Citizen: An American Lyric

Written by Claudia Rankine, adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs
Directed by Shirley Jo Finney
Produced by Simon Levy for The Fountain Theatre
Starring Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tina Lifford, Tony Maggio, Simone Missick, Lisa Pescia


CRITIC’S CHOICE!Los Angeles Times – “Claudia Rankine’s powerful writings about the trauma of racism make for a staging and message that resonate… Staging the book, as the Fountain Theatre has done, seems a completely natural thing to do… it’s a stirring tribute to an American poet who deserves a wider readership… More important, the production provides an opportunity to communally address what is behind the onslaught of tragic headlines involving black Americans… Since seeing the work on Saturday, I have been mulling over its truths, quarreling with some of them, mourning others, often at ungodly hours of the night when momentarily awakened by a dream. The work, in short, has gotten under my skin, which is a testament to its power.” – Charles McNulty

PICK OF THE WEEK!Stage Raw – “Rankine’s perceptions contain an astonishing universality, articulating the death of a thousand searing paper cuts experienced as the consequence of the often unrecognized racist suppositions rampant in all echelons of society and from all levels of “enlightenment… adaptor Stephen Sachs deftly selects, edits and organizes Rankine’s words (every one of them hers, he professes) into something that while pointedly not a play, indubitably comprises a transcendent theatrical experience… It sears while being light on its feet, delivering devastating jabs with grace. I can’t imagine a more impressive ensemble arising this season, intending ensemble in the most inclusive and extensive senses of the word.” – Myron Meisel

RAVE!BroadwayWorld – “Rankine’s poetic messages receive synchronized lyrical readings from the very talented cast of six… Lisa Pescia most convincingly plays Citizen #5, a collection of the most unapologetically Caucasian female racists. Tony Maggio believably essays Citizen #6, a compilation of various white male racists; some intentional, some unaware of their racism. Tina Lifford and Simone Missick fiercely inhabit their respective angry female targets of racism, respectively Citizen #2 and Citizen #1. The male targets receive fleshed out portrayals of hurt, innocence and much intense anger by Bernard K. Addison (Citizen #4) and Leith Burke (Citizen #3)… Easy to understand why Sachs wanted to adapt Rankine’s work with such verses as ‘Just getting a long shouldn’t be an ambition.’ Or ‘This is not just a state of emergency, but also a state of emergence.'” – Gil Kaan

RAVE!Capital & Main – “Sachs’ well-crafted distillation of Rankine’s work… brought to life in the confident hands of director Shirley Jo Finney and her trusting cast… Citizen as a result is both sensitive and powerful.” – Alex Demyanenko

RAVE!Donloe’s Lowdown – “E for EXCELLENT! (highest rating)… Rankine’s writing is thought-provoking and eye-opening. It’s a collection of works chronicling the life that most black people live on a daily basis…  Finney is known for bringing magic to her productions. She doesn’t disappoint with this piece. Her direction is fluid, vast, creative, expressive and non-traditional… All of the actors deliver vibrant, emotive performances.” – Darlene Donloe

RAVE!Hollywood Progressive – “A significant, substantial work that is must-see (and must-hear!) viewing (and listening!) for today’s theatergoers… superb cast… packs such a powerful punch.” – Ed Rampell

RAVE!ArtsInLA – “Once again, Sachs and his intrepid cohorts have proven themselves to be a vital, urgently significant voice in the battle for our humanity with Sachs’s provocative new adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s international bestselling book of confrontational poetry, here customized into a startlingly creative and highly theatrical meditation on the inequities of race relations in America… Under the dynamic direction of Shirley Jo Finney and with a special nod to the precision movement work created by Anastasia Coon, this stellar cast of six could not have been more perfectly chosen to deliver the punch of Rankine’s thought-provoking spoken-word collage.” – Travis Michael Holder

RAVE!Theatre Spoken Here – “In this challenging meditation on race in America, poet Claudia Rankine and adapter Stephen Sachs take us on a journey into a region we are reluctant to acknowledge. Through poetry, prose, movement, music and strong video images we observe and experience what it feels like to be treated like “the other” in your own country… Shirley Jo Finney’s direction ignites the performers.” – Morna Murphy Martell

RAVE!Discover Hollywood – “Highly recommended! Don’t miss this world premiere… a provocative symphony of language. Moments, words, thoughts, questions are played by a talented ensemble of actors who seamlessly and figuratively dance through a performance which takes the audience on a journey through perceptions… We laughed and shed a few tears on the journey and exited the theatre more thoughtful than when we went in… The total presentation is beautifully effective… a work of art and a song for our time.” – Suzanne Birrell

RAVE!Talkin’ Broadway – “… an exceptional production of a powerful work… can’t be forgotten… stunningly evocativeCitizen is good theatre. It’s solidly in the Fountain’s wheelhouse—an ensemble piece that floats between dream and reality, narration and performance, and challenges its audience’s perceptions about a potentially incendiary topic.” – Sharon Perlmutter

