Kenneth Jones is a New York City-based playwright, lyricist, librettist and theatre advocate. ByKennethJones.com is the official website about his creative work, but it also serves as a news site advocating for new plays and musicals, dramatists and other theatre makers. It’s also an archive of some of his past reporting as a theatre journalist.
Here’s his official, publishable bio suitable for playbills:
Kenneth Jones is a playwright, librettist and lyricist. His play Alabama Story was a 2016 nominee for the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award and a 2014 Finalist in the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. By fall 2021, it will have been seen in at least 40 cities around the nation since its 2015 premiere by Pioneer Theatre Company. It is published by Dramatists Play Service. Other plays: Last Call at the Old Slave Quarters Lounge (a 2020-21 Florida Studio Theatre commission); Two Henrys (two-time Semi-Finalist in the O’Neill NPC, developed by Pioneer Theatre Company, Hudson Stage Company, Red Mountain Theatre, Pacific Resident Theatre, Third Avenue Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Indiana); Hollywood, Nebraska (developed in Off-Broadway’s NewTACTics New Play Festival; Lab Series at Actors Theatre of Indiana; Wyoming Theater Festival); Circa 1976, or Somewhere in the Suburbs of a Swing State Shaped Like a Mitten (O’Neill NPC Semi-Finalist); Ten Minutes on a Bench; Tortilla Messiah. Musicals: It Happened One Christmas, co-conceived with Karen Azenberg (Pioneer Theatre, 2015); Naughty/Nice, with composer Gerald Stockstill (published by stagerights.com); Voice of the City, with composer Elaine Chelton (developed by York Theatre Company and Human Race Theatre Company). He is a member of the Florida Studio Theatre Playwright Collective, Dramatists Guild, BMI and The BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop (Advanced). He writes about his work and advocates for other theater makers at ByKennethJones.com.
His play Alabama Story was a nominee for the 2016 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award and a finalist in the 2014 National Playwrights Conference of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. It received its world premiere in January 2015 in a production by Pioneer Theatre Company. Karen Azenberg directed. The Washington Post would later call it a play “with national relevance,” and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote, “At a time when intolerance is on the upswing and empathy is under siege, Alabama Story is just the play we need.”
By fall 2021, it will have been produced by at least 40 theaters around the country since its premiere, including cities in Illinois, Florida (where it broke a spring box office record), Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee, Vermont, Massachusetts, Texas, California, Alabama and beyond. Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Clarence Brown Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre are among companies that have embraced the title.
In March 2020, Alabama Story it will make its Montgomery, AL, premiere at Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the company that gave it its first developmental reading in the Southern Writers Festival (2013).
Alabama Story had its university premiere by The Theatre Company of the University of Detroit Mercy in Michigan in fall 2016 and became the company’s biggest-selling new play since 2010. Colleges and high schools are now producing a version of the play that includes added tracks to give students casting opportunities. (Frostburg State University in Maryland and Henderson State University in Arkansas put it in their 2019-20 seasons, mixing guest artists, faculty and students.)
Jones’ play Two Henrys, a three-character dramedy about family, forgiveness, prejudices and perceptions in the age of AIDS, was a 2015 and 2016 semi-finalist in the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. It was one of three plays that received development in Pioneer Theatre’s 2016 Play-By-Play Reading Series in Salt Lake City and later had a developmental production by the Co-Op of Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice, CA. A revised version was seen in a staged reading by Hudson Stage Company in Westchester, NY, in winter 2017. Red Mountain Theatre Company in Birmingham, AL, staged a fully produced new version of the play, billing it as a workshop, in March 2019 as part of its 2018-19 season. It received virtual readings during the 2020-21 pandemic by Cape May Stage and Third Avenue Playhouse. A revised version will get a May 2022 reading by Actors Theatre of Indiana. Request a perusal copy. (Two Henrys is seeking developmental and world premiere opportunities.)
His play Hollywood, Nebraska got a June 2016 reading the NewTACTics Festival of New Plays by Off-Broadway’s TACT/The Actors Company Theatre and was seen in a six-performance Equity workshop run by Wyoming Theater Festival in Sheridan, WY, in September 2017. In November 2019, Actors Theatre of Indiana presented a reading of the latest draft in its inaugural Lab Series. Music Theatre of Connecticut will present a reading of it in February 2022. Request a perusal copy.
His play Circa 1976, or Somewhere in the Suburbs of a Swing State Shaped Like a Mitten, about a reunion of former elementary school student in the age of Donald Trump, was a 2019 semi-finalist in the O’Neill NPC, and is seeking development opportunities.
Some of his dramatic writing can be found at NewPlayExchange.com.
Jones also penned book and lyrics for the musicals Voice of the City (music by Elaine Chelton) and Naughty/Nice (music by Gerald Stockstill), published by stagerights.com; as well as songs with composers Roger Anderson, Marek Norman, Mary Mitchell Campbell, Brad Ross and others.
For their theater songs, Stockstill and Jones are the recipients of the 2010 Dottie Burman Songwriting Award from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (MAC). Naughty/Nice was a finalist in the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Festival. It was published in fall 2015 by Steele Spring Stage Rights.
Jones and Chelton’s Voice of the City was seen in the Developmental Reading Series of York Theatre Company and in a workshop by Human Race Theatre Company; both presentations were directed and choreographed by Karen Azenberg.
His songs have been heard at 54 Below, Ars Nova, Joe’s Pub, the Zipper Theatre, the Laurie Beechman Theatre, the Metropolitan Room and elsewhere. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, BMI, the advanced BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and the 72nd Street Gang Playwriting Collective.
His work as a journalist includes 15 years as a leading writer and editor at Playbill.com and 10 years as a theatre reporter and critic for The Detroit News, including four seasons as chief theatre critic. His writing has also appeared in TDF Stages, SDC Journal, Back Stage, A&E Magazine, Playbill magazine, The Detroit Jewish News, The Oakland Press and elsewhere. He has also written liner notes for DRG Records. His songs have been heard on “A New York City Christmas” (Ghostlight/Sh-K-Boom) and on singer Maxine Linehan’s album of Petula Clark songs, “What Would Petula Do?,” for which he and Stockstill penned the title track.
His plays have been produced or developed by Off-Broadway’s TACT/The Actors Company Theatre, Pacific Resident Theatre, Human Race Theatre Company, York Theatre Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Peninsula Players, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, Clarence Brown Theatre and other companies.