Jenkin, Len 1941-

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JENKIN, Len 1941-


Born April 2, 1941, in New York, NY; children: Emily Jenkins. Education: Columbia University, B.A., 1962, M.A., 1963, Ph.D, 1972.


Agent—Scott Hudson, Writers and Artists Agency, 19 West 44th St., Suite 1000, New York, NY 10036.


Writer, dramatist, director, and educator. Brooklyn College, New York, NY, lecturer, 1965-66; Manhattan Community College, New York, associate professor of English, 1967-79; Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, New York, associate professor, 1980—. River Arts Repertory Company, Woodstock, NY, associate artistic director, 1983—.


Yaddo fellowship, 1979; National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, 1979, 1982; Rockefeller fellowship, 1980; American Film Festival Award, 1981; Christopher Award, 1981; Obie awards, 1981, 1984; MacDowell fellowship, 1984; Guggenheim fellowship, 1987.



Kitty Hawk, produced in Stratford, CT, 1972; produced in New York, NY, 1974.

Grand American Exhibition, produced in New York, NY, 1973.

The Death and Life of Jesse James, produced in Los Angeles, 1974; produced in New York, 1978.

Mission, produced in New York, NY, 1975.

(With Mac Wellman; and director) Gogol: A Mystery Play (produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1976), published in Theatre of Wonders: Six Contemporary American Plays, edited by Mac Wellman, Sun and Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1986.

Kid Twist (produced in San Francisco, CA, 1977; produced in New York, NY, 1983), Broadway Play Publishers (New York, NY), 1987.

New Jerusalem, produced in New York, NY, 1979.

(And director) Limbo Tales (produced in New York, NY, 1980), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1982.

Five of Us (produced in Seattle, WA, 1981; produced in New York, NY, 1984), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1986.

(And director) Dark Ride (produced in New York, NY, 1981), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1982.

(Adapter) Candide, or Optimism (adapted from the novel by Voltaire; produced in Minneapolis, MN, 1982), Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 1983.

(Adapter and director) A Country Doctor (adapted from a story by Franz Kafka), produced in San Francisco, CA, 1983; produced in New York, NY, 1986.

(And director) My Uncle Sam (produced in New York, NY, 1984), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY) 1984.

Madrigal Opera, music by Philip Glass, produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1985.

(Adapter) A Soldier's Tale (adapted from a libretto by Charles Ferdinand Ramuz), produced in New York, NY, 1986.

Five of Us, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1986.

(And director) American Notes (produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1986; produced in New York, NY, 1988), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1988.

(And director) Poor Folks' Pleasure, produced in Seattle, WA, 1987.

(And director) Pilgrims of the Night (produced in Seattle, WA, 1991), Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 1991.

Careless Love, Sun and Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1993.

Dark Ride and Other Plays, Sun and Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1993.

(Adapter) Ramona Quimby (adapted from the book by Beverly Cleary), Dramatic Publishing (Woodstock, IL), 1994.

(Adapter) Tallahassee (adapted from Ovid's Metamorphosis), produced in New York, NY, 1995.


(With Mick Jagger and Gene Taft) Blame It on the Night, Columbia TriStar, 1985.

(With Dan Kleinman) Ultra Warrior, Concorde Pictures, 1990.

(With John Robbins) Le Zombi de Cap-Rouge, United International Pictures, 1997.

Also author of Merlin and Melinda, 1977; Welcome to Oblivion, 1989; and Nickel Dreams, 1992.


"More Things in Heaven and Earth," Family, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., 1976.

"Road Show," Visions, Public Broadcasting Service, 1976.

"See-Saw," Family, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., 1977.

"Eye of the Needle," Quincy, National Broadcasting Company, Inc., 1977.

"Games of Chance," Incredible Hulk, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 1979.

A Family of Strangers, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., 1980.

Also author of episodes of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, 1989.


Survival Printout, Random House (New York, NY), 1973.

New Jerusalem (novel), Sun and Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1986.

(With daughter, Emily Jenkins) The Secret Life of Billie's Uncle Myron (children's book), Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1996.


Born in New York City and educated at Columbia University, dramatist Len Jenkin taught at Brooklyn College and Manhattan Community College before becoming an associate professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. The long-time associate artistic director for the River Arts Repertory Company in Woodstock, New York, Jenkin is a prolific writer for stage and screen.

A common theme in Jenkin's work is the individual's ability to dream and to search for something beyond the everyday, mundane routines of life. Many of his characters are artists, such as writers, singers, and directors. Others are drifters or salesmen. Commenting on Jenkin's plays, Village Voice critic Michael Feingold remarked, "Spinning off in wild, loopy directions, they tend to circle back and land, bumpily, on the flat ground of reality."

