsday Catalog (Collier Books: New York, 1979)
John L. Plaster, The Ultimate Sniper (Paladin Press: Boulder, Colo., 1993)
William J. Koenig, Weapons of World War 3 (Bison Books: London, 1982)
The Catalogue, An Index of Possibilities: Energy and Power (Pantheon Books: New York, 1974)
Horace Freeland Judson, The Eighth Day of Creation (Simon and Schuster: New York, 1979)
Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe (Harper and Row: New York, 1979)
George Orwell, Animal Farm (Signet Classics: new York, 1961)
Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana (Viking Press: New York, 1958)
Theodore Rosengarten, All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw (Avon Books: New York, 1975)

From Miscellaneous series:
John Gribbin, In the Beginning (Little, Brown: Boston, 1993)
Fred Warshofsky, The Control of Life (Viking Press: New York, 1969)
Robert Cooke, Improving on Nature (Demeter Press: New York, 1977)
Frank Waters, Book of the Hopi (Ballantine: New York, 1963)
Jules Michelet, Satanism and Witchcraft (Citadel Press: New York, 1960)
Judah Goldin, ed., The Living Talmud (Mentor: New York, 1957)
Carlo Suares, The Sepher Yetsira (Shambhala: Boulder, Colo., 1976)
Louis A. Arand, St. Augustine: Faith, Hope and Charity (Newman Press: Westminster, Md., 1955)
Andrew Greeley, Everything You Wanted to Know About the Catholic Church but Were Too Pious to Ask (Barnes and Noble: New York, 1979)
Joan S. Gray and Joyce C. Tucker, Presbyterian Polity for Church Officers (John Knox Press: Atlanta, 1986)
Michael Rogers, Biohazard (Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1977)
Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters, Making Monsters (Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, 1994)
Theodor Reik, Masochism in Modern Man (Grove Press: New York, 1941)
Adam Smith, Powers of Mind (Random House: New York, 1975)
Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham, The Myth of Repressed Memory (St. Martin's Press: New York, 1994)
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York: New York, 1961)
Thomas D. Clareson, ed., Many Futures, Many Worlds (Kent State University Press: [Kent, Ohio], 1977)
Nancy Friday, Women on Top (Pocket Books: New York, 1993)
Hoyt L. Edge, et al., Foundations of Parapsychology (Routledge and Keegan Paul: Boston, 1986)
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans (Vintage Books: New York, 1958)
Nancy Friday, My Secret Garden (Pocket Books: New York, 1974)
James Harrison, ed., Scientists as Writers (M.I.T. Press: Cambridge, Mass., 1965)
Morris West, The Clowns of God (William Morrow and Company: New York, 1981)
Baroness Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel (Signet Books: New York, 1982)
Wilfrid Sheed, Frank and Maisie (Simon and Schuster: New York, 1985)
Lisa Alther, Kinflicks (Signet Books: New York, 1977)
Moyra Caldecott, The King of Shadows (Hunting Raven Press: Somerset, England, 1981)
Walter Karig, Zotz (Rinehart and Co.: New York, 1947)
Temple Fielding, Fielding's Travel Guide to Europe (William Sloane Associates: New York, 1959)
Ann Beattie, Falling in Place (Random House: New York, 1980)
Moyra Caldecott, The Lily and the Bull (Hill and Wang: New York, 1979)
Eleanor F. Ferguson, My Long Island (Scrub Oak Press: Las Vegas, 1993)
Barbara Cohen and Louise Taylor, Horses and Their Women (Little, Brown and Co.: Boston, 1993)
Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Grosset and Dunlap: new York, 1922)
Jonathan Goldberg, Endlesse Worke: Spenser and the Structures of Discourse (Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, 1981)
Moyra Caldecott, The Tall Stones (Hill and Wang: new York, 1977)
Moyra Caldecott, The Weapons of the Wolfhound (Rex Collins: London, 1976)
Almudena Grandes, The Ages of Lulu (Grove Press: New York, 1994)
Moyra Caldecott, The Tower and the Emerald (Arrow Books: London, 1985)
Moyra Caldecott, Taliesin and Avagddu (Bran's Head Books: Somerset, England, 1983)
Moyra Caldecott, Taliesin and Avagddu (Bran's Head Books: Somerset, England, 1985)
Moyra Caldecott, Child of the Dark Star (Bran's Head Books: Somerset, England, 1984)
Moyra Caldecott, Shadow on the Stones (Corgi: London, 1979)
Richard D. Atluck, Victorian Studies in Scarlet (W.W. Norton: New York, 1970)
Jack Rennert, 100 Posters of Buffalo Bill's Wild West (Darien House: New York, 1976)
Cyclone Covey, ed., Cabeza de Vaca's Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America (University of New Mexico Press)
Wallace Fowlie, Rimbaud and Jim Morrison: The Rebel as Poet (Duke University Press: Durham, N.C., 1993)
Danny Sugerman, The Doors: The Complete Lyrics (Delta Books: New York, 1992)
David Burke, Street Talk 2 (Optima Books: Los Angeles, 1992)
Elissa S. Guralnick, Sight Unseen shrink wrapped book
Martin A. Favata and Jose B. Fernandez, The Account: Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's Relacion (Arte Publico Press: Houston, 1993)
Joe Adams and Henry Tobias, The Borscht Belt (Bentley Publishing: New York, 1966)
Susan Allport, Explorers of the Black Box (W.W. Norton: New York, 1986)
Stephen hawking, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (Bantam Books: New York, 1993)
Deepak Chopra, Quantum Healing (Bantam Books: New York, 1990)
Dian Dincin Buchman and Seli Groves, What if?: Fifty Discoveries that Changed the World (Scholastic: new York, 1988)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Ballantine Books: New York, 1982)
Vincent Di Fate and Ian Summers, Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware (Workman Publishing: New York, 1980)

Separated Materials

All material from Series VII: Kopit Family Material within boxes 125, 126 and 127 were deaccessioned and returned to the donor in February 2009.

Collection processed by

Processed by Jonathan Lill, 2005.

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 17:13:40 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid written in English

Processing Information

Decisions regarding arrangement, description, and physical interventions for this collection prior to 2019 have not been recorded. In 2019, materials were re-housed in acid-free boxes with unfoldered items grouped and labelled in acid-free folders. Oversize materials were rehoused appropriately. Information on born-digital material from this series was added into Medialog, but not imaged.

Revisions to this Guide

August 2018: Finding aid updated for integration of previously unprocessed material from Accession 2002.141
March 2019: Finding aid updated by Shiva Addanki to reflect the 2019 Accretion
October 2019: Finding aid updated by Kelly Haydon to reflect the availability audiovisual access copies

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from kopit.xml


Fales Library and Special Collections
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