Tarell Alvin McCraney

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Tarell Alvin McCraney
McCraney in 2017
McCraney in 2017
Born (1980-10-17) October 17, 1980 (age 43)
Liberty City, Florida, U.S.
  • Playwright
  • actor
Notable awards

Tarell Alvin McCraney (born October 17, 1980) is an American playwright, screenwriter, and actor. He is the chair of playwriting at the Yale School of Drama and a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble.

He co-wrote the 2016 film Moonlight, based on his own play, for which he received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He also wrote the screenplay for the 2019 film High Flying Bird and 2019 television series David Makes Man.

Early life and education[edit]

A reading at Elliott Bay Books, Seattle, Washington, co-presented with the Seattle Repertory Theatre, in association with Seattle Rep's staging of The Breach, a play based on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. At right, New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose, author of 1 Dead in Attic. To his right are Tarell Alvin McCraney, Catherine Filloux, and Joe Sutton, co-authors of The Breach.

McCraney was born in Liberty City, Florida. He attended the New World School of the Arts (NWSA) in Miami, Florida. While attending NWSA, he also applied to and was awarded an honorable mention by the National YoungArts Foundation (1999, Theater). As a teenager, he was a member of an improv troupe directed by Teo Castellanos.[1]

He matriculated into The Theatre School at DePaul University and received his BFA in acting. In May 2007 he graduated from Yale School of Drama's playwriting program,[2] receiving the Cole Porter Playwriting Award upon graduation. He also is an Honorary Warwick University Graduate.


As an actor, he has worked with directors such as Tina Landau of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, Illinois, David Cromer, and B. J. Jones, artistic director of the Northlight Theatre (where McCraney co-starred in the Chicago premiere of Joe Penhall's Blue/Orange), and developed a working relationship with Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne of the Bouffes du Nord, Paris.[3] He is a member of the D Projects Theater Company in Miami.[1]

From 2008 to 2010, he was the RSC/Warwick International Playwright in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company.[4] In April 2010, McCraney became the 43rd member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble.[5] In July 2017, he became the chair of playwriting at the Yale School of Drama.[2][6]


  • While at Yale, McCraney wrote the Brother/Sister trilogy of plays, which are set in the Louisiana projects and explore Yoruba mythology.[1] The triptych of plays includes In the Red Brown Water, The Brothers Size, and Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet. While they are often produced with In the Red Brown Water coming first and then The Brothers Size and Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet together on a following night, the plays are not in chronological order, but rather are “in conversation” with one another.[7]
  • McCraney's play Choir Boy premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2012, with its American premiere the following year produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club. The play follows young Pharus on his journey toward becoming the best choir leader in the history of the Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys and trying to find out where he fits in with the rest of his peers.[8] The 2019 Broadway production of the play was nominated for four Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Play, and won the Tony Award for Best Sound Design of a Play.[9]
  • McCraney co-wrote Ms. Blakk for President with director Tina Landau. The show was first performed by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago in 2019. Based on a true story, the play follows drag queen Joan Jett Blakk (played by McCraney himself in the play's first production) in Chicago at the height of the AIDS crisis as she announces her bid to run for President of the United States.[10]


  • McCraney writes and is an executive producer for the original scripted TV series, David Makes Man, for Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network.[11] As of April 2022, the show is awaiting renewal for its third season.[12]


Personal life[edit]

McCraney is gay.[16]



The Brother/Sister Plays trilogy[edit]

  • The Brothers Size (simultaneously premiered in New York at The Public Theater, in association with the Foundry Theatre, and in London at the Young Vic, where it was nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement at an Affiliated Theatre)
  • In The Red and Brown Water (winner of the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition, produced at the Alliance Theatre and the Young Vic)
  • Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet

Other plays[edit]

  • Without/Sin
  • Run, Mourner, Run (adapted from Randall Kenan's short story), both of which premiered at Yale Cabaret. He directed Hamlet for the RSC's Young Shakespeare program for GableStage in Miami.

