Adrienne Kennedy Talks About Her Life

Lorca, London, and the Beatles: the doyenne playwright's new work

Edward Albee? He's a very strong person, and he just loves the theater. Edward produced Funnyhouse of a Negro. Funnyhouse opened and closed very quickly—I guess you could say it was a failure. But he produced it, and at that time he was the author of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Of course, a writer has to have that—someone very powerful who champions your work.

Were other playwrights influential? Lorca. I feel that Lorca is the playwright who really influenced me most. . . . And there's no doubt I was imitating my parents. My mother was always telling me her dreams—she's a very dramatic person, very articulate. And my father was always giving speeches about the Negro cause. . . .Though I liked Lorca, it seems to me now that those were my two main influences—my parents.

That's a gorgeous tribute. How did they respond to your work? My father liked my work and was very proud of me. My mother was horrified by it. I was always a very quiet, well-behaved child, and she couldn't put it together. But she did like People Who Led to My Plays. And, of course, she's very proud of my academic career.

Adrienne Kennedy, with son Adam P. Kennedy
photo: Willie Davis/Veras Images
Adrienne Kennedy, with son Adam P. Kennedy

Did you attend the production of your play Ohio State Murders this fall? Yes, I did. I thought it was an excellent production. Especially because of LisaGay Hamilton, who starred. Ohio State Murders does capture something of what I went through when I attended Ohio State. They've given me an honorary doctorate and spent a year honoring my work, and there's been tremendous healing. But Ohio State Murders definitely captures the torment of that young person. I still feel that American society undermines black people—they undermine us tremendously and really are very unwilling to give us our due as people.

This country still has such a ways to go, although I wonder where in the world race isn't an issue. The world is always in a turmoil over skin color. The hatred that people feel, I'm not able to articulate it.

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