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Eugene O’Neill’s groundbreaking 1921 play, The Emperor Jones, was the first American play that featured an African-American actor in the lead role on Broadway. Charles S. Gilpin’s portrayal of Emperor Brutus Jones was hailed as “revelatory,” and he was named the finest actor of the age. The opening of The Emperor Jones made stars of both men; it was O’Neill’s first commercial success, and Gilpin became the toast of the theater world. But by 1926, O’Neill was a legend and Gilpin was lost to history. Adrienne Pender’s N explores the challenging relationship between Gilpin and O’Neill and how it ultimately hinged on one word — a word that lifted one of them to the heights of American theater and destroyed the other.
As part of a season-long partnership, Challenging Racism and The Keegan Theatre have prepared an educational packet and additional resources designed to encourage conversation and thought around race and its intersection with other themes presented in N. DOWNLOAD THE PACKET
DC Metro Theater Arts Review
“This compelling piece excavates segments of theater history that have been long forgotten, tossed to the wayside, and ignored. Playwright Adrienne Earle Pender sheds light on the fascinating connection between…”
Broadway World Review
“N is a solid and timely production… As Gilpin, Kevin E. Thorne II is commanding and rangy, as striking a figure as the actor he portrayed. … Lolita Marie plays Gilpin’s supportive wife Florence with compassion — a level head who…”
Washington City Paper Review
“Pender has crafted a layered and nuanced double portrait of both men. The power imbalance of race and money is always present, but both Gilpin and O’Neill are artists dedicated to their craft, both believers in…”
ADRIENNE EARLE PENDER began her writing career in 2001. Her first play, The Rocker, was a finalist in the FutureFest 2002 Festival of New Works in Dayton, Ohio. Her play Stone Face was a selection in the Reader’s Theater at the 2003 National Black Theater Festival. Additionally, Banana Split Lady made its debut at the 1st Annual Great Plains Theatre Conference in Nebraska. Pender’s play Somewhere In Between had a staged reading at the Drama Book Shop in New York in 2010 and a staged reading at Wordsmyth Theater in Houston, TX in May 2014. Her play More Than Anything in the World received a staged reading at the inaugural Women’s Theater Festival in Raleigh, NC, in July 2017. Adrienne’s latest play, N, was named a finalist in the FutureFest 2015 Festival of New Works in Dayton. It received a staged reading at the Eugene O’Neill Festival in Danville, CA, and made its world premiere production in Raleigh, NC at Theatre in the Park in February 2017. N was recently optioned by an independent film company, and the movie based on the stage play completed filming in October 2018. Adrienne was named a Tao House Fellow by the Eugene O’Neill Foundation in September 2015. She is also a member of the Dramatist Guild.