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Rankine Play World Premiere to Open in February at Paramount

Boston audiences can soon see the world premiere of The White Card, the newest play from acclaimed author and MacArthur Fellow Claudia Rankine, being presented by ArtsEmerson at the Robert J. Orchard Stage February 24 through April 1.

The play was commissioned by ArtsEmerson, in association with Harvard University’s  American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), which is producing the show.

In The White Card, a conversation at a dinner party thrown by an influential Manhattan couple for an up-and-coming artist raises questions about what – and who – is actually on display. Rankine’s 2014 New York Times bestselling Citizen: An American Lyric explored the insidious ways in which racism manifests itself in everyday situations. This play asks, “Can American society progress if whiteness stays invisible?”

“At ArtsEmerson, we believe that the arts have a central role to play in transforming the city’s reputation and reality around race,” ArtsEmerson Artistic Director David Dower said in a statement.

ArtsEmerson commissioned the play two years ago, after Rankine visited Emerson College following the release of Citizen, Dower said.

“It was clear then that Claudia’s insights on race, and on whiteness in particular, were both electrifying and edifying in support of our commitment to advance racial equity in our city,” he said.

Rankine, author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen, and two plays, and numerous video collaborations, also was Fresh Sound artist-in-residence at ArtsEmerson during Spring 2017, during which time she addressed the topic of whiteness to a packed Cutler Majestic Theatre. In May 2017, she was awarded an honorary degree from Emerson.

The White Card is being directed by A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus. Dramaturgy was provided by P. Carl, former co-artistic director of ArtsEmerson and a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow.

Dower said ArtsEmerson’s partnership with A.R.T. has been a “particularly powerful development” in the life of the the play, and the two organizations have collaborated on activities centered around the play and its themes.

Citizen Read was a series of events meant to spark a public dialogue on race and identity in America. More than 900 participants signed up to read Citizen individually or with book clubs, then took part in one of more than 80 conversations around the issues raised in the book.

Act II events will engage The White Card audiences in facilitated discussions after each performance.

Tickets start at $25, and can be purchased at, at the Box Office, 559 Washington Street, or by calling 617-824-8400. Several performances have already sold out. 

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