A play reading of a fearlessly weird and original play from 1964 by Adrienne Kennedy, directed by Carey Brianna Hart.
Welcome to the beginning of UNCENSORED, a play reading series presented by Thinking Cap Theatre.
ABOUT THE PLAY
Making its debut on January 14, 1964, at the East End Theater in New York City, Funnyhouse of a Negro was Adrienne Kennedy’s first produced play. Early on, critics and audiences recognized the importance of the work. It received an Obie Award from The Village Voice for most distinguished play and continued to be produced in the United States and abroad throughout the 1960s.
The play chronicles the last hours in the life of Sarah, a young black woman troubled by race and identity. Kennedy’s depiction of Sarah’s hallucinatory subconscious—struggling with self-hatred, race hatred, and alienation from the larger culture—was regarded as powerful by some critics of the era. Other critics were confused by the staging and subject matter of the work.
Many scholars contend that Funnyhouse of a Negro was revolutionary in a number of ways, especially Kennedy’s unique portrayal of what it was like to be black and a woman in the United States in the 1960s.
“You won’t see anything so fearlessly weird and original all year.” – TimeOut New York
“Funnyhouse of a Negro, Adrienne Kennedy's 1964 one-act play set, essentially, inside the head of a disturbed young black woman named Sarah, catches perfectly that moment in time when the struggle could have gone either way: black identity might have been erased, or it might have reasserted itself.” – The New York Times
“I bet you won’t see anything so fearlessly weird and original all year. I don’t know if Beyoncé is familiar with Kennedy’s work, but Funnyhouse plays like a hard-core retort to the self-empowerment poetics of Lemonade. That Funnyhouse came half a century earlier hardly even matters.” – TimeOut New York
“It was so thrilling for me to experience the lyrical dialogue of Adrienne Kennedy, whom I’d known only through reading.” – Ben Brantley, The New York Times
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
Award-winning playwright, lecturer and author Adrienne Kennedy was born in Pittsburgh in 1931 and attended Ohio State University. Her plays include Funnyhouse of a Negro (Obie Award, Petit Odeon directed by Jean Marie Serreau), June and Jean in Concert (Obie Award), Sun (Commissioned by Royal Court London), A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White, Mom, How Did You Meet The Beatles?, A Rat's Mass, The Owl Answers, Motherhood 2000, Electra and Orestes (adaptation), She Talks to Beethoven, An Evening with Dead Essex, A Lesson in a Dead Language and The Lennon Play. She is the recipient of an Obie Award for Sleep Deprivation Chamber, which she co-authored with her son Adam. It premiered at the Public Theater and was produced by Signature Theatre Company, which devoted an entire season to Ms. Kennedy's work.
Other awards include a Guggenheim Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, the American Book Award for 1990, and induction into the Theater Hall of Fame.
Her published works include Heart in a Box in spring 2021 with the Modern Language Association, In One Act, Alexander Plays and Deadly Triplets, all published by University of Minnesota Press, and People Who Led to My Plays (a memoir), originally published by Knopf and now in paperback by Theatre Communications Group, which also published He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box and Other Plays. Her plays are taught in colleges throughout the country, in Europe, India and Africa.
She has been a visiting lecturer at Yale University, New York University, and University of California at Berkeley, where she was Chancellor's Distinguished Lecturer in 1980 and 1986. She was also commissioned to write plays for Jerome Robbins, the Public Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Juilliard School and the Royal Court in England. She was a distinguished Hutchins Fellow in 2016-2017. Ms. Kennedy has lived in Africa, Italy and London and has taught in Harvard University's English Department for six semesters.
In 2018, Ms. Kennedy was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame for "Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater."