University of Texas at Austin

David Mamet:

An Inventory of His Papers in the Manuscript Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Mamet, David, 1947-
Title: David Mamet Papers
Dates: 1918-2007 (bulk 1969-2005)
Extent: 333 document boxes, 17 serial boxes, 12 oversize boxes (osb), 1 galley folder (gf), 21 oversize folders (osf) (152.88 linear feet); uncatalogued accessions: 42 record storage cartons, 1 oversize box (43.71 linear feet), and 32 electronic files (1 GB)
Abstract: The papers of American playwright, writer, and film director David Mamet consist mainly of manuscripts and related production materials for most of his plays, films, and other writings, primarily dating from 1969-2005.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-05043
Language: English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, and Spanish
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials. Part or all of this collection is housed off-site and may require up to three business days’ notice for access in the Ransom Center’s Reading and Viewing Room. Please contact the Center before requesting this material:
Restrictions on Use: Certain restrictions apply to the use of electronic files. Researchers must agree to the Materials Use Policy for Electronic Files before accessing them. Original computer disks and forensic disk images are restricted. Copying electronic files, including screenshots and printouts, is not permitted.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchase, 2007 (R16498)
Processed by: Jennifer Hecker, Katherine Mosley, Jesse Cordes Selbin, 2009 Born digital materials processed, arranged, and described by Chance Adams and Brenna Edwards, 2015-2022.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

David Alan Mamet was born November 30, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Bernard Morris Mamet, was a labor lawyer, and his mother, Lenore June Silver Mamet, was a teacher. Mamet’s parents divorced in 1958.
Mamet was introduced to the theater as a teenager, when he worked backstage at Hull House Theatre and as a busboy at the improvisational comedy troupe Second City. After graduating from Francis W. Parker High School in Chicago, Mamet attended Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, studying drama and literature. He also spent a year studying acting with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City. After receiving his B. A. degree from Goddard in 1969, Mamet worked for a year as a drama teacher at Marlboro College in Vermont. During that time his play Lakeboat was produced by his students. Mamet then returned to Chicago for a year, working at a variety of jobs. From 1971 to 1972, he was a drama instructor and artist-in-residence at Goddard College, where he formed a company of actors, the St. Nicholas Company, which produced several of his plays. Mamet returned to Chicago the following year, and with Steven Schachter, William H. Macy, and Patricia Cox, founded a reincarnation of his earlier acting company, the St. Nicholas Theater Company. He served as the company’s artistic director until 1976. He was associate director of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago from 1978 to 1979, and he and Macy founded the Atlantic Theater Company in New York in 1985.
In 1975, a successful double-bill performance of Mamet’s plays Sexual Perversity in Chicago and Duck Variations was staged off-off Broadway at St. Clement’s Theatre in New York. American Buffalo, which opened at Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 1977, was voted the Best American Play of 1976-1977 by the New York Drama Critics Circle and solidified Mamet’s reputation as a playwright. Many of Mamet’s subsequent plays, including Edmond (1982), Glengarry Glen Ross (1984), Speed-the-Plow (1988), Oleanna (1991), and The Cryptogram (1994), also received high acclaim. Mamet was awarded the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for drama for Glengarry Glen Ross, and Speed-the-Plow received the 1988 Tony Award for best play.
Mamet’s career as a screenwriter began in 1979 with his adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981). He received Academy Award nominations for The Verdict in 1982 and Wag the Dog in 1997. Other films by Mamet include House of Games (1987), The Untouchables (1987), Homicide (1991), Hoffa (1992), The Spanish Prisoner (1997), The Winslow Boy (1999), State and Main (2000), Heist (2001), and Spartan (2004). Mamet’s film House of Games also marked his debut as a film director. Many of Mamet’s films feature actors Lindsay Crouse, Ricky Jay, William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, and Rebecca Pidgeon.
In addition to his reputation as a playwright, screenwriter, director, and producer, Mamet is known as an essayist and novelist and has written poetry and lyrics, published a book of cartoons, and contributed drawings and blogs to the news website The Huffington Post. Several of his books and plays were written for children.
Mamet was married to actress Lindsay Crouse from 1977 to 1990; they have two daughters, Willa and Zosia. In 1991, Mamet married actress Rebecca Pidgeon; they have two children, Clara and Noah.


