In his early years of elementary school (Hancock Park in Los Angeles age seven or eight), Ernest Kearney escaped classes by writing and organizing little plays to take around to the various home rooms. But his elementary school theatrics ended when he did an adaptation of Orwell’s 1984. The administration refused to let him put it on after realizing he planned to use the classroom P.A. speaker as Big Brother. The school saw in it some subtle revolutionary statement so they cancelled the play and ignited in the young playwright a life long aversion to authority.
Following high school, Kearney decided to try acting. He performed stock theater in Michigan and appeared in the ground breaking children’s show “Let Ruckus Reign!” which incorporated American Sign Language with Commedia Dell’Arte.
Kearney found himself drawn towards writing and set himself in pursuit of the elusive “Three Picture Deal.” For three years he supported himself on the option money his scripts brought in, but the life of a Hollywood screenwriter was not a good fit.
Kearney left the business and Los Angeles for Europe. He lived in London for a year before travelling to his ancestral home of Ireland. His great uncle Paul Kearney wrote the Irish national anthem which makes Dylan Thomas a distant relation. An even more distant relative is President Barack Obama, whose relationship comes via his great-great-great- grandfather on his mother’s side, Falmouth Kearney, who fled Ireland during the Great Famine.
Living in Londonderry and Belfast at the height of “The Troubles”, Kearney found himself approached by the IRA and investigated by the British authorities. On February 17, 1978 he was outside the La Mon restaurant in Northern Ireland when one of the worst bombings by the IRA took place. Twelve people died and thirty were injured. Kearney carries his scars still.
Returning to Los Angeles, Kearney turned his talents to the theatre once more. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre.
His following play, The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.”
Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His play Peddle was selected by the Midwest Theatre Network as one of the best plays of 1997. His most recent work The Salt Prince was awarded honors from the Nathan Miller History Play Contest as well as the Fremont Center Theatre Play Contest.
His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer.
After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene.