Special Collections and Archives

Open Theater papers

Special Collections and Archives

Open Theater papers

The Open Theater papers, 1963-1984

Finding Aid

Prepared by Alex Gildzen; Revised and prepared for the Web by Athena Salaba, September 1996
43 document cases, 14.2 cubic feet, 11th floor

Historical Note

The Open Theater, one of the world's leading avant-garde theater ensembles, was founded in 1963 as a workshop. It was directed by Joseph Chaikin, a key figure in contemporary American drama.

Chaikin, formerly an actor with the Living Theater, founded the group with Peter Feldman to experiment, establish new forms and "open the bodies and minds of actors and audience." Productions were collaborative and began with exercises and group discussion.

"America Hurrah" and "Viet Rock," two of off-Broadway's most significant dramas of the 1960s, originated in Open Theater workshops.

Together with playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie, whose papers are also at Kent, the Open Theater collaborated on "The Serpent," which won an Ohio award, has been produced around the world and was presented on National Educational Television.

The group's late works include the "Terminal," a study of death and resurrection which has been presented off-Broadway and has toured prisons throughout New York City, "The Mutations Show" and "Nightwalk."

Having performed throughout Europe, Middle East, Algeria and U.S., the Open Theater gave its final performance in California in December 1973.

Scope and Content

One of the major areas of strength of the Kent State University Special Collections and Archives is theater. A continuous effort is made to collect Open Theater related materials.

The collection was donated to the Department of Special Collections and Archives by the Open Theater in December 1973.

Part of the collection consists of correspondences between distinguished members of the Open Theater such as Joseph Chaikin, Jean-Claude van Itallie, Peter Feldman, Marianne de Pury-Thompson, Susan Yankowitz, Rhea Gaisner and Peter Maloney. Also included is correspondence with Sam Shepard, Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller and Joseph Papp.

The collection also includes the theater's subject files and manuscripts.

There are five boxes of newspaper and magazine clippings arranged chronologically, three boxes of programs, posters and photographs and two boxes of manuscripts materials, all of which are not listed in this inventory.

This collection is a valuable source of information for the scholars interested in the avant-garde theater movement, the Open Theater and its members.

Statement of Arrangment

Correspondence and manuscripts are arranged chronologically. The subject files are arranged alphabetically.

Collection Overview

Box 1: Papers, 1963-1967

Box 2: Papers, 1968

Box 3: Papers, 1967-1968 (no dates)

Box 4: Papers, 1969-1970

Box 5: Papers, 1971

Box 6: Papers, 1972-March 1973

Box 7: Papers, April 1973-1974

Box 8: Papers, 1975-October 1983

Box 9: Papers, November 1983-1984, undated material

Open Theater Subject Files