This telephone interview with Adrienne Kennedy took place on 5 November 2002.
Why are your manuscripts at the Ransom Center?
Oh it's totally a fluke. It's because I was at a party once, at a writer's house. His name is Stuart Hample. He's a friend of mine, a cartoonist. I was at a party at his house, and his wife is one of the owners of a bookstore in Manhattan, and she said, Have you ever sold your papers? And I said, Well, not really; I was interested in it many years ago. So she said, Well I think my sister-in-law and I could sell your papers. Her name is Naomi Hample, and her sister-in-law, Judith Lowry, called me... She sold them to Texas.
How do you feel about having them there?
I'm excited about having them there.
Do you miss them—having them around?
Do I miss having my papers around? No, I don't miss having my papers. I think it's a miracle that all those papers survived because I've moved so much. I've moved an enormous amount in my life, and to me it's amazing that those papers actually survived...pages of Funnyhouse, and all those early manuscripts. They were all in one trunk, and I'm just amazed that those papers have survived.
Some of the manuscripts are not in order at all.
That I can't help you with. They were in a trunk, and they were pretty much dated fairly accurately, I think, but I don't know anything about their order.
I am very interested in talking about your character Aaron Grossman.
You're asking me to talk about something that I did in the '50s. He was a character I worked on for many years... My husband and I lived up at Columbia University when he was in grad school, and I worked on that character... We had a friend who was a poet; he was a Jewish poet. He was the most compelling person, and he and his wife were very good friends of ours, his name was Evan, and I based this character on him. I worked on it for a very long time, maybe, I don't know, '55 to '58. I just worked with that character. I never quite got him right.
There's a story I adore. There are hardly any stories in the files, but there's one story, "Milena's Wedding"...
Yes. I can barely remember it.
I sat in the Reading Room and typed it up because I thought I had to have a copy of it; it worked so well with all your later work. It's narrated by Aaron Grossman, and he's such a self-conscious narrator. One of the things that intrigued me about him was that I get a real sense of distance even though he's first-person. Often when I read your narrators, I feel like it's you talking, but with him, I feel like it's you commenting from a distance on him.
Look, I don't know. I remember "Milena's Wedding," working on Aaron Grossman, but we are talking about 1955, '56, '57. I remember I wrote "Milena's Wedding," and I think I sent it around with some other stories. I don't remember one line of it.
My real question about him—and your other early protagonists like Ben Halfin: You used to have some protagonists who were men, but then you shifted to only women. And you seem to be much more intimate with the women.
I have no idea. Now you're making me angry. I'll tell you why. Because I hate it when people analyze my work like that. That's why I don't even teach my work. I have no idea. Luckily for me, in the '50s when I was kind of working in the dark, even though I was in playwriting classes at Columbia, classes at the American Theatre...