New Playwriting Fellowship at Columbia College Chicago Demonstrates Commitment to Communities of Color
CHICAGO—February 15, 2019. Chicago playwright, poet, and activist Kristiana Rae Colón is the first resident playwright for the Madeleine Moore Burrell Playwriting Fellowship that launched this spring at Columbia College Chicago.
Named after Columbia Board of Trustee member Madeleine Moore Burrell, Columbia’s playwriting residency aims to advance student learning, support new play development of resident playwrights from diverse backgrounds, and strengthen Columbia’s commitment to cultural inclusion.
“I feel blessed to have been able to dream up the kind of coursework I would want to take and offer it to the bright young artists at Columbia,” said Colón.
Colón is a playwright, poet, actor, and educator and is an alum of the Goodman Theatre’s Playwrights Unit. Her writing, producing, and organizing work focuses on questioning social power structures and society’s complicity in them.
Burrell was pleased to support the inaugural fellowship, as Columbia is one of a few institutions in the country to establish a playwright fellowship that is dedicated to advancing stories and histories from the perspective of writers and communities of color.
“Theatre often delivers history and makes it relevant for today’s society,” said Burrell. “Knowledgeable playwrights can provide authenticity in a student’s learning experience and expand the diversity in storytelling. I applaud Columbia’s courage and innovative vision to ensure cultural diversity thrives at its academic core.”
Colón’s course focuses on Afrofuturism in playwriting. Broadly, Afrofuturism explores the intersection of Black history, experiences, and identity with science-fiction, technology, politics, music, and art. During the residency, Colón will conduct talks and readings at Columbia which will be open to the public.
“As we teeter on a number of terrifying social ruptures, Afrofuturism offers portals for radical visionary aesthetics, creating dramatic texts that rehearse liberatory possibilities, and defines who we need to be for the worlds we want to build,” added Colón.
Theatre staff and faculty member Dawn Renee Jones, who initiated the effort to include more diverse voices in the Theatre Department’s productions and classrooms, will oversee the residency program which resides in the School of Fine and Performing Arts.
“By working with a broad pool of playwrights, Columbia students entering the theatre scene in Chicago and in other major theatre capitals will be more aware of diverse narratives and their importance,” said Rosita M. Sands, interim dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts. “Students and faculty will be able to engage in academic and mentoring opportunities that resonate across a broad range of histories, experiences, and post-graduation aspirations.”
In addition to enriching academic experiences for Columbia’s students, Burrell and her husband, Tom Burrell, hope to create broader cultural awareness through greater representation of communities of color within Theatre.
“The diverse demographic across the country is also a major consumer audience which wants to see itself reflected in Theatre and the arts,” Trustee Burrell added. “We recognize Columbia’s strong voice in the conversation of diversity and inclusion and how it is preparing students for a global world. We hope that others are also inspired to support this effort.”
Colón’s most recent work, Tilikum, portrayed the real-life story of a captive orca who suffered torturous conditions as an allegory for racial oppression. Her 2017 play florissant & canfield is named after a street intersection in Ferguson, Missouri, where the shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer in 2014 prompted national protests against police brutality.
Colón has received numerous accolades for her work, including the 2017 Best Black Playwright Award by The Black Mall and the National Latino Playwriting Award from Arizona Theatre Company in 2014 for her play Octagon. Her play but i cd only whisper premiered at the Arcola Theatre in London in 2012 and she earned the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize in 2013 for her chapbook promised instruments: poems. Colón is a Cave Canem Fellow, and creator of #BlackSexMatters and co-director of the #LetUsBreathe Collective.
Colón holds a BA from the University of Chicago and an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Columbia College Chicago is a private, nonprofit college offering a distinctive curriculum that blends creative and media arts, liberal arts, and business for nearly 7,000 students in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Dedicated to academic excellence and long-term career success, Columbia College Chicago creates a dynamic, challenging, and collaborative space for students who experience the world through a creative lens. For more information, visit www.colum.edu
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