Kristiana Rae Colón Receives Columbia College Chicago’s Inaugural Burrell Fellowship for Playwrights Committed to Communities of Color

Kristiana Rae Colón

Chicago playwright, poet, educator, actor, and activist Kristiana Rae Colón is the first recipient of a new residency established by Columbia College Chicago for playwrights whose work demonstrates a commitment to communities of color: the Madeleine Moore Burrell Playwriting Fellowship. The fellowship begins with the Spring 2019 semester at Columbia College, which begins January 22. During her residency, Colón will conduct periodic talks or readings open to the Columbia community and the general public.

Madeleine Moore Burrell

The fellowship was established with support from Columbia College Board of Trustees member Madeline Moore Burrell, founder and retired president of the marketing firm Moore Creative, and her husband, advertising executive Tom Burrell.

Rosita Sands

“I am thrilled to announce the creation of the Madeleine Moore Burrell Playwriting Fellowship, a new academic residency for playwrights whose work demonstrates a commitment to communities of color,” said Rosita Sands, interim dean of the Columbia College Chicago School of Fine and Performing Arts, in a January 16, 2019, statement announcing the fellowship. Added Sands: “We are excited to provide opportunities for our Theatre students to engage in academic and mentoring opportunities that have resonance with their respective histories, experiences, and post-graduation aspirations.” According to Sands, the purpose of the Fellowship is to:
  • Advance Columbia College Chicago student learning;
  • Support new play development by providing resident playwrights with resources and time to write; and
  • Strengthen Columbia’s commitment to cultural inclusion by exposing faculty and students to a broad pool of playwrights, particularly those representing communities of color.
Dawn Renee Jones

Dawn Renee Jones

Added Sands: “I want to thank Columbia Trustee Madeleine Moore Burrell and Tom Burrell for their vision and support of this important program in its inaugural year. I also want to express my gratitude to our Theatre staff and faculty member Dawn Renee Jones for her leadership in creating and overseeing this new program.”

Sigrid Sutter and Gregory Geffrard in the world premiere of Kristiana Rae Colón’s”Tilikum.” (Photo: Jonathan L. Green)

Born and raised in Chicago, where she graduated with honors from Whitney Young High School, Colón holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her much-discussed drama Tilikum, which received its world premiere in June 2018 from Chicago’s Sideshow Theatre, used the real-life story of a captive orca that killed several trainers after torturous living conditions ruined its health as an allegory for racial oppression. The premiere production at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theatre featured projection designs by Columbia College alumnus Paul Deziel ’14,a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA program in technical theatre.

Colón’s other plays include but i cd only whisper, premiered at the Arcola Theatre in London in 2012; Octagon, which won Colón the Arizona Theatre Company’s 2014 National Latino Playwriting Award prior to its world premiere at the Arcola Theatre in 2015 and its U.S. premiere in 2016 at Chicago’s Jackalope Theatre; and Florissant & Canfield, an epic reimagining of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, featured in the 2016 Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival. She is an alum of the Playwrights Unit at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists. Colón earned the Drinking Gourd Poetry Prize in 2013 for her chapbook promised instruments. Her poems have been featured in the anthology The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (2015). She is the co-creator of #BlackSexMatters and co-director of the #LetUsBreathe Collective, an alliance of artists and activists who want to tell the stories of protestors and people involved in #BlackLivesMatter. Colón’s writing, producing, and organizing work has focused on efforts to radically reimagine power structures, acknowledge our complicity in them, and speak to visions for liberation.