The Austin Chronicle

Harry Ransom Center: They f**king scored the f**king Mamet papers

By Robert Faires, April 20, 2007, Arts

Any list of major American playwrights, he's on it. Near the top. And he's one of the few such writers working whose name is widely known, even to people who don't go to theatre. He created not only a wholly original and compelling world that we'd never seen onstage but a language we had never heard – or maybe had heard but never appreciated, for the beauty of its rhythms and the poetry of its profanity. He is David Mamet, accomplished dramatist, screenwriter, director, teacher, and essayist, and he's sending his papers to live here.

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center – which has long held to the motto "Always be closing" – has acquired more than 100 boxes of Mamet material, including manuscripts and multiple drafts of each of his 50 plays and 25 screenplays, from American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross to The Untouchables and Wag the Dog to unpublished and abandoned works; 175 personal journals spanning the years 1966 to 2001, wherein Mamet recorded ideas, notes for works, and daily reflections; and extensive correspondence from actor Joe Mantegna and magician/magic scholar Ricky Jay, plus letters from Harold Pinter, Mike Nichols, Steve Martin, and assorted agents, editors, production staff, and friends. Mamet had held on to this material despite his never wanting to see it again. He thought, though, "perhaps some imaginary future soul, possessed of a surfeit of time, and an interest in the arcane, might find diversion, if not benefit, in the perusal of the growth of this or that project, or, indeed, of my career. This is every parent's fantasy: that those who come after one would actually 'care.'" In a prepared statement, Mamet said, "Having an archive in the care of the Ransom Center, in the care, if I may, of intelligent, and dedicated enthusiasts, fulfilled both the fantasy of the parent, and that of the artist, who now, though absent, might envision a cost-free colloquy with a perfect interlocutor."

Not only do we get the man's papers, we get the man himself – for at least a few visits in the next four years. Mamet has agreed to a series of short residencies at UT during which he may serve as a guest lecturer, give readings or public talks, or work with students on a stage production. For now, however, you can see select materials from the Mamet papers at the HRC through Sunday, May 6.

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