Kopit, Arthur

Kopit, Arthur, 1937-2021, American playwright, b. New York, New York, as Arthur Lee Koenig, Harvard Univ. (BS, 1959). Kopit’s parents divorced when he was two, and he adopted his stepfather’s name when his mother remarried. While completing an engineering degree at Harvard, he entered his play Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad in a contest, winning a $250 prize. In 1962, the play opened off-Broadway in a small theater on the upper eastside, transferring to Broadway for a short run in 1963; it won the Vernon Rice Award (renamed the Drama Desk Award) and the Outer Critics Circle Award for best new play. He followed with the drama Indians (1969), based on the story of Buffalo Bill Cody’s touring Wild West Show. Kopit’s plays were marked by a sardonic sense of humor along with a strong political bent, exposing the inequities in American life. His later work was more impressionistic, including Wings (1978), whose female protagonist is dealing with the after-effects of a stroke, and the book for the musical Nine (1982; revived in 2003 and made into a movie, with a script by Kopit, in 2009), based on the Fellini film, , written with composer/lyricist Maury Yeston. The duo next worked on an adaptation of the book The Phantom of the Opera (1983), but were beat to the punch on Broadway by the smash hit version of the story by Andrew Lloyd Webber; Yeston and Kopit’s version had a successful run in Houston (1991). Kopit’s later works, including End of the World (1984), an adaptation of the film musical High Society for the Broadway stage (1998), and Y2K (1999; retitled Because He Can), were less successful. He was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize (for Indians and Wings), and three times for a Tony Award (Best play: Indians and Wings; and Best Book of a Musical: Nine). He also wrote several other one act plays. Kopit was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2017.

D. Auerbach, Sam Shepard, Arthur Kopit, and the Off-Broadway Theater (1982)

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