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Columbia College Chicago
Kia Corthron
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Kia Corthron

Institute/Goodman Theatre
Spring 2009 Fellow

Kia Corthron is a playwright, activist, and television writer. She wrote an episode of The Wire entitled, “Know Your Place”, as well as an episode of The Jury called, “Lamentation on the Reservation.” Corthron graduated from Columbia University’s MFA program in 1992. Upon graduation, Corthron began writing plays and was granted a commission from the Goodman Theater to write the play Seeking the Genesis, a piece dealing with parents drugging their children with Ritalin and the proposed government drugging of urban youth to prevent violence. Corthron has received commissions for workshops, readings, and productions throughout the country, garnering critical and audience acclaim, including the Royal Court Theatre in London, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Playwrights Horizons, Atlantic Theatre Company, New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, Mark Taper Forum, Actors Theatre of Louisvile’s Humana Festival, Children’s Theatre Company, and National Public Radio with The Public Theater.

Most of Corthron’s work revolves around socio-political issues. Her work Force Continuum from 2000 dealt with the issue of police brutality; Safe Box centered on an industry that dumped cancer-causing chemicals into the air and water; The Venus de Milo Is Armed focused on land mines in America. In other plays she has examined female gangs, prisons, capital punishment, youth violence, and disability, to name a few. Corthron has received many awards for her work. These include the Daryl Roth Creative Spirit Award, the Mark Taper Forum’s Fadiman Award, NEA/TCG Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights, a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, the New Professional Theatre Playwriting Award, the Callaway Award, and residencies through the Rockefeller Foundation at Bellagio (Italy), the MacDowell Colony, and in April Dora Maar House in France. Corthron was Delaware Theatre Company’s first Connections contest winner.


When the USA PATRIOT ACT initially materialized, its most formidable warriors seemed to be - public librarians, who refused to betray the privacy of their patrons. As the Institute/Goodman Theatre 2009 Spring Fellow Corthron further developed her new play, Bugs in the Pigs of the Lions commissioned by the Goodman Theatre, which focuses on a librarian, a quiet type who lives with her quiet father - a man, as is revealed, who was once a Black Panther and had served prison time after the infiltration of COINTELPRO agents. The uncomplicated world of this man and his daughter is forever changed when FBI agents visit the public library and want information.  Even more significantly, a teenage relative suddenly comes to live with the librarian and her father, the young distant cousin being an American Muslim whose computer activities also bring about the suspicion of FBI agents.


A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick was produced by Playwrights Horizons in the spring, in a co-production with The Play Company and the Culture Project, and received a Masterwork Productions Award.  In 2009 Trickle, her piece that addressed the financial crisis, was part of Ensemble Studio Theatre’s one-act Marathon.  This spring her short Posh Pill, about the health care debate, will be part of Atlantic Theater Company’s 25th Anniversary celebration.  In April 2010 Corthron received a Wachtmeister Award for Excellence in the Arts administered by the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Corthron’s article “The Ethics of Ethnic” was recently published in a recent issue of The Dramatist.