Contemporary Authors Online, (accessed 5 September 2007)
Kane, Leslie, editor. David Mamet in Conversation. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2001.
Lewis, Patricia. "David Mamet." Dictionary of Literary Biography Online, (accessed 5 September 2007)
Nadel, Ira. David Mamet: A Life in the Theatre. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents

The papers of American playwright, writer, and film director David Mamet consist mainly of manuscripts and related production materials for most of his plays, films, and other writings, primarily dating from 1969-2005. Included are journals; typescript and handwritten manuscript drafts, revision pages, and notes; photographs, theater programs, posters, schedules, contact lists, set designs, and similar play production material; expense receipts, schedules, cast and crew lists, shot lists, storyboards, location photographs, film stills, movie props, set newsletters, and other film production material; research material; reviews and other clippings; scrapbooks; agreements; page proofs; dust jacket designs; musical scores; artwork; correspondence; agreements; award certificates; datebooks and weekly schedules; office and business files; and periodicals. The collection has been organized in six series: I. Works (1966-2007 and undated, 257 boxes, 8 oversize boxes, 21 oversize folders, 1 galley folder); II. Career-Related Papers (1969-2002, 7 boxes); III. Office and Business Files (1964-2003 and undated, 58 boxes, 1 oversize box); IV. Personal and Family Papers (1918-2000 and undated, 2 boxes); V. Works by Others (1931-2000 and undated, 9 boxes); and VI. Serial Publications (1974-2005, 17 boxes, 3 oversize boxes). While most of the material is in English, some translations and production materials are in other languages.
The Works series has been subdivided into three subseries: A. Journals; B. Plays, Screenplays, Teleplays, and Books; and C. Essays, Articles, Lectures, Lyrics, Poems, Reviews, and Short Stories. The 184 journals, which are arranged chronologically, date from 1966 to 2005 and include Mamet’s handwritten drafts of works, diary entries, drawings, ideas, and notes. Subseries B. comprises the majority of the collection and includes Mamet’s typescript and handwritten drafts, notes and outlines; production and publicity material for his plays and films; and typesetting copies and proofs for his books. Nearly all of Mamet’s work to date, from his 1969 college thesis, Camel, to his 2007 play November, is represented in some form, including American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, House of Games, Oleanna, The Spanish Prisoner, Speed-the-Plow, The Verdict, and Wag the Dog. Subseries C. consists primarily of typescript drafts of Mamet’s essays, articles, song lyrics, poetry, and other shorter works, dating from 1975 to 2005.
Series II. Career-Related Papers includes datebooks and weekly schedules; awards and honors; photographs, including those of Mamet’s associates; scrapbooks containing primarily reviews and other clippings about Mamet and his work; materials relating to Mamet’s brief career as an actor and his work as a teacher; and works written about Mamet.
Series III. Office and Business Files is composed of four interrelated groups of files. The first group is composed of the files from David Mamet’s office. These files were primarily maintained by Mamet’s various assistants. The bulk of the material dates from the 1990s, and contains a broad array of subject matter, some of which is related to the materials in the Works series, or contains materials similar to those found in the separate Personal and Family Papers series. The other three groups, the files of the Back Bay Theater Company (a stage production company), Bay Kinescope (a film production company), and The School Company (another film production company) are all related to Mamet productions and the production process.
Among the varied items in Series IV. Personal and Family Papers are Mamet’s baby book; original artwork by Shel Silverstein for birth announcements for Mamet’s children Clara and Noah; clippings on a variety of topics; theater programs, catalogs, and other published material; family photographs; and Mamet’s high school diploma.
Most of the items in Series V. Works by Others are copies of scripts used by Mamet’s first wife, actress Lindsay Crouse. Also present are manuscripts of works by such writers as Grace McKearney, Mamet’s sister, Lynn Mamet, John Sayles, and others.
The final series, Serials Publications, contains full issues of periodicals that include works by or about Mamet; these range in date from 1988 to 2000.
Books, audio-visual materials, electronic records, and personal effects received with Mamet’s papers have been transferred to other departments within the Ransom Center. See the Separated Material description for further details.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Works, 1966-2007, undated (257 boxes, 8 oversize boxes, 21 oversize folders, 1 galley folder)
