Ken Urban

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Ken Urban
Ken Urban, playwright (37227190641).jpg
Urban in 2017
Born (1974-06-20) June 20, 1974 (age 44)
New Jersey
Occupation Playwright, Musician, Instructor

Ken Urban is a playwright, screenwriter, director and musician whose plays have been produced in the US and the UK. He became a senior lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2017, leading the playwriting program at the school. Urban was born in New Jersey in 1974.


During the 2017-18 Season, Urban had two world premieres: A Guide for the Homesick, which ran at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston (directed by Colman Domingo) from October 6 to November 4, 2017;[1] and The Remains, which received its world premiere at Studio Theatre in Washington, DC (directed by Artistic Director David Muse) from May 16 to June 24, 2018.[2]. Ken Urban's previous plays include Sense of an Ending, The Correspondent, A Future Perfect, The Awake, The Happy Sad and Nibbler, which was produced off-Broadway February 23 to March 18, 2017 by The Amoralists.[3]

Urban's work has also been produced by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 59E59 Theatres, The Summer Play Festival at The Public Theater, and Studio 42 (all New York), Theatre503 in London, First Floor Theater in Chicago, and SpeakEasy Stage Company in Boston. His plays have been developed at Playwrights Horizons and The Civilians’ R&D Group (both New York), Donmar Warehouse (London), Huntington Theatre Company (Boston), Williamstown Theatre Festival (Williamstown, Mass.), and the Theatre @ Boston Court (Pasadena, Calif.).

He is a Resident Playwright at New Dramatists and an affiliated writer at the Playwrights’ Center. He was the Founding Artistic Director of The Committee, a New York-based theatre company that produced "catastrophic theatre" including the first workshop production of Sarah Kane's Cleansed.

TV and film[edit]

Urban's TV pilot The Art of Listening was optioned in 2017 by ITV Studios America and Christina Wayne/Assembly Entertainment. He wrote the screenplay for the feature-film adaptation of his play The Happy Sad, which screened internationally at more than 25 film festivals.


Urban won Best New Play/Large Theater for ″A Guide for the Homesick″ at the 2017 IRNE Awards ceremony held April 23, 2018 at the Holiday Inn in Brookline, Mass.[4] In that production, McKinley Belcher III also won for Best Actor in a Play/Large Theater for his dual role as Teddy/Nicholas. Colman Domingo was nominated for Best Director of a Play/Large Theater. The production was nominated for Best Set Design by William Boles, Best Lighting Design by Russell H. Champa, Best Sound Design by Lindsay Jones and overall Best Play/Large Theater.[5] ″A Guide for the Homesick″ was nominated for Outstanding New Script at the 36th Annual Elliot Norton Awards in 2018, as well as Outstanding Production/Large Theater and Outstanding Actor/Large Theater.[6]

In 2009, Urban won the 2008 L. Arnold Weissberger Award, given each year by the Williamstown Theatre Festival, for his play Sense of an Ending. His other awards and recognitions have come from New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, Huntington Theater Playwriting Fellowship, MacDowell Colony Fellowships, Headlands Artist Residency, Djerassi Artist Residency, Dramatist Guild Fellowship, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellowship.


The Boston Globe called Guide "an absorbing tale of conscience and connection," and "a probing, multilayered study of guilt," singling out the performance of actor McKinley Belcher III as "one of the most searing performances in recent memory on a local stage."[7] . The website called Guide "a theatrical tour de force.'" [8]. WBUR-FM, on its ARTery blog, found Guide to be "radiant and searing," "sizzling with erotic energy," and "flawless." [9] . A new production of A Guide for the Homesick will be produced on the West End at Trafalgar Studios in October 2018.[10]

The Washington Post said of The Remains, "Knockout acting…meticulously crafted...[and] well stocked with humor. The Remains will spark recognition in anyone who has ever had a long-term relationship — or endured a tense family dinner.”[11]. Washington City Paper called it an ″emotionally rich family dramedy."[12] And DC Metro Theater Arts said The Remains is “a landmark play...a riveting comedy that mourns a gay marriage on the rocks. See it with someone you love.”[13] The run of The Remains was extended from the original closing date of June 17, 2018 due to critical acclaim and strong ticket sales.[14]

Publishing and writing[edit]

Ken Urban’s plays are published by Dramatists Play Service in the United States (which published Nibbler in fall 2017), and by Methuen in the United Kingdom and Europe. Several have been featured in monologue anthologies.