In Gogol: A Mystery Play, Jenkin imagines a meeting between real-life Russian playwright Nikolai Gogol and Viennese physician Franz Anton Mesmer, who is considered the "father of hypnosis." Jenkin brings them together at a critical point in their respective careers. Gogol is lacking inspiration and hopes Mesmer can help him, but Mesmer is suffering from his own insecurities and does not believe he can. Hedy Weiss, in a review for the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote that "this scenario has great potential, but along the way the action gets lost in a lot of surrealistic mumbo jumbo."

Careless Love is a play within a play that recounts the bizarre adventures of Marie, a struggling film actress whose boyfriend involves her with a crazy plastic surgeon, his Swiss art-dealer wife, and an unseen criminal named Lorenzo. Marie's adventures take place within a girl's dreams—on the Dream Express—as she lies with her own boyfriend among the tumbleweeds, and a narrator both starts and ends the action. Feingold, in a review for the Village Voice, commented that "if you've taken leave of your senses, it's a fine evening; if you haven't, maybe you should every so often."

Multiple narrators are common in Jenkin's work, as are eccentric, seemingly disreputable characters. Gangsters or policemen follow a number of his protagonists on their quests. In Pilgrims of the Night, the characters wait for a ferry, intent upon contacting extraterrestrials who have supposedly crashed near the river, yet the action consists of stories told by the pilgrims through the long night, with each story acted out for the audience. Another example is My Uncle Sam, in which the title character is a salesman pushing novelty gags and tricks. Over the course of the play, Sam appears as both a young and an old man, and Young Sam receives step-by-step instructions on his quest from an audio cassette tape from the Universal Detective Agency, as well as from a number of narrators he meets along his journey.

Tallahassee, a musical written with Mac Wellman, is a retelling of Ovid's Metamorphosis, set in Florida. In Jenkin's version, corrupt Florida governor Ted Madrid banishes Ovid to teach Latin at Alligator Alley Community College, a far-from-enviable post. Over the course of his journey south to the school, Ovid has a series of adventures. At the same time, two other characters head northward, encountering their own mishaps en route. New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley wrote that "the very idea of a collaboration between … Len Jenkin and Mac Wellman, both known for their hallucinogenic, verbally manic styles, promises excess." He concluded that the production was "alternately amusing and numbing." Irene Backalenick, in a review for Backstage, remarked, "It is a swift-moving chaotic scene, peopled with strange, often irrelevant characters." She concluded that "much of Tallahassee is good fun and sharp satire."

In a departure from his normal work, Jenkin teamed up with his daughter, Emily Jenkins, to write a novel for children. The Secret Life of Billie's Uncle Myron recounts the adventures of a girl named Billie and her little brother Bix as they travel by Cadillac to a magical land of talking crows and flying motels. The car belongs to their Uncle Myron, and Billie, tired of being abandoned by her rock-star parents in hotel rooms while they're on tour, has taken Bix and hidden in the back seat. The next thing she knows, they have been transported to Borderland, where she and Bix are swiftly separated and Billie must set out to find him. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the book a "lushly colored crazy quilt of fantasy," noting that it had "plenty of fizz and pizzazz."



Backstage, October 13, 1995, Irene Backalenick, review of Tallahassee, p. 46; February 16, 1996, Gregg Wilson, review of Dark Ride, p. 48.

Booklist, January 15, 1994, Brian McCombie, review of Dark Ride and Other Plays, p. 893.

Chicago Sun-Times, December 5, 1987, Hedy Weiss, review of Gogol: A Mystery Play, p. 22.

Modern Drama, fall, 1998, Jon Erickson, "The Mise en Scene of the Non-Euclidean Character: Wellman, Jenkin, and Strindberg," p. 355.

Nation, February 20, 1989, Thomas M. Disch, review of A Country Doctor, p. 248.

New York Times, April 2, 1995, Alvin Klein, "From Barflies to 'Uncle Vanya,'" p. 13; October 17, 1995, Ben Brantley, review of Tallahassee, section C, p. 14; September 18, 1996, D. J. R. Bruckner, "Night Is where the Nuts and No-Goods Come Out," section C, p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, October 14, 1996, review of The Secret Life of Billie's Uncle Myron, p. 84.

Skanner (Portland, OR), March 24, 1993, "Ramona Quimby Comes to Portland," p. 12.

Village Voice, May 5, 1992, Michael Feingold, "Blue Paint Special," review of Candide, p. 111; November 16, 1993, Michael Feingold, "Charity Ward," review of Careless Love, p. 117; January 30, 1996, Charles McNulty, "Fun House," review of Dark Ride, p. 69; September 24, 1996, Michael Feingold, "Directing Wise," review of Poor Folks' Pleasure, p. 75; August 4, 1998, Alexis Solos, "Strange Brew," p. 121.


Culturebot Web site, (September 27, 2004), "Len Jenkin."

Doollee Web site, (September 27, 2004), "Len Jenkin."*