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Pulitizer-nominated ‘Indians’ playwright was 83 – Deadline

Arthur Kopit, whose 1969 Broadway play Indians was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and was subsequently adapted as a film Buffalo Bill and the Indians with Paul Newman, died Friday in New York. He was 83 years old.

His death was announced by spokesman Rick Miramontez. No cause of death has been revealed.

Kopit’s seven-decade career began while a student at Harvard, with his 1963 play Oh daddy, poor daddy, mama hanged you in the closet and I’m feeling so sad get an Off Broadway production which then moved to Broadway under the direction of Jerome Robbins.

Indians, about the life of Buffalo Bill Cody and one of the earliest examples of the anti-Western genre of the time, opened on Broadway in 1969 and starred Stacy Keach, Manu Tupou, Raul Julia, and Sam Waterston, among others. Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for theater, Indians was adapted by director Robert Altman in 1976 as (full title) Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull History Lesson, with Newman leading a cast that included Joel Gray, Kevin McCarthy, Geraldine Chaplin, Denver Pyle and Harvey Keitel.

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His 1978 play Wings, about a woman who suffers from a stroke, was Kopit’s second Pulitzer finalist. The Broadway production with Constance Cummings was filmed for a television presentation in 1983.

Kopit wrote the book for the Tony Award winning musical in 1982 New, with a score by Maury Yeston. Based on the 1963 Federico Fellini film 8½, Nine played Raul Julia on Broadway and, in a 2003 revival, Antonio Banderas. Rob Marshall directed a 2009 film adaptation starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Fergie, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman and Sophia Loren.

The playwright also wrote the book, with music by Yeston, for Ghost, a 1991 adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera, a project that Kopit started before the 1986 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical which became the hit version.

Kopit returned to Broadway in 1998 with High society, music by Cole Porter. The production received lukewarm reviews and ended after five months.

Kopit’s other credits include End of the world, with a symposium to follow; a new translation by Ibsen Ghosts; Road to Nirvana; Because he can (originally titled Year 2000); A drama of Drummhicit (written with Anton Dudley); and many plays in one act. His most recent projects include Discovery of America, a play based on the diaries of the Spanish conquistador, Cabeza de Vaca; and two new pieces, Secrets of the Rich and The incurable.

He was a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Lark Play Development Center in New York City, where he ran the Lark Playwrights’ Workshop.

“Arthur was one of the most uncompromising original writers America has ever produced,” said Yeston, a longtime friend and collaborator of Kopit. “A true born playwright, his work possesses the kind of universality that is understood by the entire human race, across all cultures and all languages. The worlds he created come to life in the minds of every spectator who gets the chance to attend one of his shows. But her greatest trait – even beyond her enviable brilliance – was boundless generosity.

Kopit is survived by his wife Leslie Garis, children Alex, Ben and Kat, grandchildren Arthur, Beatrix and Clara; and sister Susan.

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