Tarell Alvin McCraney's Extraordinary Year: 'Choir Boy' Just The Start


It’s been extraordinary times for Tarell Alvin McCraney.

After “Moonlight” won the 2017 best picture Oscar and another for his semi-autobiographical screenplay (with director Barry Jenkins), McCraney became head of the playwriting program at the Yale School of Drama in New Haven, where he had been a student just 10 years earlier.

McCraney, who is also a MacArthur “genius” grant recipient and Windham-Campbell Prize winner, also wrote a screenplay for Steven Soderbergh, “High Flying Bird.” The dark comedy about basketball players during a lock-out was just purchased by Netflix.

Earlier this year he also flew to Paris to join Peter Brook — one of McCraney’s mentors — in the development of the legendary director’s latest project, “The Prisoner,” which eventually traveled to the Yale Repertory Theatre in November before moving onto New York.

In December, McCraney, 38, made his Broadway debut as a playwright with his play with music, “Choir Boy,” which was a hit when it played off-Broadway several years ago.


And this coming summer the series he created for Oprah Winfrey, “David Makes Man,” will be launched on her network, OWN. The series, like “Moonlight,” is a lyrical drama set in the Miami projects and is a coming-of-age story centering in a African-American 14-year-old prodigy. The series also features Phylicia Rashad.

What does he make of his first foray into television?

“I haven’t had much reflection time,” says McCraney in a phone conversation from Georgia where the final episodes of the series was being filmed. “I literally left ‘Choir Boy’ yesterday and came here today and fly back tomorrow to ‘Choir Boy’ tomorrow.” And this fall he was also overseeing his classes in New Haven, too, which he’ll continue next semester as well.


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