Arthur Kopit Kopit, Arthur (Vol. 1) - Essay

Kopit, Arthur (Vol. 1)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Kopit, Arthur 1937–

American playwright, author of Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad and Indians.

Mr. Kopit's purpose [in Indians] is to accuse the American people of the crime of genocide—to say that at the end of the 19th century the United States Government deliberately extinguished, or virtually extinguished, the Indian race. I presume that it is also to Mr. Kopit's purpose to see various other political parallels more immediate to our own time.

Clive Barnes, in New York Times (© 1968 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 9, 1968.

Clearly, the destruction of the Indians—and the resulting burden on the American conscience—is not the main or the only theme of [Arthur] Kopit's play, [Indians]. What Kopit also wanted to show was the self-righteousness of a nation convinced that its mission is to bring Christianity and respectability to all the world and the streak of violence in a people raised on a tradition of gun-law in Dodge City saloons. In [a] television interview, Kopit said as much, although he was very careful not to pronounce the word he very obviously hinted at—Vietnam.

Martin Esslin, in New York Times (© 1968 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 21, 1968.

Indians … is an essay in the Brechtian manner, prettied up a bit. Brecht believed (and he may well have been right) that audiences are like children, needing to be taught simple lessons in an uncomplicated way.

John Bowen, "Shouting and Dancing About," in London Magazine, October, 1968, pp. 81-5.

Indians does not hitch Marxian economics to a Wild West star. But in the nightmare of the American conscience it is Kopit's brilliant creation which renders incarnate the relationship of myth to the national guilt over its territorial misdemeanors, as it does the romantic heroes made necessary by the captalist syndrome….

Most American playwrights are not at home with ambiguity; but Kopit does not reveal everything. He lets the stage world create the irony and the audience draw connections. [Indians] demands complexity, not simplicity of vision. In the melodramatic tradition, the Indian was the violent opponent. The theatre an examination. Kopit illustrates this with Buffalo also an exercise in anticipation, an escape instead of catered to popular fantasy. The act of distortion was Bill and his Wild West Show.

John Lahr, "Arthur Kopit's 'Indians': Dramatizing National Amnesia," in Evergreen Review, October, 1969, pp. 19-21, 63-7.

Arthur Kopit writes plays the way one writes for undergraduate humor magazines: cheekily, boisterously, with lipsmacking condescension, yet for all that innocently: there is something winsomely apple-cheeked about the most barbed indictments of the play. Indians draws rude grafitti, but does not draw blood.

John Simon, "Senators Vs. Braves," in New York Magazine, October 27, 1969, p. 67.