Born: September 13, 1931
Ohio connection: Former Resident
Adrienne Kennedy was born Adrienne Lita Hawkins, daughter of Cornell Wallace and Etta (Haugabrook) Hawkins, in 1931 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She received a B.A. from Ohio State University in 1953, and did graduate work in creative writing at Columbia University, 1954-56. She married Joseph Kennedy in 1953, and they had two sons, Joseph and Adam. The couple divorced in 1966. Adrienne Kennedy has lectured at a number of universities over the years, including Yale, Princeton, Brown, Harvard, and the University of California at Berkeley. Her major career has been as a playwright. She is considered by many to be one of the most influential contemporary African-American writers. One of her grandfathers was a wealthy white peach farmer, and this aspect of her background seems to have had a significant effect on her works, many of which have multi-racial plots. Some of her plays are Funnyhouse of a Negro, The Owl Answers, A Beast Story,Black Children’s Day, Orestes and Electra, and Diary of Lights. She has also written a memoir, People Who Led to My Plays, and a novel, Deadly Triplets: A Theatre Mystery and Journal. Kennedy’s plays are considered to be complex, introspective, and poetic. Kennedy joined with five other women playwrights in 1971 to form the Women`s Theatre Council, a cooperative designed to promote the works of women playwrights. Adrienne Kennedy resides in New York City, and continues to lecture in colleges and universities around the country.
Obie Award from Village Voice, 1964, for Funnyhouse of a Negro; Guggenheim memorial fellowship, 1967; Rockefeller grants, 1967-69, 1974, 1976; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1973; CBS fellow, School of Drama, 1973; Creative Artists Public Service grant, 1974; Yale fellow, 1974-75; Stanley Award for play writing; New England Theatre Conference grant; Manhattan Borough President’s award, 1988, and American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, both for People Who Led to My Plays; National Endowment for the Arts award, 1993; Pierre Lecomte du Novy Award, Lincoln Center, 1994; American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, 1994; Lila Wallace Award, Reader’s Digest.