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March 16, 2012

Kerouac play to make its world premiere in Lowell

Jack Kerouac's only full-length play will be staged for the first time this fall.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre and the UMass Lowell said yesterday — on what would have been Kerouac's 90th birthday — that they will produce the three-act play called "Beat Generation" in the novelist's hometown of Lowell.

The premiere of the play — a staged reading for eight performances only — will be the centerpiece of the 2012 Jack Kerouac Literary Festival, which will be held Oct. 10 through Oct. 14.

Kerouac wrote "Beat Generation" — which draws on his life and those of other Beat writers, including Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg — in 1957, the same year his classic "On the Road" was released.

He tried to build interest for "Beat Generation" in the theater world, contacting such people as Lillian Hellman and Marlon Brando, but he failed and set the manuscript aside. Kerouac died in 1969. The manuscript was found in a warehouse in 2005.

"This is a moment of literary and theatrical history," said Charles Towers, artistic director of the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, which also produced a stage adaptation of Kerouac's Lowell-set romance, "Maggie Cassidy."

Kerouac's other books include "Doctor Sax," "The Subterraneans," "The Dharma Bums" and his final great work, "Big Sur." His first published novel was "The Town and the City."

The author's first actual novel, the 158-page "The Sea is My Brother," was published Monday, in honor of the writer's birthday. The work, written when Kerouac was 21, is the tale of two young men serving on a voyage from Boston to Greenland.

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