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Marcus (Neil) papers
BANC MSS.2011/247  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Administrative Information
  • Information for Researchers
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Contributing Institution: The Bancroft Library
    Title: Neil Marcus papers
    Creator: Marcus, Neil, 1954-
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS.2011/247
    Physical Description: 10 linear feet 7 cartons, 3 boxes, 1 oversize folder
    Physical Description: 9 videocassettes VHS
    Physical Description: 1 audiocassette compact cassette
    Physical Description: 70.638 GB (17,352 files)
    Date (inclusive): 1945-2020
    Date (bulk): 1958-2016
    Abstract: The Neil Marcus papers document his life and work as a writer, actor, artist, dancer and disability rights activist from his early childhood through his adult life. There is incoming and outgoing correspondence; writings, including materials related to his play Storm Reading; subject files; photographs; a small amount of audiovisual material, and web files.
    Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
    Language of Material: Collection is in English.

    Administrative Information

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    The Neil Marcus Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Neil Marcus in 2011 and 2017.


    No future additions are expected.

    System of Arrangement

    Arranged to the folder level.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Lauren Lassleben and Marjorie Bryer in 2017 and 2019. Digital files processed by Kate Tasker in 2016 and completed by Christina V. Fidler in 2022. The digital materials from Neil Marcus were received on one 5.25" floppy disk, two CDs, twelve CD-Rs, one CD-RW, seven DVDs, thirteen DVD-Rs, one DVD+R, one external HD, one Facebook capture done on 2016-05-05, one Flash drive, one website capture (blog post), one Youtube channel capture. The files were scanned for viruses using Malware Bites. Forensic disk images of the source media were made by Library staff using AccessData FTK Imager The disk images were saved to preservation storage. Archivists extracted and analyzed the files in FTK and also screened material for personal identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI). Five optical disks contained duplicate content, and six optical disks could not be imaged due to file corruption.

    Information for Researchers

    Conditions Governing Access

    Digital folders 002, 006, 008, 025, and 043 contain files with restriced information and are closed to researchers until 2072.

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    Access to digital materials is available on-site and by appointment only. Digital materials can be accessed by requesting the corresponding Digital Folders.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Neil Marcus Papers, BANC MSS 2011/247, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.


    The Bancroft Library would like to express its appreciation to the following people for their valuable assistance in processing these papers:
    Neil Marcus and his siblings, Kendra, Russell, Roger and Wendy Marcus;
    Neil's assistants, including Agnieszka Nowicka, Edyta Gorska, Carius Gorsky, Patrick M. Goodspeed, Shane Brodie, Scott Wallin, Paul McCold, Jessica Feeley and Melissa Chapman.
    Bancroft Library staff members Marjorie Bryer and Kate Tasker.

    Alternate Forms Available

    There are no alternative forms of this collection.

    Related Collections

    Neil Marcus, performance artist : oral history transcript / interviews conducted by Esther Ehrlich in 2004 (BANC MSS 2008/141)
    Artists With Disabilities Oral History Project : thematic excerpts (Motion Picture 1178E)


