The actress Audra McDonald has agreed to star in a Broadway production of “Ohio State Murders,” bringing the work of the eminent experimental playwright Adrienne Kennedy to the nation’s most prominent stage for the first time.
The play, first staged in 1992 at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, is about a Black writer who returns to her alma mater, Ohio State University, to talk about violence in her work. Set in the 1950s, the play is a compact exploration of the destructive power of racism, with six roles and a usual running time of 75 minutes.
Kennedy, 90, is both acclaimed (in 2008 she was honored for lifetime achievement at the Obie Awards) and also unfamiliar to the general public; the New York Times critic Maya Phillips wrote this year that Kennedy “is often shelved among the ranks of the ‘celebrated’ and the ‘influential’ who are rarely produced.”
The Broadway production is to be directed by Kenny Leon, and produced by Jeffrey Richards, Rebecca Gold, Jayne Baron Sherman and Irene Gandy. On Monday, Richards announced that the production is in development, but did not specify the timing.
Earlier this year, McDonald and Leon collaborated on a streamed reading of “Ohio State Murders.” The play had an Off Broadway production, with a different cast and creative team, in 2007, presented by Theater for a New Audience.
McDonald, with six Tony Awards, has won more competitive Tony Awards than any other performer in history. She last appeared on Broadway in a 2019 revival of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.”
One of McDonald’s Tony Awards was for her performance in a 2004 revival of “A Raisin in the Sun,” which Leon directed. Leon then won his own Tony Award in 2014, when he directed another revival of “A Raisin in the Sun.”