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Merrimack Repertory Theatre to premiere adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s ‘Haunted Life’

Jack Kerouac in 1959.
John Cohen/Deborah Bell Photographs NYC
Jack Kerouac in 1959.

“The Haunted Life,” Jack Kerouac’s lost novel inspired by his childhood in Lowell, is headed for the stage.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre has adapted the book and the new production will kick off the company’s 40th season in March 2019.

“We’re thrilled to partner with MRT on this ground-breaking production,” said Jim Sampas, literary executor of Kerouac’s estate. “We couldn’t pass up a chance to premiere an adaptation of Kerouac’s work in his hometown. . . . We’re excited that this will be one of many new efforts to introduce the distinctive voice of Jack Kerouac to a new generation.”

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“The Haunted Life” has taken a circuitous route to the stage. The 1944 manuscript was misplaced and eventually discovered in a closet at Columbia University, where Kerouac had stayed for a time in Allen Ginsberg’s room. In 2002, it surfaced at a Sotheby’s auction, selling to an unnamed bidder for $96,000. In 2014, the manuscript was put together with letters and outlines by UMass Lowell associate professor Todd F. Tietchen, and published by Da Capo Press.

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“It’s a daunting honor to bring Kerouac to the stage, in his hometown,” said MRT Artistic Director Sean Daniels, who adapted the work. “But it couldn’t be a more relevant story: What is the cost of war on the American Dream? And how do we connect and learn to love people who have different political views from our own?”

This will be the second time Merrimack Repertory Theatre has produced a work by Kerouac. In 2012, MRT did a staged reading of “Beat Generation” as part of UMass Lowell’s Jack Kerouac Literary Festival.