Kenneth, What Is the Frequency?


by Ian Allen and Monique LaForce
based on an essay by Paul Allman

110 mins | 5 M 1 F | June 5-Aug 16, 2003 at Source Theater DC

Who can forget our collective shock and bewilderment when we opened the paper and learned of the event? October 4, 1986. Newsman and reservoir of trust, Dan Rather, walks home from dinner at a friend’s house. He is accosted and savagely beaten by two well-dressed white men in their thirties. His attackers taunt him cruelly, repeating the same strange query: “Kenneth, what is the frequency?” Three nights later, Rather addresses an anxious America. Who did it, and why? “It may never be determined.”

Harper’s Magazine, December 2001. In an essay entitled “The Frequency,” Paul Allman reveals a startling discovery: the existence of both a running character named “Kenneth,” and the phrase “What is the frequency?” within the canon of late, great short story writer Donald Barthelme. But it doesn’t end there; both men are from Texas; both were at the Univ. of Houston in 1957; both later moved to NYC. And why do Barthelme’s writings also refer to “CBS,” “Sixty Minutes,” and a lecherous editor named “Lather”? (And that’s just the iceberg’s tip.)

Coincidence? Perhaps. But maybe, just maybe, it is the key to the riddle that haunts our generation. “Kenneth…” documents this epic struggle between news and fiction, rational and irrational, coincidence and conspiracy, irony and idiocy, fact and faith.

“It’s possible that even Dan Rather might get a kick out of “Kenneth, What Is the Frequency?,” the gleefully malicious poison dart that Ian Allen and Monique LaForce aim at Americans’ obsessions with TV anchors, crime-scene reenactments and the endless dissecting of the inane imbroglios of the famous.” -The Washington Post