The Works series, at 257 boxes, is the largest series and is organized into three subseries: A. Journals; B. Plays, Screenplays, Teleplays, and Books; and C. Essays, Articles, Lectures, Lyrics, Poems, Reviews, and Short Stories. The journals are arranged chronologically, while all works are arranged alphabetically by published title. An index of works and titles provided at the end of this finding aid identifies all locations of a particular work, with the exception of drafts in journals.
Nearly all of Mamet’s works are represented in some form. Many were first written by hand as pages of dialogue in notebooks, called journals. Mamet began keeping these journals while in college as a way to record his daily reflections, notes, ideas, and writings. Some works were abandoned and exist only as pages of dialogue written longhand in a notebook. Many of the journals have numbered pages, and most entries are dated. The 184 journals, dating from 1966 to 2005, make up Subseries A.
Subsequent drafts of Mamet’s works were typed, and Mamet’s revision process is reflected in the numerous drafts that may be present for a single work in Subseries B. These include typescripts containing handwritten revisions, new typescripts reflecting the changes made, and photocopy "protection copies." Most drafts are dated, although the dates of the handwritten revisions were then used as dates for the subsequent revised typescript produced for Mamet by a typist, so that several drafts may share a date. Many works are also represented by files containing notes, pages of dialogue, and revision pages, or "outtakes." Outlines, notes, and handwritten charts showing plot progression are also common. Production materials for Mamet’s plays include correspondence, schedules, contact sheets, set designs, theater programs, posters, photographs, and review clippings. Production materials for his screenplays include research material, agreements, location information, cast and crew lists, expense receipts, schedules, shot lists, storyboards, movie props, film stills, and set newsletters. Of particular interest are the set newsletters produced for the cast and crew on the set of films he directed; these contain jokes, cartoons by Mamet, and other humorous entries related to the filming. Mamet’s published works are represented by "copyedited" manuscripts, page proofs, dust jacket proofs, and correspondence.
The earliest work represented in the archive is Mamet’s Camel, a revue written in 1969 as Mamet’s thesis at Goddard College. Called "The Camel Document," the thesis includes commentary and background information. All of Mamet’s best-known plays are represented in the archive, including but not limited to American Buffalo, Boston Marriage, The Cryptogram, Edmond, Glengarry Glen Ross, Lakeboat, The Old Neighborhood, Oleanna, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Speed-the-Plow, The Water Engine, and The Woods. Of particular note are drafts for The Cryptogram, which grew out of an earlier work, Donny March. Numerous revisions over a fifteen-year span show the significant changes made, including the evolution of the play’s initial focus on a couple’s failed relationship to the impact their betrayals and separation have on their son. The father, a major character in the early drafts, is not present in the final version. For many works, files containing Mamet’s notes about plots and characters reveal his dramatic intentions.
Of special note are Mamet’s handwritten charts showing plot structures and outlines, including the characters’ mythological journeys, for his screenplays Heist, Homicide, and House of Games. American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Oleanna are represented as both plays and screenplays. Among other well-known screenplays by Mamet are Hannibal, Heist, Homicide, House of Games, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Spanish Prisoner, Spartan, State and Main, The Verdict, Wag the Dog, and The Winslow Boy. A copy of the 1978 Vintage Books edition of James M. Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice contains Mamet’s handwritten annotations. Other noteworthy items include the Formula book used as the central prop in the movie The Spanish Prisoner and, for films directed by Mamet, the set newsletters described above. Television projects include episodes of Hill St. Blues and The Unit; Lansky; A Life in the Theatre; Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants; Texan; Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya; and a film of Samuel Beckett’s Catastrophe for a Beckett on Film project.
