Kerouac’s play “Beat Generation,” written the same year that On the Road was published, will also have its premiere tonight. The event stage production is taking place during Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, the week-long literary where fans from across the country make their pilgrimage to Kerouac’s hometown in Massachusetts.
As The Guardian reports, until around 2005, Kerouac’s play “The Beat Generation” sat unpublished in a New Jersey warehouse. In 2006 Da Capo Press published the play, with an introduction by A. M. Holmes. Kerouac, who had a great interest in film, never got to see his own play put on or his novels made into a film.
Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) raised funds through Kickstarter to stage the play in Lowell and is presented with UMass Lowell. It was made with “the support and collaboration of Kerouac Literary Estate representative John Sampas,” according to MRT.
The play centers around the same group of New York City friends Kerouac often wrote about, as they pass around a bottle of wine. Perhaps even more so than his novels, which are rich in poetry, the emphasis in “Beat Generation” is on dialogue. Kerouac had a great ear for the unique syncopation of everyday language and the lingua franca of the working class. As Kerouac himself said:
One thing is sure: It is now a real play, an original play, a comedy but with overtones of sadness and with some pretty fine spontaneous speeches that are as good as Clifford Odets.
Odets (1906-1963) was a playwright raised in Philly and the Bronx who wrote such plays as Waiting for Lefty and Golden Boy. Born to Russian- and Romanian-Jewish immigrant parents, Odets used ethnic language and street talk in his plays. Arthur Miller said of Odets’ work, ″For the very first time in America, language itself . . . marked a playwright as unique.″ Kerouac himself was the son of immigrant French-Canadian parents and made use of both ethnic language–his own joual dialect as well as Greek and Spanish–and street talk.
For information on the special events surrounding the play as well as tickets, visit MRT.