Tarell Alvin McCraney (Courtesy photo)


Tarell Alvin McCraney is the Oscar-winning screenwriter of the groundbreaking film “Moonlight,” the creator and co-executive producer of the OWN TV series “David Makes Man,” and the new artistic director of the Geffen Playhouse.

McCraney says his introduction to writing came from mythology and religion, whether it was in a classroom or growing up in church.

“Hearing stories from the Bible acted out in front of me at church or in class at my school learning about Greek mythology, [I learned] that some of the plays and stories we know of today called classic literature and drama, come from those myths,” said McCraney.

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He says it was the love of those classic, inspiring, and fantastic stories that fostered his curiosity about the wonderful world around him.

Born in Miami, Florida’s Liberty City neighborhood, McCraney said, “I grew up in an environment where things like that [wonders] were always happening. The year I was born, there was a huge riot in the city, and the largest population of Cuban immigrants came into a city that was once a Southern city [and it] became a Caribbean city,” said McCraney.

“Things like the Challenger [space shuttle] exploding before my very eyes as a child, things like hurricanes of a magnitude so great destroying entire cities, and uprooting trees that were thousands of years old, and reshaping shorelines, those were the things that were happening all around me as a young person.”

McCraney says it was easy to lean into those things as a child, begin exploring his imagination, and discovering the meaning of life.

He explains that today he has shared most of his life experiences with audiences through his writing. McCraney says most of the characters the world has seen come to life on pages he has written are based on him or those who have been around him. He also reveals that some may have also come from his childhood imaginings.

Like many before him, McCraney began his career in the theater. He studied at the New World School of the Arts (NWSA) in Miami, Florida, and he was also a member of an improvisational ensemble.

Tarell Alvin McCraney (Courtesy photo)

McCraney received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The Theatre School of DePaul University before graduating from the playwriting program at the Yale School of Drama.

During his time at Yale, McCraney wrote the trilogy of plays “Brother/Sister,” and he also wrote the play “Choir Boy,” which opened at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

He was the star and co-writer of the play, “Ms. Blakk for President.” The play was co-written by its director, Tina Landau.

McCraney’s most well-known work as a playwright never made its way to the stage. Instead, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” became the award-winning film “Moonlight.”

Based on McCraney’s own life, “Moonlight” is the story of a young man who is coming to terms with his own sexuality, which is told from three stages in his life. The film was directed by Barry Jenkins.

“The nexus of creativity that came together to make that happen is why it’s so powerful to me specifically,” said McCraney.

McCraney teamed with Jenkins again for the OWN television drama series “David Makes Man.”

The show follows a fourteen-year-old named David, who lives in the projects with his hard-working mother and is haunted by the death of a friend.

“Moonlight” and “David Makes Man” were both critically acclaimed.

Even with the success of the two, McCraney says his one true desire is to also continue working in the theater. He believes it is another extension of having the pleasure of collaborating with others.  Last fall, McCraney was named artistic director of the Geffen Playhouse.

“I want to collaborate and produce with folks who want to do theater. I want to do it with folks who might be in film and television, and want to get back into their theater roots,” said McCraney.

“I want to provide a space for a generation of artists to grow, and I think the Geffen has a unique potentiality to do that,” he added.

McCraney says some of his potential Hollywood collaborators at the Geffen include actors such as Malcolm M. Mays  of “Raising Kanan,” Sterling K. Brown, and “Continuum” co-writer and co-star Nikkole Salter. Netflix’s “She’s Gotta Have It” and “In the Heights” actor Anthony Ramos is another talent McCraney is looking forward to working with at the theater.

McCraney hints at some of his previous works also being featured at the Geffen. “I just don’t ever want folks to not hear me say, ‘one of the reasons I came back to the Geffen is so I can work,’” said McCraney. “I said that to the Geffen, and they were excited about it.”

McCraney says theater lovers can also expect to see more works starring and created by people of color at the Geffen.