In addition to papers relating to Mamet’s well-known works are those for film and television projects that were never produced. Among these are the screenplays Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Contract (an adaptation of Thomas Kelly’s Payback ), The Deerslayer (adaptation of the book by James Fenimore Cooper), Dentists with Guns, Diary of a Young London Physician (an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Dillinger, Ordinary Daylight (adaptation of the book by Andrew Potok), Spain, and Will B. Good (adaptation of the book Frame-Up: The Untold Story of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle by Andy Edmonds); teleplays of Acme Affiliated, Extramarital Infidelity, A Waitress in Yellowstone or Always Tell the Truth; and proposed television series titled Bradford, Chicago, Hotel, Jimmy J, Mercer Street, and We Will Take You There.
Mamet’s published collections of essays, including Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business; The Cabin; Jafsie and John Henry; Make-Believe Town; On Directing Film; Some Freaks; South of the Northeast Kingdom; and True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor, are represented by multiple drafts of essays, page proofs, and dust jackets. Drafts of poems for two collections of poetry, The Chinaman and Hero Pony, are present. Other books include Mamet’s novels, The Old Religion, The Village, and Wilson: A Consideration of the Sources, as well as Henrietta, The Owl, Passover, and Warm and Cold, all written for children. Tested on Orphans: Cartoons by David Mamet is represented by photocopy drawings of the cartoons included in the book.
Also present, in Subseries C., are hundreds of diverse shorter works including essays, articles, lectures, poems, reviews, song lyrics, and short stories. Individual titles may be accessed via the works and titles index. Many of the essays were published in periodicals, and subsequently in one of Mamet’s several essay collections. Often, first drafts were typed by Mamet, then sent along to his assistant to be retyped, sent to his agent (or publisher), and filed. Some short stories and song lyrics were co-authored with friends or family members, including Lindsay Crouse, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Shel Silverstein.
While some correspondence is scattered throughout the Works series, most correspondence is located with Mamet’s office files in Series III. An index of correspondents at the end of this finding aid contains locations for all correspondence in the collection, with the exception of Back Bay Theater Company files, Bay Kinescope files, and School Company files.
In the following container list, photocopies of typescripts are noted as such only when they also contain Mamet’s handwriting. Clippings, faxes and manuscript pages with adhesive tape or post-it notes have been photocopied for preservation purposes.
Series II. Career-Related Papers (1969-2002, 7 boxes)
Dating from 1969 to 2002, Mamet’s career-related papers include datebooks and weekly schedules; awards and honors; photographs, including those of Mamet’s associates; scrapbooks containing primarily reviews and other clippings about Mamet and his work; materials relating to Mamet’s short career as an actor and his work as a teacher; and works written about Mamet. Within the photographs are early photographs of Mamet, Mamet at work on various unidentified sets, Mamet with Shel Silverstein, a photograph of John Houseman, and wardrobe continuity photographs of Robert DeNiro. Thirteen scrapbooks date from 1974 to 1983 and appear to have been compiled by Mamet’s mother, Lenore "Lee" Mamet Kleiman. Envelopes of letters, mostly from Mamet and Lindsay Crouse to his mother, that were with the scrapbooks have been removed to family/personal correspondence files within the Office Files in Series III.
Materials relating to Mamet’s acting career include a program and photograph from his role as Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and programs from productions of Mister Robert and The Impossible Years. Of particular interest in the papers relating to Mamet’s teaching career and lectures are lecture notes taken by a student attending his lectures at New York University and Mamet’s proposal for his "Practical Aesthetics" seminar. Works about Mamet include interviews and other clippings; a transcript from his appearance on the Dick Cavett Show, a transcript from a 1986 interview with H. I. Schvey, and theses and other works written about Mamet.
Series III. Office and Business Files, 1964-2003, undated (58 boxes, 1 oversize box)
Series III. is composed of four subseries: A. Office Files; B. Back Bay Theater Company Files; C. Bay Kinescope Files; and D. School Company Files. The Office Files were maintained by Mamet’s assistants and include a mix of files concerning Mamet’s professional and personal activities. There are correspondence files dealing with both the Back Bay Theater Company and Bay Kinescope; with various works and other projects; with Mamet’s agent; and with his financial and legal representation. Of note are Bernard Mamet’s files documenting his early representation of his son. Personal and family correspondence can also be found here, along with personal photographs and wedding planning information for Mamet’s marriage to Rebecca Pidgeon. A small amount of material relating to his wives and daughters, and also to his pets and livestock, are present. Also included are extensive files dealing with the purchase, sale, maintenance, furnishing, and renovation of three of Mamet’s homes. Evidence of various personal and professional matters handled by his assistants is present, including records of personal purchases and returns, research files, and travel plans and itineraries. Correspondence in the office files is included in the Index of Correspondents at the end of this finding aid.
