His huge 2017 Oscar win for the movie Moonlight is gaining him national and international attention now, but playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney has been no stranger to theatre-goers in the US and the UK. His acclaimed trilogy The Brothers/Sisters Plays includes the popular and critically lauded The Brothers Size, which simultaneously premiered in New York and London, was nominated for an Olivier Award, and won The New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award. He was selected as a MacArthur Fellow in 2013 – the so-called “Genius Grant” – and has just been named Chair of Playwriting at the Yale School of Drama.
Born in Liberty City, Florida, he attended the New World School of the Arts in Miami before pursuing his BFA in Acting at DePaul University in Chicago. He went on to graduate from the Yale School of Drama’s Playwriting program.
McCraney’s In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue is a largely autobiographical drama school project that he insists was never a play. It caught the eye of director Barry Jenkins, who adapted it to a screenplay and brought it to the screen, winning Best Picture as well as Best Adapted Screenplay. Its moving and authentic depiction of what it is to be “young and poor and black and gay in America” also conveyed a powerful coming of age story that captivated audiences.
Choir Boy grapples with many of the same themes. It premiered Off-Broadway in 2013 at the Manhattan Theatre Club, and has since been produced in Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles and across the country. The play makes good use of the almost stereotypical setting of a boys’ prep school to reveal the layers of belonging and exclusion among these young black men, while integrating traditional spirituals in fresh and insightful ways.
“I don’t know if people of gay, lesbian, or queer status are more active dreamers than others,” McCraney says, “but when you are sort of pressed to have an inner world to yourself, you populate it with some fantastic people and things.”
Choir Boy runs at CCBC Catonsville, in the Center for the Arts Theatre, November 9-13, 2017. Tickets can be purchased online, or by calling the Box Office at 443-840-ARTS.