• Adrienne Kennedy: Collected Plays & Other Writing

Adrienne Kennedy: Collected Plays & Other Writing

Library of America presents the definitive edition of an essential figure in Black and American theater, spanning from the 1960s to the 2010s and including several works published for the first time

Adrienne Kennedy has been a force on the American stage since the premiere of her groundbreaking, Obie Award–winning Funnyhouse of a Negro in 1964. Politically engaged, formally daring, and making provocative use of material from contemporary history and popular culture, Kennedy’s haunting stage works dramatize and project interior realities that are often marked by disappointment and trauma, madness and terror. Her understanding of the inner lives of African American women expresses a powerfully insightful feminism that has come to influence generations of playwrights and writers.

Now, the Library of America presents, for the first time, a collected edition of Kennedy’s extraordinary and wide-ranging writings, spanning six decades and including ten unpublished works. Here are the early surrealistic one-acts A Lesson in Dead Language and A Rat’s Mass; works like A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White and Film Festival: The Day Jean Seberg Died that reveal Kennedy’s longstanding fascination with Hollywood and film culture; and Ohio State Murders, one of several plays featuring her protagonist Suzanne Alexander and the first of her plays to be staged—belatedly, in 2022—on Broadway. Sleep Deprivation Chamber is a searing indictment of racially motivated police violence based on real-life incidents involving her son, who co-wrote the play. Also included here are Kennedy’s adaptations of works by Euripides, Flaubert, and John Lennon, all brilliantly reimagined.

Outside of playwriting Kennedy has made her mark as a fiction writer and memoirist, providing a rich portrait of her life and experience especially in her book People Who Led to My Plays but also in works from her later life such as the essay “Almost Eighty.” Taken together, the work gathered in Collected Plays & Other Writings is a celebration of Kennedy’s indispensable achievement on the stage and on the page alike.

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