Arthur Kopit was born Arthur Lee Koneig in Manhattan, New York in 1937. His parents were Jewish and divorced when Kopit was two years old. Kopit adopted his step-father’s last name and moved to Lawrence, Nassau County. In 1959, Kopit graduated from Harvard with a degree in engineering. During his studies, Kopit began writing short plays and studied with dramatist Robert Chapman, the director of Harvard’s Loeb Drama Center. Following his graduation, Kopit participated in a graduate fellowship in Europe. He signed up for a playwriting contest held by the university and won with his play Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad. His play went on to have an off-Broadway run with Jerome Robbins before transferring to Broadway in 1963. During this production, Kopit began his collaboration with Roger L. Stevens, who would go on to be involved in all of Kopit’s work up until 1984. Known for his long titles, Kopit had a lot of success with a series of plays such as The Day the Whores Came Out to Play Tennis and On the Runway of Life, You Never Know What’s Coming Off Next.
Kopit’s first major success came with his play Indians (1969), which was nominated for three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for drama. In the early 1970s, Kopit relocated to Vermont and focused on incorporating elements of avant-garde theatre into his plays. He taught at Wesleyan University in 1975 and took a nine-year break from writing plays. Kopit made his return to writing with Wings in 1978, which received three Tony nominations and a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 1982, Kopit collaborated with Maury Yeston on the musical Nine, which received a Tony nomination for best book of a musical. He collaborated with Yeston once again for Phantom, which was released as a television mini-series before having its premiere in Houston in 1991. His final production on Broadway was High Society (1998). In his personal life, Kopit married Leslie Garis in 1968 and together they had three children. Kopit passed away at his home in Manhattan at the age of 83 on April 2, 2021.
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