Playwright Dr. Kenneth Bernard, whose experimental works pushed the boundaries of theatre, died August 9 at the age of 90. A staple of the downtown New York scene in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, Dr. Bernard’s plays were mounted by Playhouse of the Ridiculous and La MaMa, among others.
His plays included The Moke Eater, Night Club, and The Magic Show of Dr. Ma-Gico. The New York Times reports the playwright worked at Long Island University as an English professor for over four decades in addition to his contributions to the theatre.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, May 7, 1930, Kenneth Bernard grew up in Brooklyn and spent time with relatives in Framingham, Massachusetts, following the Great Depression and his parents' divorce. He ultimately completed his secondary education back in Brooklyn before attending the City College of New York, where he received a B.A. in English. After serving in the army in the ‘50s, he graduated with a PhD in English Literature from Columbia University.
After experiencing a show presented by the Playhouse of the Ridiculous in 1967, Dr. Bernard’s interest in creating theatre grew, and he ultimately forged a partnership with Artistic Director John Vaccaro, who later performed in one of the playwright’s works: The Sixty Minute Queer Show. In addition to theatre, the writer composed poetry and fiction throughout his career.
Dr. Bernard’s wife, Elaine Ceil Reiss, died in 2019. The playwright is survived by sons Lucas and Judd, a daughter Katey, and four grandchildren.