RAVE!ColoradoBoulevard.Net – “Interesting, provocative, important, and energizing. I was left with a renewed vow to be aware of what I hear, say, and accept when it comes to communication between races. I urge everyone to see this piece, learn from it, and do your part to keep communication open and progressing among the wonderful spectrum of races, cultures and colors we have in LA.” – Carol Edgar Germain

RAVE!The Tvolution – “Powerful, Provocative, Timely… The Fountain Theatre has a record of producing works linguistically challenging and stylistically adventurous, so the idea of the theatre taking an award winning volume of contemporary poetry and adapting it as a stage production should not cause any hesitation or doubts about attending because it’s a show that should be seen. Actually, it’s a show that shouldn’t be missed…It was Sachs’ deft and intelligent “shapeshifting” that fashioned from the book a script of choral conflicts and arcs for six actors. Then, with an adroit application of music and AV, it was Ms. Finney, using gossamer thread, who wove theatre. Exceptional theatre at that… Ms. Rankine’s work strikes me as comparable to another great epic poem, Homer’s Odyssey. Both gave voice to the follies and dreams of a people. Both speak of long and perilous journeys with a common destination… The Fountain has always been one of the jewels in L.A.’s crown. With this show however, she provides a great service to the city, and a greater opportunity to its citizens. And again, it is one that should not be missed.” – Ernest Kearney

RAVE!The Markaz – “Couldn’t be more timely… What does it feel like to be “Black” in America?  That question is the Gordian Knot of the American psyche… superb writing and acting… By breaking the taboo against hearing and feeling the whole of black experience, including the pain, this play lays bare the mechanism woven into the fabric of American life, thus exorcizing the demon, one audience at a time… ‘Black lives matter’ becomes real by bearing witness to the black and white lives in this play through the enlivening skills of six excellent actors, their director, and an authentically original writer. The American lyric of ‘Citizen’ matters.” – Rick Chertoff

RAVE!EDGE Los Angeles – “… adapted for the stage by the clever and talented Stephen Sachs into an extraordinary “coup-de-théâtre… beautifully directed by Shirley Jo Finny and an astonishing cast of six… Sachs has created a hit play… This is a must-see production.” – Dale Reynolds


The internationally acclaimed prose/poetry book has now been adapted into a thrilling and powerful theater piece!

WINNER! National Book Critics Circle Award
WINNER! Los Angeles Times Book Prize
WINNER! PEN Open Book Award
FINALIST! National Book Award
FINALIST! Forward Prize for Poetry (UK)

Named a Best Book of the Year by the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, New York Magazine, the New Yorker, Publishers Weekly, Slate, and Time Out New York

The New Yorker called Citizen “brilliant… explores the kinds of injustice that thrive when the illusion of justice is perfected,” and The New York Times wrote that “Rankine brilliantly pushes poetry’s forms to disarm readers and circumvent our carefully constructed defense mechanisms against the hint of possibly being racist ourselves.”

by Claudia Rankine
adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs
directed by Shirley Jo Finney

produced by Simon Levy

World Premiere! A provocative meditation on race, fusing prose, poetry, movement, music, and the visual image. A lyric poem, snapshots, vignettes, on the acts of everyday racism. Remarks, glances, implied judgments. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV — everywhere, all the time. Those did-that-really-just-happen-did-they-really-just say-that slurs that happen every day and enrage in the moment and later steep poisonously in the mind. And, of course, those larger incidents that become national or international firestorms. As Rankine writes, “This is how you are a citizen.”

Bernard K. Addison
Leith Burke
Nikki Crawford
Tina Lifford
Tony Maggio
Monnae Michaell
Simone Missick
Lisa Pescia
Karen Malina White

Creative Team
Set/Video Design: Yee Eun Nam
Lighting Design: Pablo Santiago
Composer/Sound Design: Peter Bayne
Costume Design: Naila Aladdin Sanders
Prop/Set Dressing: Dillon Nelson
Movement: Anastasia Coon
Technical Director: Scott Tuomey
Production Stage Manager: Shawna Voragen
Asst. Stage Manager: Terri Roberts
Associate Producer: James Bennett
Publicist: Lucy Pollak
Summer Intern: Isa Espy


L.A Times Feature – Stephen Sachs and 25th Anniversary – August 21, 2015

New York Times Article by Claudia Rankine – June 22, 2015

New York Times Book Review

New Yorker Book Review

National Book Foundation

BroadwayWorld Announcement

The Guardian (UK) Article

Huffington Post Blog (Tina Lifford)

New York Times – “A Conversation with White People on Race”

Melville House Blog – Book to Play

Feature Story – Daily News

KPFK Michael Slate Show – Interview (start at 12:51)

ArtsInLA Interview with Shirley Jo Finney

KPFK – Arts in Review Radio Interview

KPFK – Feminist Magazine Interview (segment begins at 41:13)

KCET – Claudia Rankine Interview

“Citizen” on Professu Blog