Alumni Spotlight on Kalyne Coleman, C’14
Kalyne at Career Mentorship event hosted by Platt House, Makuu, and UMOJA – February 2023
Get to know our Alumni Spotlight: Kalyne Coleman, a Penn alum who was heavily involved in the arts as a student and still is today. Originally from Richmond, VA, Kalyne is very close to her family, including her parents, three siblings, and ten nieces and nephews. She loves being their “Super Auntie.” Even before making her way to Philadelphia, Kalyne always knew that she wanted to act. She got involved with community theatre in Richmond and spent free time reenacting scenes from Sister, Sister; Twitches; and Even Stevens, but was not sure how to pursue acting as a career. Rather than throw herself into an arts school for college, she decided to go to Penn to get a solid educational foundation in the liberal arts. Kalyne kicked off her time at Penn in PennArts, a pre-orientation program that brings together incoming students interested in the arts in school and in Philadelphia. In the overwhelming transition from high school to college and moving to a new state, PennArts showed her from day one that she could find her people. Through this program, she met her best friend to this day, collaborated on a multi-media poetic art piece, and became a student leader and coordinator, helping mentor future peers interested in pursuing their creative passions.
Before sharing her extracurricular pursuits at Penn, Kalyne first sends well wishes to current students, encouraging all to first, take care of themselves. While at Penn, Kalyne realized that the arts make her “light up inside.” She joined the African American Arts Alliance (4A) and fondly remembers acting as Beneatha Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, her first acting experience in a play written by a Black artist and surrounded by Black creatives. She reminisces on dreading the long hours of load-ins and load-outs, but actually remembering the community, the late night pizzas, and a stage management mishap during which she accidentally brought a set piece on during another student’s solo – a tough moment at the time that all involved laugh about today. Now a proud “5A” alum, Kalyne’s involvement then extended into other parts of campus as well: she minored in Theatre Arts; joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., ultimately becoming President; served at the Student Outreach Chair for the Black Student League; participated in the Vagina Monologues, helping her to own her womanhood and sexuality; and was inducted into the Onyx Senior Society.
Kalyne says her experiences at Penn, particularly those in 4A, PennArts, and as a Theatre Arts minor, were instrumental in helping her find her voice, especially as a Black artist. During her senior year, she also had a great job working with a wonderful supervisor at Gap, Inc., which opened a pathway into a corporate career, but with the support of her parents, and the light inside, Kalyne decided to go all in on acting. She made her way up the east coast, spending some time in New York, and ultimately completed her MFA at Brown in 2020 amidst the backdrop of the pandemic. When thinking back on her experience as a Black woman in the arts at Penn, Kalyne says: “As much joy as there was, there was also challenge. There were a lot of highs; there were a lot of lows. And I learned from it all, and those experiences shaped who I am today. As a Black person, let alone a Black artist, it is important you know who you are, your worth, where you come from, what makes you smile, what makes you find balance. [It is important that] you have a community around you that supports you, so when those challenges come up, you’re able to meet them, you’re able to fight for what you believe in, and you’re able to push through. I think at Penn, there were times that both of those things happened. Always try to live in the joy, but there is a lot of work to be done in educational spaces, in different structures, the theatre community, the tv/film industry, and it takes artists like us to make our imprint and to be authentic, and to fight for what we believe in.”
To those interested in pursuing the arts beyond college, Kalyne shares that although it is challenging, and the journey is long, one must never ever ever give up on oneself: “You are worthy. You are more than enough. Your life, your story, your experiences, your pain, your vulnerability, your heart, the darkness, the light – this is the thing that people want to see, and this is the thing that will make you shine.” She recommends that folks surround themselves with the people who lift them up, who will help you make an audition tape at midnight, who will come to your shows, who will be there both when you get the job and when you do not. She reminds us that artists are emotional creatures, and she advises that we build up our mental, emotional, and spiritual health, in order to stay balanced.
You can check out Kalyne’s work in her first television show as Grace in Interview with a Vampire (2022) on AMC Plus. You can also catch her in So Help Me Todd and Evil, both on CBS. She says that shooting the show was a wild, beautiful journey. Kalyne has also been participating in a bunch of readings, a great way to get to know artists and playwrights. She recently did a reading of “Good Bones” written by Philadelphia-based playwright James Ijames and another with Harrison David Rivers in conjunction with Roundabout Theatre. Kalyne says that auditioning is the job, and she keeps the faith that the next job is always coming soon. Someone once told her that in considering a role, look at “the art, the part, and the pay.” Kalyne does a lot of research into projects and partnerships, seeing if an opportunity aligns with her values before committing to it. She also reminds us that, as an actor, there is so much out of your control, but you can always offer good work. The grind can be frustrating, but it is also a blessing when you have the opportunity to try. Kalyne says she loves what she does: “If anyone ever doubted the role of the artist, Covid reminds us that we are the lifeblood of society. What we do is so essential. I want to be a part of stories that change minds, that spark conversations, and make people feel seen.” In particular, giving Black people a space of joy, healing, and complicated versions of themselves is a major goal of her work, her calling, and she shows no sign of stopping: “I am in it for life.”
This interview was conducted by Jordyn Harris, ENG’25.