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Ben Shaktman Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: ASD
Date: Apr 1966

Biographical History

Ben Shaktman (1937- ) is an American playwright and director of Off-Broadway, regional repertory and television productions. He also created Shaktman Associates, an executive skills training company.

Shaktman was born in Peabody, Massachusetts in 1937. His given first name was Bernard which he changed to Ben in 1960. He received his B.A. degree Magna Cum Laude from Syracuse University in 1959 and his M. A. degree in social science from the Maxwell School of Political Science at Syracuse University in 1964.

Upon receiving a Fulbright fellowship (1959-1961) in playwriting and subsequently in directing, Shaktman went to Europe where he studied and worked at Oxford, Bristol University, the University of London, Paris, and Berlin. He was an observing director at the Royal Court Theater in London, and at the Theatre Nationale Populaire (TNP) in Paris, he co-directed Bertolt Brecht's Les Fusils de Señora Carrar in 1961. He worked as a directorial associate at the Berliner Ensemble which at that time was in East Berlin, assisting in the staging of Ostrovsky's The Abyss. His own play, Point in the Square, was produced in 1960 by the Bristol Old Vic School.

After returning to the United States in 1962, Shaktman served for two years as artist-in-residence and lecturer in drama at Syracuse University. While at Syracuse he staged the U.S. premiere of Bertolt Brecht's The Guns of Carrar, with a new translation by George Tabori.

In 1964 he spent a year at the Charles Playhouse in Boston collaborating with poet Anne Sexton in the development of her first play, which at the time had a working title of Give Me Your Answer (Do Daisy) (the final title was Tell Me Your Answer True). He also staged the musical She Loves Me, and created a unique musical theater for children, with musical director Joe Raposo, which toured schools in the greater Boston area.

In 1975 Shaktman was one of the founders of the Pittsburgh Public Theater where he served as general and artistic director until 1982. During that time he was responsible for establishing the theater's financial and artistic foundations and directed a majority of productions during PPT's first seven years.

In 1983 Shaktman expanded the application of his theatrical and directorial skills to the business world when he became the founder and president of Shaktman Associates, an executive consulting and training firm. It trains and coaches corporate executives, teachers, professors, and community leaders in the effective preparation and delivery of presentations. (See separate collection, Shaktman Associates Records.) He continues as its president today (2015).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Ben Shaktman Papers spans the years 1949-2009 and is divided into six groups: Biographical material, Correspondence/subject files, Productions directed by Shaktman, Productions involving Shaktman, Productions proposed by Shaktman, Writings, and Memorabilia.

Biographical material contains a biographical article, typewrittten biography and c.v. with notes and corrections by Mr. Shaktman, plus his passport.

Correspondence/subject files is arranged alphabetically and includes letters to and from actors, agents, playwrights and other members of the theatrical community as well as personal correspondence.

Productions directed by Shaktman comprises materials relating to the production of the plays for which Ben Shaktman was the principle director.

Productions involving Shaktman comprises materials relating to the production of the plays for which Ben Shaktman was in some other role than principle director. The bulk of the material is from Pittsburgh Public Theater during the years he was General Director of the company.

Productions proposed by Shaktman comprises materials relating to the production he proposed that were either not produced or were produced by others.

All productions are arranged alphabetically by title. Correspondence dealing directly with a particular production has been arranged chronologically and placed under the play with which it is concerned. Some larger photographs as well as costume sketches for "The Emperor Jones," are located in the oversize packages at the end of the collection.

Writings is divided into the following sections: Adaptations of others' work; Articles and essays; Books; Lectures and courses; Letters to the editor; Lyrics; Pamphlets; Personal journals; Plays; Poetry; Program notes; Reviews; Screeplays; Television series and specials and Thesis (material collected by him for a study of the Negro actor on the legitimate stage done at Syracuse University). the thesis material is arranged alphabetically by section titles given by Mr. Shaktman.

Memorabilia is divided into the following sections: Address books and calendars; Clippings; Event programs(many of which include Shaktman's marginal notes); Phone messages;Photographs; Printed material; Pittsburgh Public Theater; Posters; Postcards; Scrapbook; scheduling planners; and Travel souvenirs.

Arrangement of the Collection

Material is arranged alphabetically by type or title.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Published books have been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging. Please refer to the Classic Catalog and search on the phrase "Gift of Ben Shaktman" for a complete listing.

As part of the complete reprocessing in March 2012, material relating to Shaktman Associates was removed and processed as a separate collection., the Shaktman Associates Records.

