May 13, 1961|
|Occupation||Playwright, television writer, novelist|
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.
Corthron is the second of three sisters. Her younger sister, Kara Corthron, is a playwright and novelist.
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. 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 such as 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.
Since her graduation, Corthron has received commissions for workshops, readings, and productions throughout the country. Her work has garnered critical and audience acclaim. Beginning with the commission from Chicago's Goodman Theatre, she has gone on to receive many other commissions for plays. 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. 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.
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. In other plays, she has examined the land mine issue, female gangs, prisons, capital punishment, youth violence, and disability.
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.
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.
Television writing career
Corthron's first TV credit was for an episode of the 2004 series, The Jury called Lamentation on the Reservation. In 2006 she wrote an episode of The Wire's fourth season entitled "Know Your Place" which earned her Writers Guild Outstanding Drama Series Award and an Edgar Award.
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. With their aid, In 2004, Kia chose to traveled to Liberia while the country was recovering from its 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.
Awards and honors
- 2014 United States Artist (USA) Fellow in Theater October 2014; $50,000 unrestricted grant.,
- 2014 Windham–Campbell Literature Prize (Drama), valued at $150,000 one of the largest prizes in the world of its kind.
- 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize $10,000 
- Shea, Lisa. “Has Culture Finally Caught Up to Kia Corthron?”. Elle magazine. 8 January 2016.
- "Kia Corthron: A Playwright Who's Unafraid to Admit She's Political", February 4, 2001.
- "Alumni Playwrights", New Dramatists.
- Corthron, Kara Lee. "In Dialogue: Kia Corthron's Cool Dip". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Madeleine, "Sitting down with Kia Corthron" (interview), The Yale herald, September 26, 2014.
- The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter page at Seven Stories Press.
- "Congratulations to Kia Corthron for The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter | Winner of the 2016 First Novel Prize", The Center for Fiction.
- Johnson, Clark (2004-07-30), Lamentation on the Reservation, retrieved 2016-07-10
- Zakrzewski, Alex (2006-11-12), Know Your Place, retrieved 2016-07-10
- "An Interview with Kia Corthron, author of The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter". The University of Iowa. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
- "United States Artists Announces 2014 Fellows", Philanthropy News Digest, October 15, 2014.
- "2014 United States Artists Fellows Announced – Artists receive $50,000 unrestricted grants across 8 disciplines".
- "Prize Citation for Kia Corthron". Windham–Campbell Literature Prize. March 7, 2014. Retrieved March 8, 2014.
- "Prize Citation for Kia Corthron". Center for Fiction. December 7, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2017.