American Academy of Arts and Letters Honors Guild Members
American Academy of Arts and Letters Awards crest

New York, NY —The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced Dramatists Guild member Adrienne Kennedy as the recipient of the 2022 Gold Medal for Drama, its highest honor for excellence in the arts. This makes Kennedy the first Black recipient and only the second woman to receive the Gold Medal for Drama.

Image of the Gold Medal citation

Award-winning playwright, lecturer, and author Adrienne Kennedy was born in Pittsburgh in 1931 and attended the Ohio State University. Her plays include Funnyhouse of a Negro (Obie Award), June and Jean in Concert (Obie Award), A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White, 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.

Kennedy’s other awards and honors include the Dramatists Guild 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award, the Dramatists Guild 2001 Flora Roberts Award, a Guggenheim award, the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, the American Book Award for 1990, and induction into the Theater Hall of Fame. 

Two Gold Medals are awarded annually to artists who have achieved eminence in an entire body of work. The two awards are taken in rotation from the following categories: Belles Lettres and Criticism, and Painting; Biography and Music; Fiction and Sculpture; History and Architecture (including Landscape Architecture); Poetry and Music; Drama and Graphic Art.

Since its inception, the Gold Medal for Drama has been awarded to:

1913 – Augustus Thomas
1922 – Eugene O’Neill
1931 – William Gillette
1941 – Robert E. Sherwood
1954 – Maxwell Anderson
1959 – Arthur Miller
1964 – Lillian Hellman
1969 – Tennessee Williams
1980 – Edward Albee
1986 – Sidney Kingsley
1992 – Sam Shepard
1998 – Horton Foote
2004 – John Guare
2010 – Romulus Linney
2016 – Wallace Shawn
2022 – Adrienne Kennedy

Guild member Martyna Majok received the 2022 Benjamin Hadley Danks Award, which honors an exceptional playwright with a prize of $20,000.

Last year’s American Academy of Arts and Letters award recipients included Guild member Adam Rapp, who was given a 2021 Arts and Letters Award in Literature, with a prize of $10,000 honoring exceptional accomplishment in any genre; Chelsea Marcantel, who, with her collaborators, received a 2021 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater; and EllaRose Chary and Brandon James Gwinn, who also received a 2021 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater.