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Mike Nussbaum Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Nussbaum

Scope and Content of the Collection

Primarily playscripts, photographs, programs, clippings, and other promotional materials from shows and companies that Nussbaum worked with in Chicago and around the world. The bulk of the collection ranges from his time at the Hull House during the 1960’s to his productions in the 2010’s when he was in his nineties.

Featured playwrights include David Mamet and William Shakespeare. Featured productions include "Lunching" (1976) and "Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" (1980), which Nussbaum directed, and "The Lover" (approximately 1964), "American Buffalo" (1975), and "The Merchant of Venice" (2005), which he acted in. Also included are clippings about his family, including wife Annette, elder daughter and labor activist Karen Nussbaum, and younger daughter, actress, and writer Susan Nussbaum.

The collection contains a CDR interview of Nussbaum, a CDR recording of "The Apple Family Plays", a CDR presswrap for "Imagining Madoff", and a CDR presswrap and photos of "Smokefall"; all listed as items.


  • Creation: 1945-2017
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1964 - 2015



Materials are in English, Japanese, and Russian.

Conditions Governing Access

The Mike Nussbaum Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Mike Nussbaum Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Mike Nussbaum

Chicago actor and director known for his work with playwright David Mamet and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Nussbaum also served as a founding member of the Evanston Theatre Company (now Northlight Theatre).

Mike Nussbaum was born in 1923 and grew up in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, later attending Von Steuben High School and developing an avid interest in theater. Though he loved performing and immersed himself in radio plays and acting books, he treated acting as a hobby. Still, his love of theater never faded. While working as an exterminator in his brother-in-law’s business, he involved himself in community theater. He performed in multiple well-reviewed Hull House Theatre productions under director Bob Sickinger. As he landed more paid roles and starred in more shows, he sold his share of the extermination business and began acting full-time.

Nussbaum collaborated for decades with playwright David Mamet. During their partnership, Nussbaum originated roles in some of Mamet’s more famous works, such as Teach in "American Buffalo" and George Aaronow in "Glengarry Glen Ross". The two met in the 1960’s while working at the Hull House Theatre where teenaged Mamet worked as a stagehand and actor. Mamet describes Nussbaum as a natural to the stage with unusual touches that make his acting “brilliant”.

Outside of his work with Mamet, Nussbaum acted and directed across Chicago. Career highlights include his performance as Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice", a tour of the East Coast, Russia, and Japan performing Chekhov plays, and film appearances in "Men in Black", "House of Games", and "Fatal Attraction".

When he returned from WWII, Nussbaum married high school acquaintance and wartime correspondent Annette Brenner. Together they had three children: Karen, Jack, and Susan. Inspired by her activist parents, Karen went on to form the labor organization 9to5. Susan followed in her father’s footsteps and trained to become an actress but was struck by a car, leaving her a quadriplegic. Despite what had happened after the accident, Susan continued to act and write, all the while advocating for people with disabilities through her work.

A favorite of the Chicago theater community, Nussbaum received recognition for his continuing work from the Illinois Arts Legend Awards, the DePaul Theatre School, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.


8.7 Linear Feet (17 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Playscripts, photographs, clippings, and miscellaneous personal and production materials of Chicago actor and director known for his work with playwright David Mamet and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Playscripts, 1970-2015
Boxes 1-9
Series 2: Clippings, 1945-2015
Boxes 9-11
Series 3: Photographs, approximately 1964-2012
Box 12
Series 4: Personal and Production Materials, 1966-2017
Boxes 13-15
Series 5: Oversize, approximately 1964-2014
Box 16

Collection Stack Location

1 41 2-3


Gift of Mike Nussbaum 2009; additions from Mike Nussbaum, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017.

Processed by

Ruby Oram, 2015 and Lisa Hartman, 2018.

Inventory of the Mike Nussbaum Papers 1945-2015 bulk 1964-2014
Nussbaum, Mike
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States