NOV 1 – 7, 2020
A film about white male privilege set against scenes of Black joy

About this commission

Commissioned and produced by The Shed
In association with Tribeca Studios

November is a film that pairs an examination of white male privilege in the United States today with images of Black joy, freedom, and beauty. Directed by Phillip Youmans (Burning Cane, winner of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival Founders Award), November was written by acclaimed poet and playwright Claudia Rankine with stage direction by Obie Award-winner Taibi Magar. The film adapts Rankine’s Shed-commissioned play, Help, which had just entered preview performances in March 2020 when The Shed closed temporarily to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

November centers on the Narrator, portrayed by five actresses who present Rankine’s real-life conversations with white men she encounters in transitional spaces like airports. Filmed live on stage in The Shed’s McCourt, they discuss how our civic and social structures are dominated by white men as the work sets out to create a shared sense of reality. As Rankine asks, “A reality in which there is agreement not in how to respond but in what we see is happening. If it’s raining, can we all agree it is raining?” Vignettes of Black life shot on location around New York City complement this reckoning.

Filmed as an urgent response in the final weeks leading up to the 2020 election, November followed months of compounded quarantine, grief, protest, and emergency that sharpened the necessity of the play’s conversations about race, speaking to the nation as we selected our 46th president.

Creative Team

A headshot of director Phillip Youmans in a suit and tie with a dark beard
Courtesy Phillip Youmans.
Phillip Youmans
Claudia Rankine sitting on a brown couch with artwork behind her and head propped on hand.
Photo: Ricardo DeAratanha.
Claudia Rankine
Taibi Magar leaning against a pillar.
Photo: Gretjen Helene
Taibi Magar
A portrait of Zora Howard with short hair, wearing earrings and a blue collared shirt
Photo: Jason Zeren.
Zora Howard
A portrait of Tiffany Rachelle Stewart, smiling with eyebrows arched and wearing a white tank top
Photo: Lelund Durond.
Tiffany Rachelle Stewart
A portrait of Crystal Dickinson, smiling up at the camera and wearing a blue deep v-neck t-shirt
Photo: Joli Moniz.
Crystal Dickinson
A portrait of April Matthis looking squarely into the camera wearing a dress with straps over her shoulders
Photo: Christine Jean Chambers.
April Matthis
A portrait of Melanie Nicholls-King wearing a black blazer
Photo: David Leyes.
Melanie Nicholls-King
Phillip Youmans
Film Director
Phillip Youmans is a filmmaker from the 7th Ward of New Orleans. At 19, Youmans became the youngest and first African American director to win the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival for his feature-length debut, Burning Cane, which he wrote, directed, shot, and edited during his final years of high school. Youmans is also the youngest director to ever have a feature film compete at the Tribeca Film Festival. Distributed by Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY Releasing, Burning Cane opened in select theaters on October 25, 2019, and was released on Netflix on November 6, 2019. Youmans was nominated for a Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Director and a Film Independent Spirit Award for his work on the film. He is on the 2020 Forbes “30 under 30” list in entertainment. Recently, he wrote, directed, and edited a short film for Hulu’s Black History Month titled Imagine a Moon Colony, about a Black family in Los Angeles in 1970 that imagines the year 2020 through a Black lens and creates abstract visuals based on their predictions.
Claudia Rankine
Claudia Rankine is the author of Just Us: An American Conversation, Citizen: An American Lyric, and four previous books, including Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. She wrote the plays Help, which premiered in March of 2020 at The Shed, and The White Card, which premiered in February 2018 (ArtsEmerson / American Repertory Theater) and was published by Graywolf Press in 2019. Rankine is also the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. In 2016, she co-founded The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII). Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, the Poets & Writers Jackson Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry and lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
Taibi Magar
Stage Director
Taibi Magar is an Obie-winning director based in New York and a graduate of the Brown MFA program. Her New York credits include Is God Is (Soho Rep); Underground Railroad Game (Ars Nova); Master (The Foundry); and Blue Ridge and The Great Leap (Atlantic Theatre Company). Magar has directed regionally for A.R.T. (Boston), Seattle Rep, the Guthrie, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Alley Theatre, and internationally for Hamburg Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Soho Theatre, and Malthouse Theatre (Melbourne). Magar has also developed work with The Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, and Theatre for a New Audience. She has received a Stephen Sondheim Fellowship, an Oregon Shakespeare Festival Fellowship, a Public Theater Shakespeare Fellowship, and the SDC Breakout Award 2019. Upcoming work includes Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 (The Signature Theatre) and A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction (Baltimore Center Stage).
Zora Howard
Narrator 1
Zora Howard is a Harlem-bred writer and performer. Her plays include STEW (2020 Drama League nominee for Outstanding Play, Page 73 Productions), AtGN, BUST, HANG TIME, and GOOD FAITH. Her work has been developed with SPACE at Ryder Farm, Pipeline Theatre Company, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Cape Cod Theatre Project, and others. In 2020, her feature film Premature, which she co-wrote and starred in, opened in theaters following its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. She is the 2020 – 21 Van Lier New Voices Fellow at the Lark. She received her BA from Yale University and MFA from the University of California, San Diego.
Tiffany Rachelle Stewart
Narrator 2
Tiffany Rachelle Stewart’s credits include, Broadway: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Off-Broadway: Sugar In Our Wounds (Manhattan Theatre Club), Pericles (The Public), Julius Caesar (TFANA), Vagina Monologues (Cherry Lane). Regional: House That Will Not Stand (Berkeley & Yale Repertories), Winter’s Tale (The Alley), Animal Farm (Baltimore Center Stage/Milwaukee Repertory), Vera Stark (The Alliance), Love’s Labour’s Lost and The African Co. Presents… (Oregon Shakespeare), Mud Row (People’s Light). TV/Film: Law & Order: SVU, Black Rose, All My Children, Royal Pains, and Hotel Pennsylvania. Awards include Best Actress in a Drama (NYTVF, Black Rose) and Outstanding Ensemble (AUDELCO, Sugar In Our Wounds). Stewart holds an MFA in acting from Yale.
Crystal Dickinson
Narrator 3
Crystal Dickinson’s Broadway credits include the Tony Award-winning play Clybourne Park (Theater World Award Recipient) and You Can’t Take It With You. She has also performed Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center, the Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, the Signature Theater, and most recently, Theater for A New Audience. She has worked with Thomas Kail, Michael Greif, Scott Ellis, Bryan Cranston, Wendell Pierce, Pam Mackinnon, Lila Neugebauer, and Leigh Silverman. Film and Television credits include I Origins, This Is Where I Leave You, The Good Wife, New Amsterdam, a recurring role on Showtime’s The Chi, and an upcoming appearance on ABC’s For Life.
April Matthis
Narrator 4
April Matthis is an Obie Award-winning actor and company member of Elevator Repair Service. Credits include, Off-Broadway: Toni Stone (Roundabout); Fairview, LEAR (Soho Rep); Signature Plays: Funnyhouse of a Negro (Signature Theatre); IOWA, Antlia Pneumatica (Playwrights Horizons); and On the Levee (LCT3). With ERS: The Sound & the Fury; Fondly, Collette Richland (NYTW); Measure for Measure (The Public); Everyone’s Fine with Virginia Woolf (Abrons Art Center); and GATZ (Perth Festival). Regional: Little Bunny Foo Foo (Actors Theater of Louisville) and A Streetcar Named Desire (Yale Rep). TV: Instinct (CBS) and New Amsterdam (NBC). Film: Black Card (HBO, Showtime) and Fugitive Dreams (FantasiaFest, Austin Film Festival).
Melanie Nicholls-King
Narrator 5
Melanie Nicholls-King is a Canadian American actress with Trini roots best known for playing Cheryl in the HBO series The Wire, Officer Noelle Williams in the ABC series Rookie Blue, and Hazel LaCroix in the beloved Netflix series Anne with an E. She can also be seen in all three series of the Law & Order franchise, Orphan Black, The Week Of with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, Star Trek: Discovery, and Little Fires Everywhere, to name a few. She was also thrilled to be a part of the Playwrights Horizons-produced Familiar, written by Danai Gurira, directed by Tony Award-winning director Rebecca Taichman, and featuring an incredible ensemble of actors. Upcoming projects include Showtime’s Your Honor with Bryan Cranston.


