Tarell Alvin McCraney has built a strong history in the world of theater over the years. Raised in Miami, Florida he graduated from New World School of the Arts High School. He then moved to Chicago to attend DePaul University where he earned the Sarah Siddons Award and a BFA in Acting in 2003.
He attended the British American Drama Academy at Oxford then went to Yale earning the Cole Porter Award in the process.
Since 2010 he's been a Steppenwolf ensemble member as well as a member of New Dramatists and Teo Castellanos/D-Projects in Miami where he resides currently.
McCraney birthed The Breach along with a trilogy work called The Brother/Sister Plays and Wig Out! where he won a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Play.
Nunn gave him a call to discuss his gig as the keynote speaker for the Arts Alliance Illinois Benefit Luncheon.JN:
(Jerry Nunn) Hi, Tarell. I met you briefly at Steppenwolf's Red or White party not too long ago.TAC:
(Tarell Alvin McCraney) This year, yes.JN:
Tell our readers about your journey into theater in the first place.TAC:
It is a pretty mundane story. I did it as a kid in grammar school. I want to middle school in a magnet program. A very similar program opened up at a rehabilitation site that was for underprivileged or underserved students. A director there gave us a very extensive learning experience. We did a lot of hands on stuff.
I came to Chicago and went to DePaul University for undergrad. I went to grad school at Yale for drama.JN:
Any favorite productions you were in?TAC:
Not necessarily. I have always enjoyed performing but I more enjoyed the writing aspect and being on that side of the business. All the times I have been onstage have joyous occasions.JN:
How did you start writing?TAC:
They were always contiguous. We had to write our own scripts and plays that we were doing. I worked in Miami in theater and that was the beginning of it. It never truly ended. I always do them both at the same time.JN:
What inspired The Brother/Sister Plays?TAC:
That essentially came out of trying to write more stories. I stopped acting and went to school. It was very important to make plays and characters that felt as timeless and classic as the ones that we were constantly auditioning for. It was to make stories like Raisin in the Sun and add to the canon of work that actors can do.JN:
Would you want to see it made into a movie one day?TAC:
Then it would be called The Brother/Sister Movie. Now that you are a Steppenwolf ensemble member does it feel like you are part of the club now?TAC:
Less the club, more the family. It is a responsibility being an ensemble member but it also comes with privileges as well. That is why I feel more like a family. It operates on the idea that we all have a similar ether that ties us together. We all put the work first regardless of what the outside or inside pressures are. The work comes first. It has been a thrilling experience. I'm just excited to see how much further it goes.JN:
At Steppenwolf's last gala they had everyone gather onstage. Were you there?TAC:
I thought it was an iconic moment.TAC:
They do it every year so you have to come back and see it again. There might even be other people that didn't show up this year.JN:
What upcoming shows do you have?TAC:
I don't really have any upcoming shows right now. My play The Brothers Size goes up in LA next weekend. In the fall Choir Boy, a play I wrote will premiere in LA at the Geffen, which is run by Randall Arney who is a also a Steppenwolf ensemble member.
Head of Passes that originated at Steppenwolf will go up at Berkeley in the spring of 2015.JN:
Do you make it out to see all of these shows?TAC:
These productions I will. There are others going on around the country that I don't.JN:
Do you change things after you see it?TAC:
Sure. It is like a suit, people fit into it differently. We have to tuck, pin and cut the length just a like a suit. Some people just need more room.JN:
How did you become involved with Arts Alliance luncheon?TAC:
They called Steppenwolf and asked if I wanted to be a speaker. I know that is really boring but that's how it happened.
I am very excited to talk about the state of the arts. It is really an honor. I have grown to love Chicago as a second home.JN:
You are openly gay?TAC:
Do you have plans for LGBT inclusion in future plots?TAC:
I think all of my shows had themes or characters that identify as LGBT so I don't see that stopping anytime soon!Have lunch with Tarell Alvin McCraney at the Palmer House Hilton Chicago, 17 East Monroe Street, from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on June 2. Visit artsalliance.org for ticket information.