Kirya Traber is a nationally awarded playwright, actress, and cultural worker. She is a co-host of the PBS series, First Person, the lead Community Artist in Residence with Lincoln Center Education, and co-host of, Cheers & Queers, with Isake Smith, a podcast in the Gifted Sounds Network.. As a collaborating artist with Ping Chong + Company, she co-wrote and directed Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ, a NYTimes Critic’s Pick in 2018. She her play, Both My Grandfathers was premiered at the Clark Studio Theatre at Lincoln Center in 2015. Kirya’s latest creative project, What We Needed, a “theatrical mixtape,” is in development through the generous support of Lincoln Center Education. Her work, Permitted, a musical about the gender-bending Harlem Renaissance performer, Gladys Bentley, is in development and will have workshop performances in 2019. Kirya received her MFA in Acting from the School of Drama at the New School, and is the recipient of the California Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, Robert Redford’s Sundance foundation award for Activism in the Arts, Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Certificate of Recognition, an Astrea Lesbian Writers Fund award for Poetry. Throughout her ambitious performance and writing career, Kirya has continuously worked as a cultural worker with youth and adults in school and community based settings, and within the juvenile justice system.
From 2014-2017, Kirya worked with Naked Angels’ theatre company as the facilitator of the Issues Project Lab, which invites theatre and performing artists to develop new theatrical work around contemporary social issues. From 2014-2017, Kirya was faculty, and Social Justice Coordinator at the New School College for Performing Arts, School of Drama. Kirya receivedher MFA in Acting from the School of Drama at the New School, and is the recipient of the California Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, Robert Redford’s Sundance foundation award for Activism in the Arts, Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Certificate of Recognition, an Astrea Lesbian Writers Fund award for Poetry, and is a former judge for the LAMDA Literary awards in LGBT Drama. In 2014, her solo show, OVERHEARD, had a successful national tour, and has since been featured in the LAMDA Literary’s Best LGBT Anthology: Glitter and Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy. In that same year, Kirya became a LCE Artist Fellow, where she developed, Both My Grandfathers: a play with music. Following her fellowship, Kirya went on to co-created the Community Artist Residency program at LCE. Kirya’s poetry has been published in, Other Tongues, an anthology by Inana Press, and in her chapbook, black chick. Kirya is an alumnus of the VONA/Voices retreat for writers of color and the EmergeNYC intensive at the Hemispheric Institute, and Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival.
Kirya began her career in the arts as a poet, sharing stages with artists such as Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Ishle Ye Park, Suhair Hammad, Devorah Major, and former president Bill Clinton. Her transition into theatre began in the fall of 2007 when she was cast in the lead role of the West Coast premiere of, Bullrusher by Eissa Davis, at Ashby Stage in Berkeley, California. Kirya became a regular performer and producer in San Francisco’s local and international festivals, including the SF International Queer Arts Festival, the Stern Grove Festival, Litquake, the Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam, along with regional theatre roles, including a season of Oakland’s Metropolitan Opera. In 2009, Kirya was a member of the Sister Spit Literary Roadshow, and accompanied 7 other artists on a 26 city tour across the United States and Canada. In the fall of 2011, Kirya moved to New York to pursue her MFA in Acting.
While in school, Kirya was invited as a guest, and featured artist in La Mama’s Squirts ’13, and ’14. She collaborated with fellow EmergeNYC alumnus, Denae Hannah as a company member of DNA Comedy in the Dance Comedy Show. Other notable New York stage appearances include devised performances for the Morgan Library with EmergeNYC alumnus, Benjamin Lundberg’s BenJam, featured performances and Northeast Regional tours with Heather Acs and Damien Lux’s, Heels on Wheels, and a featured role in Susana Cooks’ 2014 Caligula at Joe’s Pub.
In her 2014 solo-show, OVERHEARD, Kirya embodies 8 characters on a subway, challenging and redefining conceptions of gender. The first workshop premiered at Five Myles Gallery in Brooklyn, NY and has since featured in 5 festivals nationally, including the BAAD Bronx’s OUTlikethat, Dixon Place’s HOTfest, Estrogenius’ Solo Voce, San Francisco’s International Queer Arts Festival, and Austin’s inaugural OUTsider Fest. Traber’s current work-in-progress, Both My Grandfathers, a play with music, was conceived with the support of her BAX Space Grant in the fall of 2014, and is in development through June 2015 at Lincoln Center Education through her Artist Fellowship.
Kirya’s written work can be found in the pages of, Other Tongues, an anthology by Inana Press, and in her 2009 chapbook, black chick. She has worked as a teaching artist with youth and adults, in school and community based settings, and within the juvenile justice system.