This film includes closed captions.

Production Credits

Additional Cast
Annabel Thompson
Ayesha Nadarajah
Ben Kubany, Rory
Brenda Liang
Danny Singh
Daisy Peele
Faith Couch
James Langton
Keith Herron
Olivia Ferrer
Ser Greene
Shatique Jones
Film Credits
Ayesha Nadarajah, Producer
Cory Fraiman-Lott, Director of Photography
Philey Sanneh, Assistant Camera Operator
Fiona McBain, Head of Audio
Jared Silver, Production Assistant
Derek Matar, Production Assistant

“Amazing Grace” arrangement by JJJJJerome Ellis
Original stage design for Help by Mimi Lien
Jessica Crawford, Costume/Styling
Aaron Copp, Theatrical Lighting Supervisor

Explore contexts and themes

As we prepared for the premiere of Claudia Rankine’s play Help, we gathered additional resources so that our audiences could learn more about the contexts and themes of the play. These resources, which also give context to November, include notes from Rankine and Taibi Magar, three commissioned essays by an activist, documentary filmmaker, and poet, reading lists, and links to partner organizations. We hope they will help you continue the conversations started by the play and film.

Thank you to our partners

The Shed is Connected by
November is made possible by
The creation of new work at The Shed is generously supported by the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Commissioning Fund and the Shed Commissioners.