The Back Bay Theater Company Files provide a view into the workings of Mamet’s Boston-based stage production company. Included are budgets, contracts, correspondence, financial and legal files, insurance information and policies, photographs, tax information, travel arrangements, and other production-related materials primarily related to Hamlet (both the stage play and a film version) and Oleanna (several different stage productions). Also present is a small amount of material related to other theatrical projects.
The Bay Kinescope Files deal mainly with film production. Present here are budgets, contracts, correspondence, financial records, insurance information and policies, legal files, location photos, schedules, tax information, travel arrangements, and other production-related materials. These primarily concern A Life in the Theatre, Oleanna, and Russian Poland, but also include material for other film projects, including Ace in the Hole, American Buffalo, an unproduced BBC documentary, Bradford, Edmond, Homicide, and others.
The files of The School Company are concerned entirely with the production of the film version of Oleanna. The files are dominated by financial material such as extensive accounts payable, payroll, and petty cash receipt files as well as cancelled checks. Also present are budgets, contracts, insurance information, script revisions and other production-related material.
Series IV. Personal and Family Papers (1918-2000, undated, 2 boxes)
Items in Series IV. Family and Personal Papers include Mamet’s baby book; original artwork by Shel Silverstein for birth announcements of Mamet’s children Clara and Noah; clippings and tearsheets on a variety of topics; theater programs, catalogs, and other published material; family photographs; and Mamet’s diploma from the Francis W. Parker School. Clippings include a piece on Harold Clurman from The Nation at the time of Clurman’s death in 1980, an essay by Steve Martin on "The Nature of Matter and Its Antecedents" from The New York Times Magazine, a review of "Miro, Miro, On the Mall," and a photocopy of the 1937 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry on "Direction and Acting" by Stanislavsky. Published materials include brochures on the Coldstream Guards, a gun sales notice, a "Donald Sultan: Works on Paper" 1989 catalog, a 1923 Columbia Records catalog, "An Introduction to Waldorf Education" by Rudolf Steiner, and a pamphlet on the Liberace Museum. Among the theater programs are those for productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1971), Boys’ Life (Lincoln Center Theater, 1988), Higbee of Harvard (Senior Class of P. J. H. S., 1918) and the 1980 National Playwrights Conference. Mamet’s graduation certificate from Francis W. Parker School is housed with the fall 1996 issue of the school’s Parker Magazine.
Series V. Works by Others (1931-2000, undated, 9 boxes)
Most of the items in Series V. Works by Others were used by Mamet’s first wife, actress Lindsay Crouse. Some of these, such as a typescript of Robert Benton’s Places in the Heart, contain annotations by Crouse and production material. Also present are manuscripts by Grace McKearney, Lynn Mamet, Rosemarie Santini, John Sayles, and others.
Lynn Mamet, also known as Lynn Weisberg and Lynn Mamet Weisberg, is Mamet’s sister, whom he nicknamed Tunafish. Her works include a typescript for a novel version of her teleplay Leslie’s Folly (titled "Home by Another Way") along with a television pilot titled "New South Hell" and a screenplay, "Union Dues". Her contribution to Mamet’s proposed "Hotel" television series is located with his works in Series I.
Two typescripts of William H. Macy and Steven Schachter’s screenplay "Woodbury, Vt." are present, as is Macy’s annotated copy of Hamlet. All works by others are arranged alphabetically by author.
Series VI. Serial Publications (1988-2000, 17 boxes, 3 oversize boxes)
Serials Publications are issues of periodicals containing works by or about Mamet. They have been arranged alphabetically by serial title. The individual articles within the publications that are by or pertaining to Mamet have been included in the index of works and titles located at the end of this finding aid. Among the periodicals to which Mamet has frequently contributed are Esquire, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, and Playboy.

