Playwright and actor Tarell Alvin McCraney, 31, is catching the attention of the theater world with his The Brother/Sister plays, a trilogy which explores homosexuality, family and Yoruba culture in rural Louisiana. McCraney is a gay man who grew up in the inner city of Miami, with a brother in jail and a mother addicted to drugs, who later died of AIDS. He brings some of his experiences to life on stage through these fictional works.
“I lived in the other America; the America that doesn’t always get depicted in the cinema. The America that we are told to pretend isn’t there,” McCraney said on his website. Through exploring these untold stories, McCraney told The Washington Post that he is “dedicated to trying to bring a new audience to American theater.”
McCraney is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama playwright program. His plays have been also commissioned by some of the world’s most famous theaters, including The Public Theater in New York City and the Young Vic in London.
Tarell Alvin McCraney is making history … as an internationally recognized playwright. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre for The Brothers Size. He was also named an international playwright-in-residence at the world famous Royal Shakespeare Company.
What’s next for Tarell?
McCraney is under commission at five theaters, including the Manhattan Theatre Club, and is a resident playwright at New Dramatists. He is also an ensemble member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
In his own words …
“The ritual onstage is taking these very old stories, archetypes, myths and even rumors, and playing them out with new voices, new bodies, set in new and present times. Hoping to create evenings that make something powerful, something distant yet present, something else,” McCraney said on his website.
A little-known fact about Tarell Alvin McCraney …
McCraney was the first recipient of the annual New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award in 2009 for The Brothers Size.
For more information about the plays of Tarell Alvin McCraney, THE”>click here GRIO’S Q & A WITH TARELL ALVIN McCRANEY
Q: What’s next in this chapter of your life?
A: Currently, I am writing new plays for the Steppenwolf Theater Company of which I am an ensemble member, Manhattan Theater Club and the McCarter Theater Company in Princeton. But also I am working with three theaters; a small local theater in Miami called Gables Stage, the Royal Shakespeare Company in London and the Public Theater in New York. I am engaging these three entities trying to found a program that brings Shakespeare to Miami in an open-air theater setting that will be free to the public during the winter season in Miami. The aim is to introduce younger audiences with less accessibility to classic works in innovative ways. We’re set to begin in 2013.
Q: What’s a fact about you that many people don’t know?
A: I never learned to drive. And I don’t really want to learn. Although one of my favorite plays is How I Learned to Drive, by Paula Vogel. But not because of the driving part.
Q: What’s your favorite quote?
A: It changes often right now it’s a quote from the bible. “And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” -Luke 19:40. I just think it speaks to the times we live in. That even if I am silent, so many could not hold their peace, so many could not keep from shouting, protesting, making a joyful noise. We see it all around the world from the Arab Spring, turned Autumn, turned Winter, to Occupy Wall Street, to the troops coming home from Iraq. So many wish to engage and allow their voices to be heard. It is always the job, the hard and sometimes dangerous job to be on the front line of those voices.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: Young People. There is a generation coming up now that are so sharp and so schooled and sometimes to their detriment over exposed, but what they teach me and inspire in me is to make way for them. I often remember the stories of John the Baptist, when he would go through out spreading the message that the savior had come. Well as odd and as very uncouth of me, I will say our future, our paths, our crop has come. We need to make way. What is that beautiful line from Angels in American by Tony Kushner? The great work begins! The messenger has arrived. That quote might be my new favorite. But let the great work begin, as I sit around tables with young artists and they remind me what the work needs to be, I say our messengers have arrived.
Q: Who are/were your mentors?
A: I was very fortunate to have many, many mentors. Artistically Teo Castellanos who runs D Projects down in Miami. He has been like a father to me. He also taught me how to remain engaged with my community and be an artist. As I got older there were many people who took me under their wing and whom I’ve admired. Peter Hobert, Ric Murphy, Peter Brook, Tina Landau, BJ Jones, David Cromer, David Grimm, Richard Nelson, Lynn Nottage, Lisa Kron, August Wilson, Michael Boyd and Dominic Cook. But I also have to say my colleagues who I’ve acted along side, or collaborated on work with, have taught me so much.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to achieve their dreams?
A: Dreams are strange. They will always look different under the light of the real world. But there will be that moment, many actually, at twilight or maybe midnight, where your dream and reality will line up perfectly. Cherish that moment. Know that they are reminders, sign posts, to continue.