In preparation for American Theater Company’s annual 10 x 10 Play Festival, I connected with the featured playwrights about their careers in the theatre, the relevant themes of the play(s), and the role of theatre as a tool for social change. Click here to learn more about the 10 x 10 Festival and please enjoy this wonderful interview with Kristiana Colón.
Jacqueline Lawton: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
Kristiana Colón: I’ve been writing and acting since I was a toddler. It was always second nature. My mother was also an actor and I’d attend rehearsals with her as a kid. I’d write skits for my stuffed animals and make them perform for me.
Pursuing playwriting as a career grew out of my burgeoning career as a performance poet. One of my mentors through Young Chicago Authors, Idris Goodwin, was my poetry slam coach and a playwright whose early work I helped develop and performed in. He was the first person who really inspired me to write plays from my poetic voice and helped guide my process when I started writing my first full-length play.
JL: Next, tell me a little bit about your writing process. Do you have any writing rituals? Do you write in the same place or in different places?
KC: I wish I had a writing process. It’s mostly: overcommit, set panic deadlines, freak out, ignore emails, overcaffeinate, repeat.
JL: Why was it important for you to be a part of American Theatre Company’s 10 x 10 Festival?
KC: ATC is one of the first companies in Chicago to support my work and invite me to be apart of its 10 x 10 Festivals; this will be the third one in which I have work included. This one in particular means a lot to me because I’ve been volunteering in Ferguson since August and the protest movement there galvanized me into action in a way that has completely changed my life. Along with other poets and friends, I launched the #LetUsBreathe Collective (www.letusbreathecollective.com), which began as a fundraising initiative to bring tear gas remedies and medical supplies to protesters in the wake of a militarized police response to their resistance. We partnered with a group of young protesters, Lost Voices, who vowed to camp out in the protest area until Darren Wilson was indicted and produced a documentary on their experiences. We’ve traveled back and forth to Ferguson about 15 times; I’ll actually be making the 16th trip in a few hours, after I send this email! We’ve brought Lost Voices to Chicago for screenings of the documentary and to lead demonstrations here four times and now, #LetUsBreathe organizes and leads protest actions on its own.
Making sure that their voices are heard and that people hear from those making huge sacrifices on the ground was paramount in my involvement in this festival. While making art about political resistance is important, it’s more important to center the voices and stories of those who have to live that experience and deal with its real costs every day.
JL: Tell me about your play. What do you hope the audience walks away thinking about after experiencing it?
KC: florissant & canfield is directly inspired by members of the Lost Voices. My collaboration with them to amplify their stories aims to combat the one-dimensional ways the protest movement have been approached by mainstream media. There’s an overwhelming tendency to analyze activist resistance through the lens of respectability politics, to lump people into binary groups of “looters and thugs” or “peaceful protesters;” what happened in Ferguson is much more complex than that. My intention is to highlight that complexity.
JL: What role does theater have in advocacy work?
KC: Theater has the enormous power to build empathy. In that way, activism and theater and intimately linked.
JL: What next for you as a writer? Where can we follow your work?
KC: I’ll be re-imagining my play the darkest pit in Stage Left’s LeapFest this summer; it’s a play that takes place in a college classroom as a school shooting unfolds. After that, I’ll be headed to London for the world premiere of my award-winning play Octagon, a play that takes place in the world of poetry slam.
About the Playwright
Kristiana Colón is a poet, playwright, actor, educator, Cave Canem Fellow, and Executive Director of the #LetUsBreathe Collective. Her play Octagon is the winner of Arizona Theater Company's 2014 National Latino Playwriting Award and Polarity Ensemble Theater's Dionysos Festival of New Work. In February and March 2013, she toured the UK with her collection of poems promised instruments published by Northwestern University Press. In autumn 2012, she opened her one-woman show Cry Wolf in Chicago while her play but i cd only whisper had its world premiere in London at the Arcola Theater. Kristiana appeared on season 5 of HBO's Def Poetry Jam. She's also one half of the brother/sister hip-hop duo April Fools, whose theatrical rap tapestryLack on Lack appeared in Victory Gardens' 2014 Ignition Festival.
10 outstanding playwrights tackle race, police brutality, and community in Ferguson, New York City, and around the world. 10 inspired directors bring their work to life.
Join us on Monday, March 9th at 7:30pm for a uniquely challenging one-night-only engagement at the American Theater Company, as we are proud to present our annual short plays festival, 10x10.
Tickets are free but seats will fill up fast. To make a reservation, send us an email at ATC10x10@Gmail.com. Due to high demand, we are only able to reserve up to two seats per request.
At the door, we suggest a $10 donation to help us cover the cost of supporting the festival, though we welcome you to pay what you can.
This Year's Playwrights:
Jeff Augustin. Kristiana Rae Colón. Matthew-Lee Erlbach. Jacqueline E Lawton. Bonnie Metzgar. Dominique Morisseau. Lucas Neff. A Rey Pamatmat. Akin Salawu. Aurin Squire.
Kaiser Ahmed. Grace Cannon. Amanda Delheimer Dimond. Matt Dominguez. Azar Kazemi. Reed Motz. Hutch Pimentel. Tlaloc Rivas. Samuel Roberson. Conner Wilson.
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!