ArtsEmerson is teaming up with the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) of Harvard University to co-produce the world premiere of renowned playwright and poet Claudia Rankine’s newest work, The White Card, next winter.
The production will be directed by A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus and will be performed at the Emerson/Paramount Center’s Robert J. Orchard Stage February 24 through March 18. The White Card was originally commissioned by ArtsEmerson, in association with the A.R.T. and the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California.
“Working with Claudia throughout this process, I have had the opportunity to be in the presence of one of the most creative, intelligent, and provocative minds of our generation,” said ArtsEmerson Co-Artistic Director P. Carl, who has been Rankine’s dramaturg throughout the play’s development. “Adding Diane Paulus into this mix makes The White Card premiere a dream collaboration that can result in the kind of theater that will deeply, and positively, impact our community.”
Rankine, author of the National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) and winner of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant, was Fresh Sound artist-in-residence at ArtsEmerson this spring and was awarded an honorary degree from Emerson at Commencement on May 14.
Like Citizen, The White Card unpacks the insidious ways in which racism manifests itself in everyday situations, and asks if American society can progress if whiteness stays invisible—a topic Rankine tackled in “On Whiteness,” a talk delivered at the Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre in March.
The White Card takes place in the elegant loft of a powerful, well-intentioned white couple in the New York City art world, where a black artist named Charlotte Cummings comes in hopes of selling her new work. When the couple’s activist son joins them for dinner, the notion of intent, conscious and unconscious, becomes paramount.
“From the moment Claudia alerted us that she was writing a follow-up to Citizen, we knew she was seeing something beyond the limits of the current discourse on race,” said ArtsEmerson Co-Artistic Director David Dower. “We committed to finding the best possible path for its premiere and placing it in the best position to impact the tricky, evolving conversation around whiteness, both in Boston and around the country.”
Dower said between their relationships, expertise, and shared mission to use theater to advance conversations about race, ArtsEmerson and the A.R.T. are ideal collaborators on this project.