Special Collections Research Center has a large number of collections relating to theatre and drama; please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Alexander, Jane, 1939-
Anderson, Lindsay, 1923-1994.
Arden, John.
Bancroft, Anne, 1931-2005.
Barnes, Clive, 1927-2008.
Baxter, Anne.
Bellantoni, Patti.
Bellon, Jacquie.
Bochco, Steven, 1943-
Boorstein, Joan.
Booth, Susan V.
Borenstein, Joyce.
Bosakowski, Phil.
Bottner, Barbara.
Brecht, Bertolt, 1898-1956.
Brooks, Gwendolyn, 1917-2000.
Brown, Arvin.
Caliguiri, Richard S.
Carden, William.
Case, Bertha.
Castang, Veronica, 1938-1988.
Cates, Gilbert, 1934-2011.
Cheskin, Irving.
Clay, Buriel, 1943-1978.
Copeland, James, 1923-
Copelin, David.
Cronyn, Hume.
Crosby, Kathryn, 1933-
Croyden, Joan.
Cutrona, Ryan.
Davidson, Gordon, 1933-
Davis, Sammy, 1925-1990.
Devine, George, 1910-1966.
Dillingham, Charles.
Dodson, Owen, 1914-1983.
Duberman, Martin B.
Duke, Patty, 1946-2016.
Dunster, Claude.
Empleton, Elizabeth.
Fichandler, Zelda, 1924-
Flaherty, Peter F., 1924-
Fosse, Bob, 1927-1987.
Funt, Allen, 1914-1999.
Gaines, William Louis.
Garcia, Andy.
Gister, Earle R., 1934-
Going, John.
Golden, Joseph, 1928-
Goldschmidt, Gilbert de.
Grossman, Milton M.
Guettel, Hank.
Guthrie, Tyrone, Sir, 1900-1971.
Handman, Wynn.
Hankin, Larry.
Harris, Berkeley.
Hart, Bruce.
Hart, Lou S.
Hellman, Lillian, 1905-1984.
Henson, Jim.
Heriza, Nirmala, 1946-
Hesseltine, Stark.
Howard, Pamela, 1939-
Irving, Jules, 1925-
Jones, James Earl.
Jones, Welton.
Kahn-Leavitt, Laurie.
Kalfin, Robert.
Kastelas, Milton.
Langella, Frank.
Levinson, Aaron.
Lithgow, John, 1945-
Litz, Robert J.
Lorant, Stefan, 1901-1997.
Lovelace, Margo.
Ludden, Allen.
MacDermot, Galt.
Markson, Edith Sherin.
Medencevic, Suki.
Michlin, Barry.
Miner, Worthington, 1900-1982.
Moore, Dudley, 1935-2002.
Movsesian, Nance.
Nagrin, Daniel.
Neijna, Barbara.
Neipris-Wille, Janet.
Newberry, Greg.
Newman, Danny.
Nimoy, Leonard.
Noel, Craig.
Noonan, John Ford.
Norton, Elliot, 1903-
O'Bannon, Helen B., 1939-1988.
O'Casey, Eileen.
O'Neill, Carlotta.
Oates, Joyce Carol, 1938-
Obadiah, Rick.
Obolensky, Kira.
Olivier, Laurence, 1907-1989.
Padula, Edward, 1916-2001.
Pagano, Rich.
Passeltiner, Bernie.
Piskor, Frank Peter.
Poitier, Sidney.
Polis, Joel.
Pons, Beatrice Moore.
Posvar, Wesley.
Prince, Harold, 1928-
Raposo, Joe.
Rayvid, Jay.
Reidenbaugh, Gerald F.
Rich, David Lowell.
Ridley, Clifford A.
Robbins, Jerome.
Rogers, Fred.
Rosenak, David.
Ruscio, Michael.
Schell, Ina.
Schoenfeld, Gerald, 1924-2008.
Schreiber, Terry.
Sexton, Anne, 1928-1974.
Shaktman, Ben, 1937-
Shaw, Roy, 1936-2012.
Sileika, Gintare.
Silverman, Fred, 1937-
Soble, Lisa-Marie.
Solvang, Tobi.
Sondheim, Stephen.
Strauch, Barbara.
Strickland, William E., Jr.
Strouse, Charles.
Swoyer, Julia.
Tabori, George, 1914-2007.
Tagg, Alan.
Thornburgh, Dick.
Toser, David.
Tutera, Cindy.
Vestoff, Virginia.
Wakefield, Yanoulla.
Waley, Arthur.
Wanamaker, Sam, 1919-1993.
Weil, Marian J.
Weiswiller, Carole.
Weitzman, Lew.
Wesker, Arnold, 1932-2016.
Wilcox, Kay.
Wilder, Isabel, 1900-1995.
Wolsk, Eugene V.
Zabusky, Charlotte Fox.
Zeisler, Peter.
Zulia, Ernest.

Corporate Bodies

Actors' Equity Association.
American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Berliner Ensemble.
Carnegie-Mellon University.
Chesterfield Writers' Project.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
City Theatre, Pittsburgh.
Directors Guild of America.
George Washington University.
Humana Festival.
Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.
MTV Networks.
National Endowment for the Arts -- Theater Program.
North Shore Music Theatre.
Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
Pittsburgh Public Theater.
Syracuse University.
TACT, The Actors Company Theatre.
The Charles Playhouse.
The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center.
The Pythons.
Universal City Studios.
University of California, Los Angeles. -- School of Theater, Film and Television.
University of Pittsburgh.
Warner Bros.
Yale University.


Acting -- Study and teaching.
African Americans in the performing arts.
Musicals -- Production and direction.
Television -- Production and direction.
Theater -- Production and direction.

Genres and Forms

Drafts (documents)
Lecture notes.
Research notes.
Reviews (documents)
Scripts (documents)
Slides (photographs)
Theater programs.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Ben Shaktman Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Ben Shaktman, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1991-1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006-2009.

Table of Contents

Biographical material

Correspondence Subject Files

Productions directed by Shaktman

Productions involving Shaktman

Productions proposed by Shaktman