In the summer of 2006, McCraney, Catherine Filloux and Joe Sutton wrote The Breach, a play on Katrina, the Gulf, and American society, commissioned by Southern Rep in New Orleans, where it premiered in August 2007 to mark the second anniversary of the tragedy in New Orleans. The Breach also played at Seattle Rep in the winter of 2007.

Other projects[edit]

Forthcoming projects[edit]

On September 25, 2017, Walt Disney Studios acquired McCraney‘s screenplay “Cyrano the Moor,” a musical adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac and Othello, with David Oyelowo attached to star in and produce the film.[20]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ a b c McNulty, Charles (2014-08-29). "Rising playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney takes his own, wary path to L.A." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  2. ^ a b Kalb, Peggy (2017). "From Yale, to Yale: Moonlight author joins drama school". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  3. ^ "TDF Stages: Still Making Provocative Theatre After Seven Decades". www.tdf.org. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  4. ^ "Tarell Alvin McCraney". Warwick: The Capital Centre. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  5. ^ Steppenwolf Theatre Company (May 16, 2010). "Tarell Alvin McCraney - The 43rd Member of Steppenwolf's Ensemble". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12.
  6. ^ "Tarell Alvin McCraney". Yale School of Drama. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  7. ^ "The Brother/Sister Plays". Steppenwolf. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  8. ^ "Choir Boy - Royal Court". Royal Court Theatre. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  9. ^ "The Tony Award Nominations". Tony Awards. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  10. ^ "Ms. Blakk For President". Steppenwolf. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  11. ^ "Tarell Alvin McCraney - Biography". Steppenwolf. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  12. ^ "David Makes Man on OWN". TV Series Finale. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  13. ^ Mistry, Anupa. "Tarell Alvin McCraney's Play Got Shelved. Then It Inspired The Year's Best Film, Moonlight". Fader. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  14. ^ "Moonlight (2016)". IMDb. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  15. ^ "High Flying Bird (2019)". IMDb. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  16. ^ "Moonlight's Tarell Alvin McCraney: 'I never had a coming out moment'". The Guardian. October 21, 2016. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  17. ^ "Moonlight's Tarell Alvin McCraney on Why He Wrote a Movie About the NBA Lockout". 30 January 2019.
  18. ^ Allen, Dan (20 October 2016). "Tarell Alvin McCraney: The Man Who Lived 'Moonlight'". NBC Out. NBC. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  19. ^ Dickson, Andrew, (November 15, 2013), "Antony and Cleopatra – review", The Guardian. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  20. ^ Galuppo, Mia (September 25, 2017). "David Oyelowo to Star in Disney Musical From 'Moonlight' Playwright". The Hollywood Reporter. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved March 2, 2024.
  21. ^ Hernandez, Ernio. "The Brothers Size Scribe Wins First Annual Paula Vogel Playwriting Award". Playbill. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  22. ^ "About Tarell Alvin McCraney". The Brother/Sister Plays. Archived from the original on February 13, 2013. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  23. ^ Baker, Dorie (March 4, 2013). "Yale awards $1.35 million to nine writers". YaleNews. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
  24. ^ Dolen, Christine, "Miami playwright McCraney wins $625,000 MacArthur Fellowship", Miami Herald, September 25, 2013. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  25. ^ "Tarell McCraney". www.macfound.org. MacArthur Foundation. 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  26. ^ "Congrats (again)! Tarell McCraney wins Doris Duke Performing Artist Award". Windham Campbell. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  27. ^ "40 Under 40: The Class of 2019." (Connecticut Magazine) (January 23, 2019) Retrieved March 5, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Tarell Alvin McCraney: Theater, Performance, and Collaboration, eds. Sharrell D. Luckett, David Román, and Isaiah Matthew Wooden. Northwestern University Press, 2020. ISBN 978-0810141940.
  • Wooden, Isaiah Matthew. "Tarell Alvin McCraney" in Noriega and Schildcrout (eds.) 50 Key Figures in Queer US Theatre, pp. 156–159. Routledge, 2022. ISBN 978-1032067964.

External links[edit]