A founding member of the Women's Theatre Council in 1971 and most easily summed up as a significant African-American author of the Black Arts Movement, Adrienne Kennedy was born as Adrienne Lita Hawkins on September 15, 1931 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A gifted child, she was literate by the age of three. When Adrienne was four, she and her family moved to an integrated neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, where she was raised. She graduated from Ohio State University, and in 1953 she married Joseph Kennedy, who was involved with West African developmental efforts. She bore him two children before their divorce in 1966.
In 1964, Kennedy made her first publication: the play Funnyhouse of a Negro, which gave her an instant reputation, though a rather controversial one. In fact, some do not consider her a part of the Black Arts Movement, because her works consistently have multi-racial plots and Black characters that do not have healthy or positive self-images. However, they do contain neo-African aesthetics, attention paid to performance locale, adoration of everyday African-American experience, and consciousness of pan-African politics, which are all hallmarks of the Black Arts Movement.
Adrienne has stated a number of factors that affected her work. Two of the most interesting are the fact that her grandfather was not only white, but also a wealthy peach farmer; and an authentic African mask, which she viewed on a journey abroad to first London and then Africa in the 1960s. Apparently, viewing this mask was very intense for her, a sort of watershed event in Adrienne's life.
List of Works: (rough chronological order of composition)
She published her autobiography
, People Who Led to my Plays
, in 1987.
Not surprisingly, Adrienne has earned many awards over the years, including the American Book Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lila Wallace - Reader's Digest Fund Write Award, the Pierre Le Comte duNouy Foundation Award, and three Obies. She has been commissioned to write plays by the Public Theater, Jerome Robbins, The Royal Court and Julliard; she has lectured, and had her plays included in the college curricula, of universities in the United States, Europe, and Africa.
Sources for this writeup: www.geocities.com/Broadway/Alley/5379/akennedy.html, www.umich.edu/~eng499/people/kennedy.html, www.upress.umn.edu/misc/Kennedy/biography.html, and www.voices.cla.umn.edu/authors/AdrienneKennedy.html