Making its debut on January 14, 1964, at the East End Theater in New York City, Funnyhouse of a Negro was Adrienne Kennedy’s first produced play. Early on, critics and audiences recognized the importance of the work. It received an Obie Award from The Village Voice for most distinguished play and continued to be produced in the United States and abroad throughout the 1960s.
The play chronicles the last hours in the life of Sarah, a young black woman troubled by race and identity. Kennedy’s depiction of Sarah’s hallucinatory subconscious—struggling with self-hatred, race hatred, and alienation from the larger culture—was regarded as powerful by some critics of the era. Other critics were confused by the staging and subject matter of the work.
Many scholars contend that Funnyhouse of a Negro was revolutionary in a number of ways, especially Kennedy’s unique portrayal of what it was like to be black and a woman in the United States in the 1960s.