His essays on theater have appeared in Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary American Playwrights, Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights, Contemporary Theatre Review, Modern Drama, A Concise Companion to Contemporary British and Irish Drama, Cool Britannia: British Political Drama in the 1990s, and PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art.

Education and teaching[edit]

Urban is a graduate of Bucknell University (B.A.) and Rutgers University, where he holds a Ph.D. in English literature, Urban has taught playwriting, screenwriting, academic writing and dramatic literature at those institutions, as well as at Harvard University, Princeton University, Tufts University and Davidson College.

He became a senior lecturer at MIT in fall 2017, where he leads the playwriting program at the school.[15]

In 2016 he was McGee Visiting Professor of Playwriting at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C.[16]


Urban plays in the band Occurrence, which also features vocalists Cat Hollyer and Johnny Hager. The band released is sixth LP, Everyone Knows the Disaster Is Coming, on June 15, 2018. It was preceded by the singles "All of Your Devils" on May 14, 2018 and "Weeping Disability" on June 1, 2018. The Southern Sounding blog said of the LP, "the album clings to the throbbing electronic tendencies of past releases while also carving out a unique and refreshingly integrated musical headspace."[17]. The band performed two record-release concerts at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City June 15, 2018, and Replay Lounge in Lawrence, Kan., on June 20, 2018. In December 2017, the band released The Time of Year, [18] for the 2017 holiday season. The Boston Globe and news radio WBZ (AM) covered its release, with the Globe saying "something tells us Urban’s downbeat take on the holidays won't be a hit".[19] Occurrence's 2016 LP release The Past Will Last Forever received strong reviews including from Atwood Magazine[20] and Clicky Clicky Music.


  1. ^ "Political climate gives shape to Huntington's new season - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  2. ^ Pressley, Peter Marks and Nelson (30 March 2017). "DC Theater Season 2017-18: Studio's into the pool". Retrieved 30 December 2017 – via 
  3. ^ Soloski, Alexis (28 February 2017). "Review: 'Nibbler,' About the Sweet Horrors of Youth". Retrieved 30 December 2017 – via 
  4. ^ ""Merrily We Roll Along", "Curious" Big Winners at 22nd Annual IRNE Awards – Theater Mirror". Retrieved 27 June 2018. 
  5. ^ "The Independent Reviewers of New England Awards: 2018". Retrieved 27 June 2018. 
  7. ^ "'Guide for the Homesick' an absorbing tale of conscience and connection - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  8. ^ "A Guide For the Homesick". Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  9. ^ "'A Guide For The Homesick' Could Leave You With Spiritual Sunburn". Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  10. ^ "MIT theater instructor to have play performed in London West End". Cambridge Chronicle & Tab. Retrieved 2018-06-26. 
  11. ^ Wren, Celia (22 May 2018). "Review - Knockout acting in Studio's play of a marriage on the rocks". Retrieved 27 June 2018 – via 
  12. ^ "Studio's The Remains Finds Darkness and Light in Divorce". Retrieved 27 June 2018. 
  13. ^ "Review: 'The Remains' at Studio Theatre - DC Metro Theater Arts". 22 May 2018. Retrieved 27 June 2018. 
  14. ^ "Studio Theatre - Play Detail". Retrieved 27 June 2018. 
  15. ^ "For playwright Ken Urban, a world premiere and a teaching gig at MIT - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  16. ^ "New Faculty and Instructional Appointments (as of August 1, 2015) - Davidson College - Acalog ACMS™". Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  17. ^ "Track Premiere: Occurrence - "All of Your Devils"". Retrieved 27 June 2018. 
  18. ^ "occurrence the time of year - Google Search". Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  19. ^ "MIT lecturer Ken Urban says 'bah humbug!' - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  20. ^ "Premiere: Occurrence's Unsettling Video "The Things I've Always Liked I Now Hate" - Atwood Magazine". 15 September 2016. Retrieved 27 June 2018. 

External links[edit]