Kia Corthron

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Kia Corthron
Born (1961-05-13)May 13, 1961
Cumberland, Maryland
Occupation Playwright, television writer
Nationality American

Kia Corthron (born May 13, 1961) is an American 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".[1]


Kia Corthron was born on May 13, 1961, in Cumberland, Maryland. Corthron's father worked at a paper mill in the area and died at the age of 51 from an aneurysm while working at the mill. Growing up in the mostly white, industrial town, Corthron discovered her passion for writing early on. Corthron has credited her second grade teacher, Mrs. Proudfoot, as being the person who first encouraged her to write. She persisted to create dialogues out of a need for entertainment while her older sister was at school. She would often use clothespins, pencils and various household items to act out her created dialogues.[2]

Corthron attended the University of Maryland for an undergraduate degree in communications and film. Even though she had been writing for years, it was not until the last semester of her senior year that she first turned on to writing plays. During a creative writing class, Corthon was assigned a group project of creating a play.[citation needed] She worked on the play for the entire semester, revising and reworking the text, which concluded in a final performance. The plot dealt with a returning Vietnam veteran and his sister, but the success of the short piece was not the plot, it was the impact the play had on the classroom audience. She told the Theater Development Fund's periodical, Sightlines, "When it came time to do scenes from our plays, I was embarrassed when mine lasted 30 minutes when everyone else's was only five (they were all supposed to be five), but I was soon gratified when the lights came up and I saw how my writing affected the other students."

Affecting audiences was something that energized Corthron. This was also something which drove her to hone her craft as a playwright. After graduating, Corthron was chosen for a one year workshop with George Washington University playwright Lonnie Garter. Under the direction of Garter, Corthron applied to the Master of Fine Arts program at Columbia University. Corthron was accepted and attended Columbia where she studied under professors like Howard Stein, Glenn Young, and Lavonne Mueller. Upon graduation in 1992, Corthron began writing plays and was granted a commission from the Goodman Theater in Chicago 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.[3]

Since her graduation, Corthron has received commissions for workshops, readings, and productions throughout the country. Her work has garnered critical and audience acclaim.[citation needed] Beginning with the commission from Chicago's Goodman Theatre, she has gone on to receive many other commissions for plays.[citation needed] Although commissioned works are not the only indication of the skill and power a playwright has, they are good indications that the particular playwright is good.[citation needed] Among Corthron's commissions are commissions from the Royal Court Theatre in London, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Atlantic Theatre Company, the Manhattan Theatre Club, the Mark Taper Forum, the Public Media Foundation, the Children's Theatre Company, and National Public Radio with The Public Theater.[4] She has developed her work through numerous reputable workshops including the National Playwrights Conference, the Sundance retreat at Ucross, the Hedgebrook writer's retreat, the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Theatre Project, the Shenandoah International Playwrights Retreat, Intiman Theatre, A Contemporary Theatre, Crossroads Theatre Company's Genesis Festival, The Public Theater's New Work Now! Festival, Voice and Vision, and the Circle Rep Lab.[5]

Most of Corthron's work revolves around socio-political issues. The themes of her work have encompassed many issues found in newspapers. For instance, her work Force Continuum from 2000 dealt with the issue of police brutality. Her shorter piece Safe Box centered on an industry that dumped cancer-causing chemicals into the air and water. Her two-act drama Glimpse of the Ephemeral Dot dealt with veterans' issues. Life by Asphyxiation takes an anti-death-penalty stance.[6] In other plays, she has examined the land mine issue, female gangs, prisons, capital punishment, youth violence, and disability.[citation needed]

With the commissions, works, and impact of Corthron's work, she has acquired many awards, including 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, a Van Lier Fellowship, and was Delaware Theatre Company's first Connections contest winner.[7]

Corthron's latest play, A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick, received its world premiere production by Playwrights Horizons and The Play Company in March and April 2010 at Playwrights Horizons' Peter Jay Sharp Theater in New York City. The play concerns Abebe, an African preacher-in-training who arrives in a drought-stricken rural American town intending to further his studies in religion and water conservation. Hosted by a mother and daughter haunted by tragedy, he takes an interest in a young orphan starved for guidance – all the while maintaining an infectious optimism in the face of his obstacles. Undaunted, Abebe determines to battle – by any means necessary – the personal and political forces that threaten the ecology of his new home.

Sometimes called lyrical and sometimes called atypical,[citation needed] her cadenced style is one thing that has been a constant throughout her work. It is song-like in a sense, but comes from her youthful experience. She stated to Amy Reiter in an American Theatre article from October 1994, "I don't know where I get my funny language from ... but it is influenced by where I grew up. Nobody there speaks exactly that way, but it has a lot of rhythms. It's music."[2]

Corthron will have her book The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter published by Seven Stories Press.[8][9]

Television writing career[edit]

Kia Corthron has also had a somewhat successful career writing episodes for television series. She wrote an episode of The Wire entitled Know Your Place, as well as an episode of The Jury called Lamentation on the Reservation.[10]

Humanitarian efforts[edit]

In 2002 Corthron traveled with five other playwrights to Palestine, visiting theaters on the West Bank and Gaza. She was one of nine American playwrights selected by Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater for a special world travel/play commissioning grant.[citation needed] Kia chose to travel to Liberia in 2004 while the country was coming out of its brutal civil war, and has since been working with the theater on her play, Tap the Leopard, chronicling the historical relationship connecting the U.S. and Liberia, from the initial tensions between immigrant American free blacks and the majority native population in the 19th Century through the strife of the late 20th and 21st Centuries.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]


External links[edit]