MFA Acting Class Produces 'Citizen' by Alumna Claudia Rankine ’93

BY Emma Schillage, December 13, 2021

Last year, The Office of the Provost issued a request for proposals to provide seed grant funding for faculty within the Columbia community that engage with issues of structural racism. The goal of the initiative is to provide resources to engage the Columbia community in collaborative discourse, action, and insight for systemic change towards racial equity. The chosen projects were funded up to $5,000, with multidisciplinary projects being funded up to $10,000. One of the projects to receive this grant funding was the MFA Acting students' performance of Citizen: An American Lyric, which was executive-produced by Associate Professor James Calleri.


The MFA Acting Classes of 2021 and 2022 performed and filmed excerpts from Citizen, a book-length poem by Writing alumna Claudia Rankine ’93. Led by Calleri, the students studied the work in class, and the grant allowed them to film and edit the pieces. The grant also supplied the class with a way to release the project through digital marketing and advertising.


Citizen: An American Lyric explores race through poetry and personal documented stories. The performance by the Acting Classes of 2021 and 2022 was produced and filmed by a videographer and was professionally edited for distribution to the university community as part of the Addressing Racism Initiative, which was launched by the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement in June of 2020. 

Claudia Rankine is the author of six collections of poetry, including Just Us: An American Conversation, Citizen: An American Lyric, and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; and three plays including HELP, The White Card, and Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue. She is also the co-editor of several anthologies, including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind (FENCE, 2015). In 2016, she co-founded The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII). Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment of the Arts. Rankine teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.