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Bonnie Greer

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Name  Bonnie Greer
Role  Playwright

Spouse  David Hutchins (m. 1993)
Education  Actors Studio
Bonnie Greer Quotes by Bonnie Greer Like Success

Born  16 November 1948 (age 74) (1948-11-16)
Occupation  playwright, author, critic
Nationality  British (naturalized 1997)
Books  Obama Music, Langston Hughes: The Valu, A Parallel Life, Hanging by Her Teeth, Entropy

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Bonnie Greer, OBE (born 16 November 1948), is an American-British playwright, novelist, critic and broadcaster, who has lived in the UK since 1986. She has appeared as a panellist on television programmes such as Newsnight Review and Question Time and has served on the boards of several leading arts organisations, including the British Museum, the Royal Opera House and the London Film School. She is also the Chancellor of Kingston University in Kingston upon Thames, London.


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Early life

Bonnie Greer The Chancellor How the University works Kingston

Greer was born on the West Side of Chicago, the eldest of seven children born to Ben, a factory worker, and Willie Mae, a home maker. Greer's father was born to a family of Mississippi sharecroppers. He was stationed in Britain during World War II and took part in the D-Day landings.

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Although she began writing plays at the age of nine, Greer originally set out on a legal career, but dropped out when her professor told her he did not think women should have a career in law. Instead she studied theatre in Chicago under David Mamet's supervision and at the Actors Studio in New York with Elia Kazan.

Since 1986

Bonnie Greer Kingston University appoints Bonnie Greer as chancellor

Greer visited Scotland as part of a production at the Edinburgh Festival in 1986 and has been based in Britain since then. She acquired British citizenship in 1997. She has worked mainly in theatre with women and ethnic minorities, and is a former Arts Council playwright in residence at the Soho Theatre and for NITRO, once known as the Black Theatre co-operative. Greer has played Joan of Arc at the Theatre Atelier in Paris.

She has written radio plays for BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, including a translation of The Little Prince. Her plays include Munda Negra (1993), concerning the mental health problems of black women, Dancing On Blackwater (1994) and Jitterbug (2001), and the musicals Solid and Marilyn and Ella. The latter work began as a radio play broadcast in December 2005 (Marilyn and Ella Backstage at the Mocambo) after Greer watched a documentary on Marilyn Monroe which mentioned Monroe's assistance to the jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald over the colour bar preventing the singer from working at certain venues, especially the Mocambo nightclub. Adapted for the stage, Greer's radio play was given a production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2006 and was later rewritten and performed at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 2008. The play was produced at the Apollo Theatre, in London's West End, in November 2009. She is the author of two novels, Hanging by Her Teeth (1994) and Entropy (2009), and is working on a play for the National Theatre Studio.

Greer has been a regular contributor to BBC Two's Newsnight Review, and Question Time. She was a panel member on the edition that also featured Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party. Commenting after the recording she called it "probably the weirdest and most creepy experience of my life". The encounter formed the basis for her opera, Yes, written for the Royal Opera House with music by Errollyn Wallen, and which premiered there at the Linbury Studio Theatre in November 2011.

An occasional writer for The Guardian and New Statesman, she is a former theatre critic for Time Out magazine. She was formerly director of the Talawa Theatre Company and has served on the boards of the Royal Opera House and the London Film School.

Greer's book Obama Music, partly a musical memoir, was published by Legend Press in October 2009. Reviewing it in The Independent, Lesley McDowell said: "Greer expertly weaves in memories of her own upbringing in Chicago, with more humour than you might expect, along with a clear, defined passion for the music she grew up listening to. She wants to show, too, how both the place she lived in, and the songs she listened to, were full of unseen boundaries that had held people back – but also gave them something to fight against." Her biography of Langston Hughes, Langston Hughes: The Value of Contradiction, was published in 2011 (Arcadia/BlackAmber Inspirations). Greer co-produced a documentary film, Reflecting Skin (directed by Mike Dibb) – on representations of black people in Western art – which was shown by the BBC in 2004. She is currently working on a novel about Rossetti. Greer's memoir A Parallel Life was published in 2014 and was described by Joy Lodico in The Independent as "the story of a journey deliberately and bravely taken against all expectations".

Greer is a member of the Arts Emergency Service, a British charity working with 16- to 19-year-olds in further education from diverse backgrounds. She is a patron of the SI Leeds Literary Prize for unpublished fiction by Black and Asian women in the UK. She is also a board member of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).

In April 2005, she was appointed to the British Museum's Board of Trustees for a period of four years and in 2008 Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that her appointment was to continue. In March 2009, she was promoted to Deputy Chairman. In 2011, she accepted the post of President of the Brontë Society. She resigned in June 2015, following internal disagreements about the society's direction.

Honours and awards

Greer was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.


  • Hanging by Her Teeth (Serpent's Tail, 1994), novel. ISBN 978-1852421854
  • Entropy (Picnic Publishing, 2009), novel. ISBN 978-0956037039
  • Obama Music (Legend Press, 2009). ISBN 978-1906558246
  • Langston Hughes: The Value of Contradiction (2011) (Arcadia/BlackAmber Books). ISBN 978-1906413767
  • A Parallel Life (Arcadia Books, 2014). ISBN 978-1909807624
  • Films

  • White Men Are Cracking Up (1996), screenplay)
  • Musicals

  • Solid
  • Marilyn and Ella (2008)
  • Opera

  • Yes (November 2011), Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
  • Plays

  • Munda Negra (1993)
  • Dancing On Blackwater (1994)
  • Jitterbug (Arcola Theatre, 2001)
  • Radio plays

  • The Little Prince
  • Ferguson (2016)
  • TV

  • Siren Spirits, Episode 4 (1994)
  • References

    Bonnie Greer Wikipedia