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The Adrienne Kennedy Reader

2001
Author:

Adrienne Kennedy
Introduction by Werner Sollors

The Adrienne Kennedy Reader

An essential collection of works by one of our greatest living playwrights.

Introduction by Werner Sollors

Adrienne Kennedy has been a force in American theatre since the early 1960s, influencing generations of playwrights with her hauntingly fragmentary lyrical dramas. Exploring the violence racism visits upon people’s lives, Kennedy’s plays express poetic alienation, transcending the particulars of character and plot through ritualistic repetition and radical structural experimentation. The Adrienne Kennedy Reader is the first comprehensive collection of works by one of our greatest living playwrights.

Kennedy’s plays are strong dreams that reveal us in our most vulnerable moments.

Robert Brustein, director of the American Repertory Theater

Introduction by Werner Sollors

Adrienne Kennedy has been a force in American theatre since the early 1960s, influencing generations of playwrights with her hauntingly fragmentary lyrical dramas. Exploring the violence racism visits upon people’s lives, Kennedy’s plays express poetic alienation, transcending the particulars of character and plot through ritualistic repetition and radical structural experimentation. Frequently produced, read, and taught, they continue to hold a significant place among the most exciting dramas of the past fifty years.

This first comprehensive collection of her most important works traces the development of Kennedy’s unique theatrical oeuvre from her Obie-winning Funnyhouse of a Negro (1964) through significant later works such as A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White (1976), Ohio State Murders (1992), and June and Jean in Concert, for which she won an Obie in 1996. The entire contents of Kennedy’s groundbreaking collections In One Act and The Alexander Plays are included, as is her earliest work "Because of the King of France" and the play An Evening with Dead Essex (1972). More recent prose writings "Secret Paragraphs about My Brother," "A Letter to Flowers," and "Sisters Etta and Ella" are fascinating refractions of the themes and motifs of her dramatic works, even while they explore new material on teaching and writing. An introduction by Werner Sollors provides a valuable overview of Kennedy’s career and the trajectory of her literary development.

Adrienne Kennedy (b. 1931) is a three-time Obie-award winning playwright whose works have been widely performed and anthologized. Among her many honors are the American Academy of Arts and Letters award and the Guggenheim fellowship. In 1995-6, the Signature Theatre Company dedicated its entire season to presenting her work. She has been commissioned to write works for the Public Theater, Jerome Robbins, the Royal Court Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, and Juilliard, and she has been a visiting professor at Yale, Princeton, Brown, the University of California at Berkeley, and Harvard. She lives in New York City.

short author bio

Adrienne Kennedy is a three-time Obie-award winning playwright whose works have been widely anthologized and performed around the world. Among her many honors are the Guggenheim fellowship and the American Academy of Arts and Letters award.

The Adrienne Kennedy Reader

Adrienne Kennedy is a three-time Obie–award winning playwright whose works have been widely anthologized and performed around the world. Among her many honors are the Guggenheim fellowship and the American Academy of Arts and Letters award.

Werner Sollors is professor of English literature and Afro-American studies at Harvard University.

The Adrienne Kennedy Reader

Kennedy’s plays are strong dreams that reveal us in our most vulnerable moments.

Robert Brustein, director of the American Repertory Theater

There are times when we see plays that are so extraordinary-out of this world-we are literally shaken out of our everyday selves. There are greater things in heaven and hell, we realize, and this feeling of ‘bigger things’ does not easily leave us. The achievement of Adrienne Kennedy’s plays is that they hurl us into another place, like a dark stream of consciousness in the blackest of worlds.

New York Observer

Adrienne Kennedy’s plays are like towering rock formations, frightening and beautiful.

Alisa Solomon, Village Voice

For four decades Kennedy has been writing the most intensely personal plays of any playwright in the USA, yet to call them autobiographical is misleading. They are about her and not about her, and this paradox gives her work a power, an intimacy, and a truthfulness that few others achieve. . . . Kennedy’s works are dream plays, lyrical explorations of a troubled consciousness, female and black, often divided against itself and at odds with the world around it.

Boston Phoenix

Adrienne Kennedy is one of the black female doyennes of theater, where she has become a role model for a younger generation.

New York Times

With Beckett gone, Adrienne Kennedy is probably the boldest artist now writing for the theater.

Michael Feingold, Village Voice

[Kennedy writes] out-of-kilter, lyrical, and drop-dead brilliant work for the American theater.

Lisa Jones, Village Voice

It is a pleasure to have so much of Kennedy’s output in a single volume, the first major collection of her work.

Library Journal

The Adrienne Kennedy Reader

Contents

Introduction Werner Sailors

Because of the King of France

ADRIENNE KENNEDY IN ONE ACT

Funnyhouse of a Negro
On the Writing of Funnyhouse of a Negro
The Owl Answers
A Lesson in Dead Language
A Rat's Mass
Sun
A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White
Electra (Euripides)
Orestes (Euripides)
An Evening with Dead Essex

THE ALEXANDER PLAYS

She Talks to Beethoven
Ohio State Murders
The Film Club (A Monologue by Suzanne Alexander)
Dramatic Circle
Letter to My Students on My Sixty-first Birthday by Suzanne Alexander
Motherhood 2000
Secret Paragraphs about My Brother
June and Jean in Concert (Concert of Their Lives)
A Letter to Flowers
Sisters Etta and Ella (excerpt from a narrative)
Grendel and Grendel's Mother
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