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Kerouac Still Breaking Ground at 90

'Beat Generation' World Premiered to International Reception

Actors rehearse Beat Generation. Photo courtesy of MRT
"Beat Generation" had its world premiere on October. Photo for MRT by Meghan Moore.

By Julia Gavin

The 2012 Kerouac Literary Festival brought more than 3,000 fans of Jack Kerouac to Lowell in celebration of the author’s work and 90th birthday year.

Along with popular readings, tours and musical events, the festival included the world premiere of “Beat Generation,” Kerouac’s only full-length play. The staged reading produced by the University and Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) brought more than 1,000 people together to see the author’s forgotten manuscript performed after it sat for nearly 50 years in a warehouse.

The play is something of a sequel to Kerouac’s “On the Road” and features interactions between a wandering Kerouac-inspired character, Buck, a newly tied-down family man who was a willing stand-in for Neal Cassady’s character, Milo. The play also includes characters based on Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and other members of his literary gang.

Considered more of an extended character study than stage play by some, actors jumped between delivering memorized quips to reading the long, winding passages for which Kerouac is famous. The stripped format, with minimalist sets and costumes let the emphasis be on Kerouac’s words above action.

The production was covered by more than 100 media outlets including the Associated Press, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Rolling Stone, WBUR, WGBH, NPR, Amtrak’s “Arrive” magazine, Merrimack Valley Magazine, The Eagle-Tribune, the Lowell Sun, Daily News of Newburyport and many more. The production reached international audiences through AP’s story being picked up in New Zealand and India.

A journalist from Rolling Stone attended the premiere, giving a positive review of the production. WBUR and WGBH also ran stories on the background and importance of the play. Listen to the WGBH program to hear more from Paul Marion, executive director of Office of Community and Cultural Affairs, and Charles Towers, artistic director of MRT and director of the production. For photos of the play, visit MRT’s Facebook page