Adrienne Kennedy Named to Forbes’ “50 Over 50”
Monochromatic photograph of a light skinned Black woman wearing rectangular glasses and a dark blouse while writing in a sunlit room.
Adrienne Kennedy

New York, NY – Longtime Guild member Adrienne Kennedy was recently named to Forbes’ “50 over 50: Lifestyle” list for 2023 alongside other luminaries like Viola Davis, Judy Blume, Joy Harjo, Patti LaBelle, and Jamie Lee Curtis.

“To bring this list to life,” according to Forbes’ website, they “partnered with Mika Brzezinski, a journalist, best-selling author, cohost of MSNBC’s Morning Joe and founder of Know Your Value, a digital platform and community focused on empowering women to express their personal worth and achieve gender equity in the workplace.”

After accumulating thousands of nominations through, social media, and from staff journalists, the nominees were asked some questions like, “What are your greatest ‘Over 50’ accomplishments? Did you step into a new or more powerful role later in life?”

From there, finalists were chosen and sent to a panel of experts including entrepreneurs Bobbi Brown and Miyoko Schinner, financiers Suzanne Shank and Anne Finucane, and Spelman president Helene Gayle who selected the final 50.

Award-winning playwright, lecturer and author Adrienne Kennedy was born in Pittsburgh in 1931 and attended Ohio State University. Her plays include Funnyhouse of a Negro (Obie Award, Petit Odeon directed by Jean Marie Serreau); June and Jean in Concert (Obie Award); Sun (Commissioned by Royal Court London); A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White; Mom, How Did You Meet The Beatles?; A Rat’s Mass; The Owl Answers; Motherhood 2000; Electra and Orestes (adaptation), She Talks to Beethoven; An Evening with Dead Essex; A Lesson in a Dead Language; and The Lennon Play. She is the recipient of an Obie Award for Sleep Deprivation Chamber, which she co-authored with her son Adam. It premiered at the Public Theater and was produced by Signature Theatre Company, which devoted an entire season to Ms. Kennedy’s work. 

Other awards include a Guggenheim Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, the American Book Award for 1990, 2018 induction into the Theater Hall of Fame for “Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater,” and she received the 2021 Dramatists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.

Her published works include Heart in a Box in Spring 2021 with the Modern Language Association; In One Act, Alexander Plays, and Deadly Triplets, all published by University of Minnesota Press; and People Who Led to My Plays (a memoir), originally published by Knopf and now in paperback by Theatre Communications Group, which also published He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box and Other Plays. Her plays are taught in colleges throughout the country, in Europe, India, and Africa.

She has been a visiting lecturer at Yale University, New York University, and University of California at Berkeley, where she was Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecturer in 1980 and 1986. She was also commissioned to write plays for Jerome Robbins, the Public Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Juilliard School and the Royal Court in England. She was a distinguished Hutchins Fellow in 2016-2017. Ms. Kennedy has lived in Africa, Italy, and London, and has taught in Harvard University’s English Department for six semesters. 

In 2022, at the age of 91, she made her Broadway debut with Ohio State Murders (starring Audra McDonald and directed by Kenny Leon) and was one of sixteen people to ever receive the Gold Medal for Drama from the American Academy of Arts and Letters that same year. Her plays are licensed by Concord Theatricals.