( 1931- )
Born Adrienne Hawkins in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kennedy grew up in a comfortable, middle-class suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Her parents, both educated professionals, encouraged their imaginative daughter to attend the predominantly white Ohio State University. The easy mixing of ethnic cultures in her hometown did not prepare her for the hostility and racism she encountered at the university. She graduated in 1953 with a BA in education, and two weeks later she married Joseph Kennedy. Although she had always been a voracious reader, it was not until she awaited the return of her husband serving in Korea that Kennedy began to write plays.
When her husband returned from the service, the couple moved to New York City where she studied creative writing at Columbia University from 1954 to 1956 and at the American Theatre Wing in 1958. It was as a student at the Circle in the Square School in 1962 that Kennedy submitted her first play, Funnyhouse of a Negro, to Edward Albee's workshop. Fearful of revealing too much of herself in her plays, it was through Albee's encouragement that Kennedy continued writing. He later produced the play off-Broadway, and Kennedy won an Obie for Distinguished Play. What followed was a rich period of creativity. Kennedy divorced her husband in 1966 and moved to London for the next three years. Her travels to England and Africa have had a profound influence on her work.
In addition to plays, Kennedy has written short stories, a mystery novel ( Deadly Triplets, 1990), and nonfiction, including a series of personality sketches and reminiscences collected under the title People Who Led to My Plays ( 1988). She has taught creative writing at Yale University, Princeton University, the University of California-Berkeley (Chancellor's Distinguished Lecturer), and