Artists Space

She Who Is:
Adrienne Kennedy and the Drama of Difference

Exhibition on view: March 4 –
Performances begin February 29th

Artists Space, in collaboration with acclaimed theater critic Hilton Als, celebrates the singular vision of 88-year-old playwright Adrienne Kennedy through a series of live performances, readings, screenings, and archival materials that transform the building's lower level into a theater and exhibition in homage to Kennedy's radical vision. The multi-format program engages with the stories, literary figures, movies, and historical events that continue to inspire the playwright's groundbreaking work. Her plays boldly defy modernism's trajectory by actively blending and juxtaposing unlikely voices and tones, these startling multiplicities often located within single shifting characters. In their brutal eloquence, Kennedy's plays draw from diverse mythological, historical, and geographic references to constitute identity amidst the violent forces that have historically demarcated its ambivalent shape.

Special thanks to the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin, Texas and La MaMa Archives/The Ellen Stewart Private Collection for lending us materials for the exhibition.

Adrienne Kennedy was born in 1931 in Pittsburgh, PA and eventually moved to New York, where she became an essential part of the avant-garde arts scene, founding the Women’s Theatre Council in 1971 and presenting work at venues such as La Mama and the Open Theater. Since her earliest plays written in the 1950s, Kennedy championed but also differentiated her work from the experimental and revolutionary theater agendas outlined by figures of the Black Arts Movement like Amiri Baraka and Nikki Giovanni, who argued for a theater and literature produced specifically for a Black audience and directly reflecting the lives of Black people. Subverting expectations, Kennedy’s plays move beyond ideology and action. Instead, she locates and transmits the political in metaphorical and psycho-physical space via her willful protagonists, often women of color. Kennedy notes that her plays are "states of mind," written while images "fiercely pound in [her] head." Borrowing freely from the languages of symbolism, absurdism, expressionism and surrealism, Kennedy’s plays defy modernism’s fixed categories by blending and juxtaposing contradictory genres, styles, and tones.

Through her vivid and daring work, Kennedy has emerged as one of the defining voices in theater of the past 70 years, along the way taking on collaborations and correspondences with figures as various as Cecil Taylor, The Beatles, Harold Pinter, Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka, Ruby Dee, and Edward Albee.

February 29, 2020

The Owl Answers
Staged Reading
7pm & 9:30pm

March 1, 2020

Passages from People Who Led to My Plays
Staged Reading
7pm & 9:30pm

March 11, 2020

Mrs. Miniver
Postponed: Film Screening
7pm

March 12, 2020

The Wolf Man
Postponed: Film Screening
7pm

March 14, 2020

Gaslight
Postponed: Film Screening
7pm

March 15, 2020

Now, Voyager
Postponed: Film Screening
4:30pm

Leave Her to Heaven
Postponed: Film Screening
7pm

March 21, 2020

Secret Paragraphs About My Brother
Postponed: Performance
7pm

March 22, 2020

Secret Paragraphs About My Brother
Postponed: Performance
7pm

Exhibition support is provided by The Friends of Artists Space, Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, May and Samuel Rudin Foundation, Atelier4, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.