Photo courtesy of Katori Hall
Katori Hall CC’03, a Pulitzer Prize- and Olivier Award-winning playwright as well as a television creator and producer, will deliver the keynote on Class Day, Tuesday, May 16. The ceremony honors the achievements of the graduating class.
“We are thrilled to welcome Katori back to campus as this year’s Class Day speaker,” said Dean Josef Sorett. “Her unique voice and talents resonate strongly with the College’s foundational values, and I join the Class of 2023 in looking forward to her words of advice and inspiration.”
Hall received the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play The Hot Wing King, a comedy centered around Memphis’s annual “Hot Wang Festival”; she made her directorial debut when the play appeared at Atlanta’s Alliance Theater earlier this year. Hall received two 2020 Tony Award nominations and an Olivier Award nomination for Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, based on the life of the iconic performer; the Tony nominations recognized Hall’s work as a playwright (“Best Book of a Musical”) and as a producer (“Best Musical”). Hall, who hails from Memphis, won the Olivier for Best New Play for her 2010 drama, The Mountaintop, which imagines the final night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.
Hall’s other plays include Hurt Village (winner of the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize); Children of Killers; Remembrance; Saturday Night/Sunday Morning; WHADDABLOODCLOT!!!; Our Lady of Kibeho; and The Blood Quilt.
In addition to her work in the theater, Hall is the showrunner and executive producer of the critically acclaimed Starz drama series P-Valley, which she adapted from her play Pussy Valley. Since its 2020 debut, P-Valley has received nominations for Gotham, Independent Spirit, GLAAD Media and NAACP Image awards; in October it was announced the series was renewed for a third season. Hall recently signed a deal with Lionsgate Television to continue to develop and produce groundbreaking content across its platforms.
Hall has credited the College for setting her on the path to her successful career. Her first play, Hoodoo Love, arose from a prompt in a playwriting course taught by Professor Austin Flint GSAS’57. (She revised the play while earning an M.F.A. at Harvard; Hoodoo Love would go on to premiere at the Cherry Lane Theater in 2007.) Hall was honored with a John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement in 2013.
University Commencement, a ceremony for graduating students from all 18 Columbia schools and affiliates, will be held on Wednesday, May 17.