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Adrienne Kennedy.

Round House and McCarter Announce Adrienne Kennedy Festival

The 4-week festival of virtual theatrical experiences and panel discussions will culminate in a world premiere play.

BETHESDA, MD.: Round House Theatre, in association with McCarter Theatre Center, has  announced “The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration & Influence,” a four-week festival highlighting the award-winning playwright. As part of the programming, four of Kennedy’s plays will be produced as virtual theatrical experiences each week from Nov. 14 to Dec. 12. The plays will be available on demand through Feb. 28, 2021.

“So many people in American theatre today are artistic descendants of Adrienne Kennedy,” Nicole A. Watson, the newly appointed associate artistic director at the McCarter, said in a statement. “She is a prolific yet rarely produced living playwright whose work should not be lost to history. I’m so excited that Round House and McCarter are able to come together to re-introduce this incredible and singular artist to a wider audience. Her work is especially well-suited to this challenging new landscape of digital theatre—incredibly visual and dreamlike in its poetry, yet deeply rooted in real-life issues we should all be discussing.”

The series will kick off with He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box (streaming begins Nov. 14), a memory play about two young lovers in 1941. Maya Jackson and Michael Sweeney will star, and Watson will direct.

Next will be Kennedy’s Sleep Deprivation Chamber (streaming begins Nov. 21), which was co-written with her son Adam P. Kennedy. It is about a young Black college student whose senior year becomes a waking nightmare when the officer accuses him of assault. The cast will include Kim James Bey Deimoni Brewington, Marty Lamar, Craig Wallace, David Schlumpf, Jjana Valentiner, Rex Daugherty, Imani Branch, Sophia Early, Janelle Odom, Moses Princien, and Kayla Alexis Warren. Raymond Caldwell will direct.

Following will be Ohio State Murders (begins streaming on Dec. 5), about a writer asked to speak at Ohio State University about the violent imagery in her work, and the segregation, ostracization, and misogynoir she experienced as a student there in the 1950s. The cast will feature Lynda Gravatt, Billie Krishawn, Andrea Harris Smith, Heather Gibson, and Yao Dogbe. Valerie Curtis-Newton will direct.

The festival will conclude with the world premiere of Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side (streaming begins Dec. 12), about two sisters who are gifted scholars and fiercely competitive with one another. Caroline Clay will star, and Timothy Douglas will direct.

“The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration & Influence” will also feature panel discussions. First up will be “Influence & Imagination” on Nov. 16, moderated by Eisa Davis with panelists Zakiyyah Alexander, Haruna Lee, and Paula Vogel; next will be “Acting Adrienne Kennedy” on Nov. 30 with Caroline Clay and Crystal Dickinson, moderated by Watson; following will be “Critical Reflections” on Dec. 7 moderated by Dean of the College at Princeton University Jill Dola with Peter Marks and Rohan Preston; and “The Black Avant Garde” on Dec. 14 will be moderated by Caldwell with Daniel Alexander Jones, and others. Additional panelists and details will be announced at a later date.

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