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Kopit, Arthur


KOPIT, ARTHUR (1937– ), U.S. playwright. Arthur Lee Koenig (his mother, Maxine, was divorced when Arthur was young and married George Kopit, a jewelry salesman) was born in New York City but grew up in an affluent Long Island suburb. He became excited by theater when he took a modern drama workshop at Harvard and began writing short plays with outlandish titles. In 1959, the summer he graduated with a degree in engineering, he entered a playwriting contest. In five days he wrote a wacky one-act tragicomedy about an elegantly monstrous woman who keeps her husband's coffin at her bedside and her grown son attached to her apron strings at all times. He finished the play, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Bad, while he was in Europe, where he was traveling on a fellowship. He won the $250 first prize and a production of the play at Harvard. Oh Dad was staged Off Broadway by Jerome *Robbins in 1960, ran for more than a year, toured for 11 weeks, and ended with a six-week run on Broadway. Kopit received awards for best new play of 1962. His next play, Indians, a depiction of American hypocrisy and violence during the 19th century, had scenes from the lives of Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody juxtaposed in a scathing, symbolic attack on American genocide. It was first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London in 1968. Next came Wings (1979), a drama about the recovery of a stroke victim, with innovative staging techniques used to replicate the healing process. In 1984, Kopit's End of the World explored the corrupting forces in American life. A playwright becomes a private investigator and exposes the parties responsible for nuclear proliferation. Kopit used black humor to explore this troubling subject and showed how easily even his good characters can be caught up in the momentum toward destruction.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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