'Keene' by Anchuli Felicia King ’18 at Red Bull Theater & American Shakespeare Center
BY Robbie Armstrong, November 19, 2020
Keene by Alumna Anchuli Felicia King ’18 recently presented an online reading at Red Bull Theatre in conjunction with American Shakespeare Center. Keene is billed as an ode to always being the second-class genius of color, the play riffs on early-career academia, Shakespeare’s Othello, and the power of American pop.
Keene follows Tyler, a Black ivy-league graduate student, through a three-day Shakespeare conference that is overwhelmingly white. It’s love at first sight for Kai, a Japanese musicologist, when she spies Tyler, the only student of color in his PhD cohort, at a Shakespeare conference. Each night, while Tyler dreams he is the subject of his thesis: Ira Aldridge, the first Black man to play Othello, Kai dreams of Tyler. As dreams start to merge with reality, Tyler and Kai are brought closer together. Yet Tyler, like Ira before him, cannot perceive the inevitable betrayal of his closest ally. Keene offers a powerfully serious critique of elitism, the marginalization of international scholars, and the objectification of Black men.
Anchuli Felicia King is a playwright, screenwriter and multidisciplinary artist of Thai-Australian descent. As a writer, King is interested in linguistic hybrids, digital cultures and issues of globalization. Her plays have been produced by the Royal Court Theatre, Studio Theatre, American Shakespeare Center, Melbourne Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, and National Theatre of Parramatta. As a multidisciplinary artist, she has worked with a wide range of companies, including Punchdrunk, PlayCo, Roundabout Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, 59E59, Ars Nova, the Obie Awards, Ensemble Studio Theater, NYTW, and American Shakespeare Company. She is a member of Ensemble Studio Theater's Youngblood Group and Roundabout Theater's Space Jam Program. King was recently nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play Golden Thread.
King can be seen in an online discussion on YouTube discussing themes of her play and its timely importance in the global theatre canon.