Coleman A. Jennings
Coleman A. Jennings is both a published playwright as well as a champion of playwrights. Evidence of this is in the produced and published plays that he has written as well as his dedication to curating and publishing anthologies of the newest and most thought provoking scripts for young audiences. His collection of anthologies, with detailed introductions and interviews with the playwrights, have served as the texts for many undergraduate and graduate level courses focused on Theatre for Young Audiences.
Always the artist himself, Dr. Jennings fostered friendships that inspired him as both a writer and as a director. His collaborative friendship with Aurand Harris lead Jennings to premier several of Harris' new plays at UT Austin (Directed and Produced by Jennings) and resulted in the publication of one of the first anthologies of plays for young audiences to ever to go press. And while Harris was a devoted teacher and gifted playwright, he, undoubtedly benefited from Jennings' tirelessly promoting and championing these plays.
As students of the history of this field will remember, Aurand Harris was one of the very first playwrights in the US to tackle serious subject matters for the child audience. Plays such as The Arkansaw Bear which introduced young audiences to topics such as death were unheard of when Jennings was producing it for the children of Austin, TX.
The Jennings collection of papers holds a vast collection of information about Jennings' original plays (including those written in collaboration with his wife, Lola Jennings) as well as his work as an anthologist.
One of the things that Dr. Jennings' insisted upon in each of his anthologies was to have an introduction written by a well-respected artist. As you can see from the cover of this particular anthology, Dr. Jennings' secured an introduction to the book from Maurice Sendak. Other anthologies curated by Dr. Jennings include introductions from Mary Martin and Carol Channing.
By doing so, Dr. Jennings successfully raised the status of plays in the field by associating them with these well-respected names and personalities. At the same time, he made prominent people in the greater field of entertainment aware of advances in the field of Theatre for Young Audiences. In this way, he served as ambassador for our field through his publication.
As our work with this collection continues, this is the location where you will find interviews with people about Jennings as a writer and playwright.
“Through my years in this profession, I have learned that even more satisfying than creating the stories myself, is teaching others to do it.”
Coleman A. Jennings