Inaugural fellowship invites inclusion to Theatre Department


Courtesy Kristiana Rae Colón

Kristiana Rae Colón, Madeline Moore Burrell playwright-in-residence.

By Bridget Ekis, Staff Reporter

Cultural inclusion and diversity have been longtime goals of the Theatre Department and the tradition continues this semester through the Madeleine Moore Burrell Playwriting Fellowship.

The fellowship was introduced to the college Jan. 16 with the hopes of bringing fresh diverse faces to the Theatre Department for one semester each academic year, according to Interim Chair of the Theatre Department Peter Carpenter.

The new academic residency is for playwrights whose work shows a commitment to communities of color. The creation of the fellowship is an effort to strengthen Columbia’s commitment to cultural inclusion.

The fellowship is considered an academic residency, where the recipient is required to teach one course and produce a new body of work by the end of the semester, according to Khalid Long, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion scholar-in-residence in the Theatre Department.

Board of Trustees member Madeleine Moore Burrell and her husband, Tom Burrell, funded the fellowship.

While Moore Burrell wasn’t responsible for the creation of the fellowship, she is happy with the outcome.

Kristiana Rae Colón is the first fellowship recipient and is teaching the course “Topics in Playwriting: AfroFuturism & Speculative Drama” this semester.

“I was pleased, when I read [Kristiana’s] resume, that she in fact was the kind of inspirational and expert instructor that might help us attract and retain students of color,” Moore Burrell said.

In addition to being an established playwright, Colón is a Chicago-based actor, poet, activist and educator.

“She will add a layer of diversity and equity [to the college],” Long said. “She will add a layer of talent that is grounded in what the college and, more specifically, what the Theatre Department is aiming to develop.”

While in residency, Colón will be provided time and resources to write a play.

In May, Colón will read her new work, but is first required to do a staged read of an existing piece.

“Her work is very forward-thinking. She’s emerging as a really significant voice in American theater right now,” Carpenter said. “We’re exceptionally excited to have her here.”