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Adrienne Kennedy Biography

(1931– ), Funnyhouse of a Negro, The Owl Answers, A Rat's Mass

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick Kavanagh Biography to Knocknarea Sligo

African-American dramatist, born in Cleveland, Ohio, educated at Ohio State University. She began working as a playwright during a visit to West Africa during 19601, which gave her a sense of connection with African culture and introduced her to the work of Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. In Funnyhouse of a Negro (1962), her first play, Kennedy uses a scenic idiom in which the dream-scape of hallucination and nightmare voices is developed through the impersonation of several historic personalities, Queen Victoria, the Duchess of Hapsburg, Jesus Christ, and Patrice Lumumba. The play's rejection of conventional realism and its challengingly imaginative treatment of black American issues are characteristic of her work of the 1960s, which also includes The Owl Answers (1963), A Rat's Mass (1966), A Lesson in a Dead Language (1968), and Boats (1969). Among the most notable of her many subsequent plays are Evening with Dead Essex (1973), A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White (1976), She Talks to Beethoven (1988), and The Deadly Triplets (1990). Her other works include The Lennon Play: In His Own Write (1967), a dramatic adaptation of John Lennon's writings, and Sun: A Poem for Malcolm X Inspired By his Murder (1968). An autobiography, People Who Led to My Plays (1987), maintains the surreal quality which underlies much of her work.

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