    Neil Marcus is a writer, actor, artist, dancer and disability rights activist who lives in Berkeley, California. He was born in White Plains, New York on January 3, 1934. His parents were Wil Marcus and Lydia Perera, and he has two older sisters and two older brothers. In 1960, the family moved to Ojai, California.
    In 1962, when he was in the fourth grade, Neil was diagnosed with dystonia musculorum deforman, which progressed rapidly over six months. Dystonia is a rare, usually hereditary neuromuscular disease that affects his muscles and speech. He had three cryosurgeries over a five-year period, which froze a small spot on his brain, and provided some relief.
    Neil attended Ojai Valley School from 1963 through 1971, and graduated as class valedictorian. He lived on campus for the last three years of high school, and got around campus in a golf cart. After a memorable trip to Laos to visit a high school classmate, he hitchhiked to Bellingham to attend Fairhaven College at Washington State University. He also attended Moorpark College and Solano Community College, both in California. He wrote a regular column in the student newspaper at Moorpark College and contributed feature stories to the Ojai Valley News. As a counselor for disabled students at Solano College, he wrote a column for The Rising Tide. These would be followed by his own newsletters, entitled Special Effects and Fantastic Spastic. He also published an annual counseling journal called Complete Elegance.
    After Neil moved to Berkeley, California in 1980, he joined the nascent disability activist community based at the Center for Independent Living. He wrote observations and biographical pieces. In addition to writing and producing newsletters, he wrote and published articles, poetry, and a children's book, The Princess and the Dragon. His other books include Special Effects: Advances in Neurology and Cripple Poetics: A Love Story.
    Neil's most well-known piece is an autobiographical, two-act play entitled Storm Reading, written in collaboration with his brother, Roger Marcus. In 1987, the brothers took the script and sheet music to Rod Lathim, the head of Access Theater in Santa Barbara, who agreed to direct the play. Storm Reading was such a success in Southern California that the decision was made to take it on the road. Neil, actor and sign language interpreter Kathryn Voice, and Roger (later replaced by Matthew Ingersoll) toured the United States and abroad extensively, appearing in such prestigious venues as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. They also played colleges, high schools and elementary schools around the country. The company performed Storm Reading more than 300 times between 1988 and 1996. Storm Reading won the Outstanding Achievement in Play Writing Award from the U.N. Society of Writers, the Critic's Choice Award, and Drama-Logue Magazine's Best Leading Actor and Best Ensemble Awards for 1992.
    Throughout the early 21st Century, Neil continued to write and to carry on an extensive correspondence with friends. An active user of social media, he remained an integral member of the disability community in the San Francisco Bay Area. He performed locally and traveled to Europe and Australia. Neil served as a guest lecturer on arts and disability, and co-taught a class with Professor Susan Schweik at U.C. Berkeley entitled Disability and Digital Storytelling. He collaborated with Professor Petra Kuppers on the Olimpias Disability Culture Projects. Neil prepared his personal papers for transfer to The Bancroft Library.
    "Somewhere in my life I came to the conclusion that the image of fear and doom associated with disability needed change. After all I was disabled, I was probably going to continue being disabled and I wanted to enjoy my life and my future. I guess I just happened to stumble into the arts. I mean, I saw that images of disability were confining because they lacked artistry. Further, when I acted with an artistic purpose, it made me feel good." (Neil Marcus)

    Scope and Content of Collection

    "The message we [people with disabilities] often get in society is that we are worthless, unimportant beings. This is a lie. We are glorious, essential, intelligent human beings, deserving of absolutely the best from life." (Neil Marcus)
    The Neil Marcus Papers provide ample proof of Neil's words. Neil has turned a serious disability into a lifelong meditation on and appreciation of what it means to be a member of the artistic and disability activist community in the latter half of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century.
    Because the papers document his life beginning in early childhood, it is possible to trace his life and career from his student days until the present. The wide range of his friendships and interests as well as his family life are well documented in the wealth of outgoing and incoming correspondence found in Series 1. The collection also includes Neil's active web presence as documented in his YouTube channel archive and his Facebook account data.
    The earliest writings in the second series are his speech as high school valedictorian and his college admission essays. Within a few years, Neil segues into a newspaper columnist, and then a newsletter editor and publisher of his own and others' work. He has experimented with many kinds of writing, from observations about life in what he calls "Disabled Country" to helpful hints for those writing about disability ("Tips for the Linguistically Correct").
    One of the most interesting sections of the collection documents an intensely creative period during which the play Storm Reading was written, rehearsed, produced and toured around the country and abroad. Neil's descriptions of the extreme physical effort it took for him to perform while on tour are balanced against the pleasure he found in the stellar reviews, awards and the ecstatic fan mail he received from adults and children alike. This series includes videotaped performances of the play.
    Series 4., Subject Files, demonstrates Neil's wide range of interests, everything from the first picture of a disabled athlete to appear on a box of cereal as a Wheaties Champion to a detailed medical diary and notes from the years 1962 to 1973. There are also folders containing biographical information, descriptions of physical therapy sessions with Israeli physicist Moshé Feldenkrais, programs from local performances and coursework from his years at the Ojai Valley School.
    Series 5 contains photographic materials that document Neil's family, friends, and artistic work.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Marcus, Neil -- Archives
    Artists with disabilities -- California
    Performance artists -- California
    Performance art -- California
    Born digital