Related Material

The following Ransom Center collections also contain Mamet-related materials:
  • American Repertory Theatre
  • DeNiro, Robert
  • Stoppard, Tom
The University of Delaware Special Collections Department holds a collection of David Mamet material collected by Richard Hoffman.

Separated Material

283 books arrived at the Ransom Center with the Mamet Papers. Included were multiple copies of Mamet’s works, foreign editions, and books used by Mamet for research on specific topics. These volumes have been removed from the archive and cataloged separately for the Center's Library.
Twenty videocassette tapes and seven reels of film have been transferred to the Ransom Center’s Moving Image Collection. Of the cassettes, eighteen are in VHS format, while two are ¾-inch U-matic tapes. Titles of these tapes include All that Jazz, The Big Carnival, Let It Ride, Love Is Deaf and This Is an Important Film with Something to Say. A small number of tapes related to five of Mamet’s films (Heist, A Life in the Theatre, Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants, State and Main, The Spanish Prisoner) and to his family life are present. In addition, seven reels of film used in the production of the Bay Kinescope film logo can also be found here.
Two reel-to-reel tapes, one 12-inch vinyl LP, one 7-inch vinyl record, twenty-seven audio cassette tapes, and three compact discs (Down From Above by Rebecca Pidgeon’s band, Ruby Blue) have been transferred to the Ransom Center's Sound Recordings Collection. Six of the cassettes feature Mamet’s lectures about directing films, and two reel-to-reel recordings (plus cassette copies) document his musical talents. Also present are audio tapes of various Mamet-written or -directed productions including American Buffalo, Edmond, Faust, The Frog Prince, A Life in the Theatre, and The Poet and the Rent. Eight of the cassettes are recordings of productions for Chicago Theatres On The Air. Titles include Black Beauty, Do the White Thing, The Hero’s Journey, The Jungle, Never the Sinner, and Three Women Talking.
Fifteen computer disks have been transferred to the Ransom Center's Electronic Records Collection. The discs contain literary drafts, production budgets, and artwork.
The following items have been removed from the archive and housed with the Ransom Center's Personal Effects Collection:
  • Buffalo-shaped metal lamp
  • Chicago Tribune Magazine cover featuring Mamet, mounted, 1982
  • Heist, Hinton Field Airport visitor badge
  • Hill St. Blues, office key
  • House of Games, two glass Critics’ Circle awards, 1988
  • An Interview [Death Defying Acts], box engraved with "Opening Night March 6, 1995" and containing mold of teeth
  • Oleanna, "Get Concerned" buttons
  • Spanish Prisoner
    • Patch
    • Prop key to safe which held "The Process" in the film
    • St. Estephe flag
    • Viking hat
  • State and Main
    • Best Ensemble Performance award from The National Board of Review, 2000, etched glass
    • Best Ensemble Performance award from The National Board of Review, 2000, etched glass
    • Best Film plaque, Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, 2000
    • Tartan fabric samples
  • Vietnam Veterans Workshop photo identification card, 1991

Index Terms


Authors, American--20th Century
Dramatists, American
Film adaptations
Jewish authors
Motion picture locations
Motion picture producers and directors
Motion pictures--Production and direction
Screenwriters--United States

Document Types

Appointment books
Baby books
Film stills
Legal documents
Television scripts
Theater programs

Container List